While acknowledging a “sea change in Ottawa when it comes to seeking and listening to voices concerning the protection of the environment,” the CEOs of a dozen major environmental groups are taking the federal government to task for continuing to support new pipeline and tar sands/oil sands infrastructure and devoting C$3 billion per year to fossil fuel subsidies.
“When the new federal government took office in 2015, it arrived with a great deal of optimism and promise,” states a report this week by the Pembina Institute, Greenpeace Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, among others. “Their campaign language had raised the expectations of many sectors, including the one fostering sustainability in Canada.”
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But while the government has delivered in some important areas, the group gives it failing grades in others.
“The groups are largely content with progress on the Paris climate change accord, regulations to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, the phaseout of using coal to generate electricity, and the fulfillment of a promise to phase out hydrofluorocarbons,” The Canadian Press reports. “The report cheers the government for giving Canadians a voice in government policy, something they say has occurred for ‘virtually all issues’ they raise”, supports Fisheries Act amendments to restore habitat protections, and acknowledges the $1.3-billion commitment to protected areas in the 2018 federal budget.
But the groups are critical of federal fossil and pipeline policy, and note there’s been no progress on the Liberals’ 2015 platform commitment to phase out fossil subsidies over the medium term.
“The federal government has not yet defined, reviewed or publicly released a list or assessment of its remaining fossil fuel subsidies, nor does it have a plan to achieve its commitment to the G20 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025,” the report states.
The groups warn that the new federal environmental assessment legislation falls short of the government’s promise to ground the process in clarity and science, and note that nearly half of the ecosystems in national parks are only in fair or poor condition. The report also “raises a red flag about the government’s commitment to allowing charitable groups that engage in non-partisan advocacy work to avoid Canada Revenue Agency audits for spending too much on political work,” CP notes.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna said the fossil fuel subsidy phaseout is still on the federal agenda. “We know we need to do that,” she said. “We’re committed to doing that.”