Governments reveal their true priorities by their spending decisions, and that means next week’s federal budget will be an important test of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, Environmental Defence climate specialist Dale Marshall wrote last week in a Hill Times op ed [subs req’d].
“While the government continues with consultations and policy development of the framework, the upcoming federal budget must be used to take another big step forward on climate action in Canada,” Marshall noted. “Equally important as the amount of money the budget allocates is that the funding be systematically applied in the right places and the right ways to edge the country towards the clean economy we need. Investing in high-carbon projects and other activities that will systematically increase carbon emissions will make it all but impossible to achieve Canada’s climate targets.”
Marshall suggested several ways the budget can “reinforce and amplify” the framework adopted by the federal government and 11 provinces and territories last December. Dollars are needed for renewable energy deployment, smart grid development, off-diesel programs for Indigenous and other remote communities, and a national building retrofit program. Regulatory support for a clean fuel standard, a zero-emission vehicle strategy, and a zero net-energy building code will need funding, too.
And “the federal government needs to ensure that public money is spent only on infrastructure projects that put Canada on track to phase out the use of fossil fuels by mid-century,” Marshall writes. “Environmental Defence and business, academic, and environmental advocates have been urging the federal government to undertake a full life-cycle analysis of all proposed projects to determine their expected greenhouse gas emissions. The project proposal that can best meet the goal of the infrastructure while minimizing carbon emissions should be privileged over others that would lead to higher emissions.”
Just as important as the investments the federal budget makes will be the ones it leaves out. “With one hand, governments take revenue from polluters based on how much carbon they emit, and with the other they give money back to those same polluters in the form of subsidies,” he writes—$3.3-billion per year, by recent estimates. “Federal subsidies at least need to be eliminated by 2020,” he writes, “and this budget can begin that process.”
Late last month, in a post on Policy Options, Équiterre Government Relations Director Annie Bérubé pointed to Canada’s “tailpipe problem”—the 24 million cars and trucks that produced 23% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2014, and have accounted for three-quarters of the growth in energy-related emissions since 1990.
“If we’re going to achieve our climate goals and do our fair share to ensure the planet continues to be a safe place to live, we need to turn this trend around,” Bérubé wrote. “Around the world, a mobility revolution is gathering momentum. And Canada is wisely getting in on the action, with policies and investments that open the door wider for zero-carbon transportation.
“But if we are not ambitious in our plans, and deliberate about their implementation, we will miss out on opportunities to be industrial and environmental leaders.”
She pointed to local transit investments, vehicle fuel efficiency regulations, encouragement for electric vehicles and biking, and the growing trend toward shared mobility as “a path to a healthier planet, cleaner air in our cities, and economies that work efficiently.”