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Canada’s ‘Fully Modelled’ Emissions Plan a Few Months Away, Wilkinson Says

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says a detailed plan showing how Canada might finally meet a greenhouse gas emissions target will be ready in a few months, but not likely in time for this fall’s global climate change conference in Scotland.

Wilkinson is in Milan this week for meetings with his global counterparts to set the final agenda for negotiations at this year’s United Nations climate conference, COP 26, in Glasgow in early November, The Canadian Press reports.

“Canada, as you know, has raised its target, as have the United States and Europe,” Wilkinson told CP. “But there are many countries that have not yet, and that’s part of what we’re going to be working to encourage greater ambition.”

A United Nations report two weeks ago said countries’ current pledges would increase global emissions 16% by 2030, pushing average global warming close to 2.7°C by 2100. The 2015 Paris climate agreement said warming must be kept as close to 1.5°C as possible to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Canada’s original goal was to cut greenhouse gas emissions 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. The country’s new target, submitted to the UN in July, raises the threshold to 40 to 45%.

Practically, that means Canada has to cut 292 to 328.5 million tonnes of annual missions within nine years, or 3.5 to four times what all the country’s passenger cars collectively produce.

Last fall, Wilkinson unveiled a sharpened climate policy, which experts said finally showed the path to getting to the original 2030 goal. Months later, the new target was introduced, but the detailed plan to get there is still in the works.

Some of the broad strokes for the new goal came in the Liberals’ platform in the recent election, most notably a promise to cap emissions from the oil and gas sector for the first time and lower that cap every five years until it reaches net-zero emissions by 2050. The Liberals also say every passenger car sold in Canada must be electric, and the electricity grid must hit net-zero, by 2035.

But Wilkinson said the “fully modelled plan” showing how and when the new policies will be implemented, and how they’ll achieve the new target, is still in development. It’s unlikely it will be ready before the Glasgow meetings start. “We need to come forward with a fully modelled plan, and we intend to do that over the coming few months,” he told CP.

Further complicating things is that Wilkinson is still not 100% certain if he’ll be the minister of environment in November. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to shuffle his cabinet in the next few weeks, and while Wilkinson said he has no reason to believe he is being shuffled, he serves at Trudeau’s pleasure.

“We’re in this kind of weird caretaker moment right now where we do need to get somebody firmly in the chair,” he said. “I’m in the chair right now, but (who is going to be) firmly in the chair, and who is going to be responsible for carrying this forward?”

Eddy Pérez, the diplomacy manager at Climate Action Network-Canada, said not having the modelling before the COP isn’t the end of the world, but warned there is not a lot of time for Canada to delay implementing the new plans. The country’s emissions are higher now than they were when the government signed the Paris agreement six years ago, and Pérez said the country is suffering from a reputation of having good plans on paper that never play out in reality.

“There is a lot that is on paper that is positive,” he told CP. “I think where we need to see much more before COP 26 and at COP 26 is on the details, on the very practical details of the implementation of these policies.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 29, 2021.