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Canada’s Climate Change Efforts Run from “Failure to Failure,” Commissioner ‘s Report Says

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Despite three decades of efforts, carbon emissions in Canada have risen 20 percent since 1990, the country remains unprepared for climate disasters, and subsidies to the oil and gas sector have not yielded promised emission reductions, new reports from chief environmental overseer of the federal government.

That punitive verdict applies not only to past liberal and conservative governments, but also to the current government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Canada was once a leader in the fight against climate change. However, after a series of missed opportunities, it has become the worst performer of all the G7 countries since the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015,” said Environment and Sustainable. Development Commissioner Jerry V. DeMarco in a press release.

“We cannot continue to go from failure to failure; we need action and results, not just more goals and plans.”

The five DeMarco reports look at various federal environmental efforts and conclude that, despite failures in a number of policy areas, Canada still has time to reverse its record.

“With strong action and coordinated action by parliamentarians and Canadians, Canada can break its poor record on climate change and meet its international obligations on climate change,” one report said.

“By building momentum across the globe and at home, including the latest climate legislation, stronger plans and fundraising, Canada can achieve a cleaner, zero-emission future for generations to come.”

The report looking at Canada data on greenhouse gas emission reductions is not an audit, the DeMarco office said, but rather an examination of progress aimed at helping governments improve results in the future.

The commissioner identifies eight lessons that could put Canada back on track with its goal of reducing emissions by 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Key lessons

The first requires improved policy leadership and coordination between federal and provincial governments.

The commissioner notes that Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador produce 97 percent of Canada’s oil and gas, and said any discussion of reducing emissions should closely involve energy-producing provinces to reduce national tensions over the issue.

“Canada needs to depolarize the discussion of climate change to shift the debate from whether the country needs to significantly reduce its emissions to a discussion of how emissions should be reduced,” the commissioners said.

(Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development)

The commissioner’s office said that while Canada’s oil and gas sector is responsible for eight per cent of GDP, it is also to blame for 25 per cent of emissions.

To reverse this, the commissioner said Canada should fund efforts to divert workers from high-emission industries and increase the country’s reliance on lower-emission energy sources.

Preparing for climate disasters

The commissioner said tackling weather-related disasters, such as catastrophic floods inland BC, cost the country up to six per cent of GDP per year. Better preparation for such events is critical, according to one report.

“Compared to the high costs of clean-up after the fact, early investment in adaptation measures avoids losses and generates significant economic, social and environmental benefits,” the report said.

The report notes that recent polls show that only three-quarters of Canadians agreed that global warming is caused by human activity, and only 60 percent of Canadians surveyed thought the federal government would fail its citizens if it did not address climate change.

To address this, the commissioner is calling on the federal government to do a better job of combating climate change misinformation.

The Commissioner’s Office says that in the past, Canada’s stated climate targets have not been supported by strategies to be pursued.

“While implementing Canada ‘s current climate plans may meet Canada’ s initial target of 2030 for a 30 per cent reduction below 2005 levels, Canada now has a new, more ambitious target of 40 per cent to 45 per cent. “Therefore, the government will have to review the plans, policies and actions needed to achieve the new objectives,” one of the reports said.

The Commissioner calls on the federal government to expand its team of partners to combat climate change and take steps to protect future generations from its influences. He said Ottawa can achieve this by working more closely with indigenous communities, the financial sector, academics, NGOs and businesses.

Oil and gas subsidies

The commissioner said that while recent legislation, such as the Canadian Net Zero Liability Act and the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, represent progress, more needs to be done.

“Parliament must intensify its efforts to combat climate change to make up for decades of missed opportunities and missteps,” the report said.

A helicopter drops a cargo of water on the Philpot Road fire outside Kelowna, BC, Monday, August 28, 2017. Research suggests that the largest and hottest fires are turning Canada’s vast boreal forest into a net source of gases climate-changing greenhouses. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press)

DeMarco fall reports also contain a number of audits. One of the audits reviewed the Emissions Reduction Fund, which was launched last year as part of the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

The fund provides $ 675 million to help land-based oil and gas companies retain jobs, attract investment, increase competitiveness, and accelerate equipment deployment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane.

Poor reporting standards

The audit found that in designing the program, Natural Resources Canadadid did not ensure that the withdrawal from the fund would actually lead to a reduction in emissions in the oil and gas sector. The audit also found that emissions reduction expectations were “overstated”.

“It is important that programs aimed at oil and gas companies be efficient and effective in delivering emission reductions,” DeMarco said. “Otherwise, such programs risk undermining Canada’s efforts to combat climate change.”

During the question period in the House of Commons today, Green MP Elizabeth May called on the government to explain how it intends to regulate the program.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said he welcomes the report and agrees with “a number of the commissioner’s observations”.

“It should be remembered that this particular program was a special response to COVID, but we are now beyond the worst of COVID and … we have now begun a review of the future of this program and the remaining funding.” , he said.

A pile of flames illuminates the sky along the Edmonton Alta refinery line on Friday, December 28, 2018. An International Energy Agency report says the oil and gas industry needs to step up its efforts to address climate change. CANADIAN PRESS / Jason Franson (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

A separate audit of DeMarco’s fall report looked at the work of 12 federal departments responsible for “healthy shores and oceans, pristine lakes and rivers, and sustainable food.”

The audit found that while these departments “contributed to the achievement of the goals” set out in the federal government’s Sustainable Development Strategy, they failed to properly follow the guidelines or report properly on how the actions they took contributed to the achievement of the goals. determined by the federal government.

Gaps in reporting make it difficult for parliamentarians and Canadians to understand the progress being made against Canada’s commitment to sustainable development, DeMarco said.

The fall reports also noted that efforts to reduce excess nutrient deposits in Lake Erie, Lake Winnipeg and the WolastoqSaint John River would be greatly improved if the federal government shared information and resources with other organizations involved in water management.

Excess nutrients, combined with climate warming, could lead to “increased algae runoff” that threatens water supplies, the report said.

“We are doing better,” said the environment minister

Wilkinson said forecasts made before the Liberals came to power said Canada’s emissions would be 12 percent above 2005 levels by 2030. He insisted the country would meet its target of a 45 percent cut. of emissions by the end of the decade.

“To implement, you actually have to plan, you have to have detailed, concrete action, and that’s exactly what Canada has,” Wilkinson said.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said he welcomed the report and agreed that “we need to do more”.

“We are doing better,” he added. “We are doing more than any other government has ever done in Canada’s history when it comes to combating climate change.”

Guilbeault acknowledged that Canada has had a poor record when it comes to implementing climate change policies.

“We have been very good in Canada to have debates about objectives and we have not been very good, until recently, to talk and work on implementation and that is what we have been very hard at work. [on] “since 2015”, he said.

The minister cited programs such as the price of carbon and investments in public transit as evidence of progress.

“We already have one of the most aggressive carbon pricing systems in the world,” he said.

The Conservatives issued a statement saying the commissioner stated something they have pointed out for years that the targets are not being met.

“We urgently need policies that [encourage] “Continuous development of low carbon energy and carbon reduction,” the statement said.

“Conservatives in Canada will continue to fight for a plan that prioritizes provinces, communities and workers to ensure that people can live in a country with a secure climate future. We can tackle climate change and ensure the future for workers. “

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