House Call with Carol Hughes

Canada needs to play catch-up on climate change

Shortly after the 2015 election the prime minister travelled to the Paris climate change summit proclaiming, “Canada’s back and here to help.” Now that optimism is fading fast and with every passing day, it is becoming clear the government’s climate plan is mired in problems, in part from a competing commitment to the fossil fuel sector. While Donald Trump’s administration offered the government a convenient foil that allowed for generous comparisons, the new Biden administration is stripping away that advantage and laying down a new challenge. Now, with a president who holds real ambitions to tackle the climate crisis, Canada is set to be outpaced by our neighbours to the south.

If it weren’t for the pandemic, the government’s struggles to address climate change would surely be a bigger issue. Canadians clearly want action on this front, but according to a New York Times article this month, Canada is the only G7 nation whose greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the Paris climate agreement was signed six years ago. Those with a long memory will remember how the Kyoto Accord withered due to inaction and left us further from our goals than we were at the outset.

With the Biden administration aiming for a 50 percent cut to greenhouse-gas emissions below the United States’ 2005 levels by 2030, Canada is falling behind in action and ambition. According to the prime minister, we will now be aiming to cut emissions by 40 percent to 45 percent by 2030. Even if that were to happen, the science has been clear that Canada needs to cut its emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030 to do our part to avoid worst-case scenarios. Also, bear in mind that due to inaction, these goals will have to be met in less than a decade.

A huge part of the problem for Canada is our national commitment to energy. Since 2015 this government bought a pipeline and continues to send billions in subsidies to the oil and gas industry. The convenient excuse of blaming Stephen Harper is fading and this government’s inaction is of their own making. More to the point, Stephen Harper didn’t force this government to give the energy sector $18 billion in handouts and tax breaks last year.

This has to stop or we’ll never meet our commitments. Those weren’t made to achieve some feel-good moment, they were made based on the most recent climate science and to meet the recommendations of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) which will keep warming under 1.5°C and avoid the worst case scenarios related to climate change. Again, per the IPCC’s recommendations we need to reduce our emissions by at least 50 percent from 2005 levels.

The climate crisis is one of the biggest threats, not only facing Canadians, but people worldwide. Like most Canadians, New Democrats want to see a cleaner, greener future that protects our climate and all those living on our planet. We have the power to make a difference on a global scale, but we need to take stronger action now.

As it stands, we’re not headed in the right direction and need to make big, bold changes before things get worse. That starts by putting a stop to the billions of dollars we subsidize the fossil fuel industry with every year. A better use of those dollars is to invest in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure that will help us fight the climate crisis while creating good jobs across Canada in sectors like energy-efficiency retrofits and the electrification of transit. We are at a critical moment and should take advantage of America’s ambition to work together to protect our environment so we can offer future generations a clean and healthy planet