Now is the time for all parties in the House of Commons to cooperate on accountability measures to prevent Canada from missing its latest set of carbon reduction targets, four of the country’s leading climate policy analysts argued earlier this month in an opinion piece for the Hill Times.
Writing on the tenth anniversary of Canada’s climate pledge under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord—calling for a 17% emissions reduction by 2020—Dale Marshall, Catherine Abreu, Julia Croome, and Andrew Gage note that January 29 was the third time the country missed a target by a wide margin. “Indeed, as a country, we have never met a climate target we have set,” they say.
Which is one more reason not to fall short of the Harper-era promise of a 30% reduction by 2030 that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put forward under the 2015 Paris Agreement. But to get it done, the country will have to adopt “legislative and institutional reforms that compel transparency and hold governments accountable for meeting climate goals,” following the lead of countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, and New Zealand, along with British Columbia’s Climate Change Accountability Act.
“Federally, there is now cross-party support in Parliament for climate accountability measures,” the four advocates write. “No one has it totally nailed, but in the last election, several party platforms featured important elements of what is needed”: The Liberal promised legislated targets for 2030 and 2050, New Democrats proposed an independent expert body to monitor progress, the Bloc Québécois “highlighted climate accountability as a main priority”, and the Greens set the most ambitious 2030 target of all, while urging all parties to take partisan politics out of the response to the climate crisis.
“What we need is for this Parliament to bring all of these elements together into a comprehensive vision for revamping Canada’s approach to climate action so that we never miss another target,” write Marshall, Abreu, Croome, and Gage. They call on MPs to legislate a net-zero target for 2050 and a more ambitious carbon reduction goal for 2030, mandate an expert commission to monitor progress and recommend course corrections, and require the government to report back to Parliament on how it intends to address the commission’s recommendations.
“Together, these measures could change how Canadians engage with the issue of climate change and climate action,” they conclude. “Currently, citizens hear once a year through the media how close or far Canada is from some distant climate goal. Instead, as in other countries, this new approach will help Canadians better understand the richness of climate action taking hold across the country and how they can play a part in a national undertaking of great importance.”
Dale Marshall is national program manager for Environmental Defence. Catherine Abreu is executive director of Climate Action Network-Canada. Julia Croome is a staff lawyer at Ecojustice. Andrew Gage is a staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law Association.