At the midpoint in Canada’s climate change election, analysis by a University of British Columbia climatologist shows that none of the federal parties have put forward platforms that support holding average global warming to 1.5 or 2.0°C.
“Despite lofty claims and aspirational goals, there is no Canadian plan consistent with avoiding 1.5°C or 2.0°C warming,” Simon Donner writes for Policy Options. “Wherever you are on the political spectrum, the rhetoric of your party on climate change does not match the numbers.”
Donner links that conclusion back to last year’s 1.5°C pathways report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which called for a 45% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The IPCC has calculated the carbon humanity can still burn without overshooting the limit, and translated that target into a carbon budget for each country.
“The key challenge is deciding how much of the carbon budget each country should have,” he says. “The most equitable solution is to divide the carbon budget based on population,” an approach that gives Canada just 0.5% of the total but “provides a more realistic pathway for the rest of the world”.
But on that basis, Canada would have to cut its emissions 96 to 99% by 2030, underscoring Donner’s argument that 1.5°C “is mathematically possible, but not at all realistic without the development and rapid deployment of technologies to pull CO2 out of the air.”
The pathway to 2.0°C average warming is “roughly in line with the Liberal government’s recent proposal to reach net zero emissions by 2050,” requiring a 61 to 67% emissions reduction by 2030. But “achieving this goal would be unrealistic without substantial reductions from the major emitting sectors of the economy,” beginning with oil and gas and transportation. “It is hard to reconcile the approval of any multi-decade infrastructure like pipelines or new mining operations with these emissions trajectories,” he writes.
If the tar sands/oil sands, for example, hit the 100-megatonne emissions limit set by the previous provincial government, “that sector would alone represent 36 to 42% of the 2030 target, up from 11% today, and leave less space for other sectors of the economy.”
Canada’s current climate policies are consistent with 3.0°C average warming, and Donner says the Conservative Party plan would bring the country to 4.0°C, while the New Democrats and Greens are closest to a 2.0°C trajectory. “However, no party platform includes modelling that shows how these targets would be achieved.”
But there are still important choices to be made, based on the IPCC’s basic message that every action counts. “The more that Canada and the world can do to reduce emissions, the less the planet will warm, and the less that people will suffer,” he writes. So support for electric and alternate fuel vehicles, for example, will be important, even if they aren’t enough to put the country on a 1.5 or 2.0°C path.
“The other important way Canada can contribute is by preparing more vulnerable nations for a +1.5°C or more world,” he adds. “If the next government is to be serious about the Paris climate agreement, it needs a plan to support the developing nations predicted to suffer the most from the effects of climate change.”