With the Trudeau government just hours away from tabling its long-awaited Speech from the Throne, the international Climate Action Tracker is branding the country’s carbon reduction efforts “insufficient” and consistent with a 3.0°C world, with “little support” for green recovery measures to date.
“The Canadian government is at a crossroads: it could either continue with the slow implementation of an inadequate climate plan, or adopt a recovery package that accelerates the transition to a zero-emissions future,” the organization states, in an in-depth assessment released this morning at 9:00 AM Eastern. “The true test to determine whether the recovery will be green comes on September 23, 2020 when the government will outline its legislative agenda for the next Parliamentary session.”
The report from Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a project of Climate Analytics and the NewClimate Institute, is largely a recap of the twists, turns, and roadblocks Canada has encountered in implementing its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the 2015 Paris Agreement—a set of commitments the Cologne, Germany-based has long deemed insufficient. “During the last election (October 2019), the government made a number of promises to scale up climate action, including exceeding the country’s 2030 NDC target and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, but has done little to deliver on this in the intervening months,” the report notes.
While the pandemic has disrupted 2030 projections by roiling assumptions about future economic growth, “the country still may not meet its NDC with the combined effect of current or planned policies and the pandemic,” CAT warns. “Much greater action is needed to ‘exceed’ its NDC as promised,” and “the extent to which recovery measures support green climate action has a much greater impact on lowering emissions in 2030 than the temporary drop in emissions due to the lockdown and associated economic impact.”
Climate Analytics Senior Climate Policy Analyst Claire Stockwell said Ottawa can’t justify further delays.
“Failing to act on climate change is not an option” when “we are already seeing the devastating impacts of climate change with the current warming of 1.1ºC, such as the forest fires on the U.S. West Coast,” she told The Energy Mix in an email. “Failing to transition the economy also increases the risk of stranded assets,” with gas plants as likely to fail as coal given the “misconception that switching to natural gas is a solution to climate change”.
That’s a particular problem for Canada, she added, since “it is anticipated that much of its coal-fired power capacity, which it is phasing out, will be replaced by new natural gas plants or coal-to-gas conversions. Canada also continues to expand its [liquefied natural gas] production geared towards the export market,” even though global gas demand must peak before 2030 and fall 50% from 2010 levels by 2040 to meet the targets in the Paris deal.
Settle in for a long, informative read and click here for Climate Action Tracker’s full assessment of Canada’s climate performance.
In its wider review of 106 pandemic and green recovery measures across five jurisdictions—China, the European Union, India, South Korea, and the United States—the Tracker concludes that only two of those big emitters are leaning toward using their pandemic recovery strategies to address the global climate crisis.
“While we are seeing some positive intentions, the jury is still out as to whether these recovery packages can bend the emissions curve,” said German climatologist and NewClimate Institute founding partner Niklas Höhne. “While many can still shape how they implement their recovery package, so far only the EU and South Korea have put a deliberate focus on green recovery.”
The tracker says Canada’s plan to fund orphan oil and gas well clean-ups and methane capture as pandemic recovery measures could violate the polluter-pay principle if it isn’t structured with care, and points to delays in some of the regulations implementing the pan-Canadian climate plan. That, too, is a reflection of international trends.
“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing more of is governments using the pandemic recovery to roll back climate legislation and bail out the fossil fuel industry, especially in the U.S., but also in Brazil, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other countries,” Höhne said.
“On the whole, governments have yet to seize the moment to green their recovery packages,” Stockwell added. “This needs to change if we are to limit warming to 1.5ºC,” and it’s “not only about emission reductions. It is also about sustainable development benefits that countries are missing out by not investing in green recoveries.” Those benefits include reduced air pollution, sustainable job creation, economic growth and revitalization, and enhanced more secure energy supplies.
In mid-September, the World Resources Institute agreed that climate action is not figuring prominently enough in countries’ pandemic recovery plans, but still listed some “inspiring examples of a green recovery emerging—initiatives that will reduce emissions while creating jobs, rebooting economies, and improving human health.”