Three federal political parties in Canada are talking about the climate crisis this week, with the Liberals and New Democrats tabling duelling emergency resolutions in the House of Commons and the Green Party releasing a five-page plan that includes a call to double the country’s 2030 emissions reduction target to 60%.
Yesterday, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna unveiled a non-binding measure that calls on the House to recognize climate change as a “real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity, that impacts the environment, biodiversity, Canadians’ health, and the Canadian economy.” It acknowledges that Canadians are feeling climate impacts today, that coastal, northern, and Indigenous communities are most vulnerable, and that “action to support clean growth and meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all parts of the economy are necessary to ensure a safer, healthier, cleaner, and more prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.”
The NDP’s resolution, introduced Wednesday, calls on the government to declare a climate and environment emergency and sets out eight priorities for action. The list includes prioritizing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, investing in a just transition for fossil communities, aligning greenhouse gas reduction targets with last year’s IPCC report on 1.5°C pathways, cancelling the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, immediately ending all fossil fuel subsidies, and integrating human health with the country’s climate commitments.
The Greens plan to run on “sweeping changes to the oil and gas industry, a carbon tax, and zero-emission buildings,” CBC reports, citing a news conference yesterday with party leader Elizabeth May. “Restricting—and, in some cases, eliminating—fossil fuel production and consumption is key to the Greens’ plan.” The party also “proposes nixing any new fossil fuel projects—including in Alberta’s oilsands—and an outright ban on fracking.”
May “would support the building of new pipelines to transport Alberta’s oil, although the province’s production levels would remain stagnant under May’s current policies,” CBC notes. The pipes “would need to transport refined product (gasoline, propane, diesel) instead of diluted bitumen.”
The plan includes shifting all electricity production to renewables within 10 years, revamping the east-west electricity grid, abolishing fossil subsidies, ensuring that all new vehicles are electric by 2030, modernizing and expanding passenger rail service, making all Canadian buildings carbon neutral by 2030, and mandating that agriculture, fishing, and forestry equipment use biodiesel produced from recycled restaurant fat.
The Greens’ plan “has not yet been fully costed—the party intends to submit it to the independent Federal Parliamentary Budget Officer for review—but May promised it will be fiscally responsible and help reduce budget deficits,” CBC states.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said he would support the Liberals’ climate emergency motion if the government accepts a series of amendments, including an acknowledgement that Canada is falling far short of its 2030 emission reduction target. Scheer has promised to release his own party’s climate plan next month, and Global News says it will focus on Canada’s obligation to help other countries cut their emissions, in addition to domestic reductions.
“We don’t do the world a favour if we see marginal reductions of emissions here in Canada and massive expansions of emissions in other countries because investments and jobs get displaced to those types of jurisdictions,” he said Wednesday.
An Environment and Climate Change Canada spokesperson told Global the emergency resolutions won’t lead to specific policy changes. University of Toronto environmental policy specialist Andrea Olive said the declarations are more a message to the rest of the world.
“It’s signalling to the United States and signalling to other countries that we think climate change is an emergency and we have policies—maybe aspirational—but we have policies that we’re going to pursue,” she said.
But she warned the parties risk public apathy if they overuse the emergency language. “If we keep having these reports every six months, we keep having politicians declare a state of emergency and nothing changes, then that’s a problem,” she said. “If the Liberals and NDP this week want to say that this is an emergency, then we need to see real action by these political parties on these issues.”
Earlier in the week, a ranked list obtained by CBC News showed that Liberal candidates in the electoral battleground of Ontario want to run on economic issues, not the environment, this fall.
“At Ontario caucus there was a general recognition that we needed to give the prime minister…some sense of what the urgent issues were that we would like to see in the party platform,” explained MP John Oliver (L, Oakville). “Everybody was invited to submit priorities.”
On the list, compiled in December 2018, a national pharmacare plan ranked first, followed by affordable housing, income security for seniors, access to affordable child care, and the skilled labour shortage. Environmental concerns came in seventh.
“A lot of investment has been made by the government in addressing climate change, so that may be one of the reasons why it is a bit further down, because there’s already really strong initiatives under way,” Oliver said.