Canada keeps missing climate targets, but new legislation could change this

Stephen Leahy
·4 min read
Canada keeps missing climate targets, but new legislation could change this
Canada keeps missing climate targets, but new legislation could change this

Canada has failed to meet any of its climate targets to reduce carbon emissions over the past 40 years. Now a new piece of legislation under debate is expressly intended to change that by making such targets “legally binding” to hold future political leaders accountable for reaching Canada’s climate targets including net-zero carbon and other greenhouse gases by 2050.

However, Bill C-12 — the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act — has been stuck in second reading since it’s introduction on November 19th.

Despite the pandemic, over 75 per cent of Canadians are seriously worried about climate change according to a March 2021 poll. Canadians are also highly supportive of shifting to clean energy, the poll reported.

Not only has Canada repeatedly failed to meet its climate targets, Canada is one of the few wealthy countries where carbon emissions continue to rise, eminent Canadian climate scientist Corinne Le Quéré, recently told CBC News. Le Quéré’s latest research revealed that Canada’s emissions increased between 2016, after signing the Paris climate agreement, and 2019.

electric vehicle charging Credit: Holly Hildreth. Moment. Getty Images
electric vehicle charging Credit: Holly Hildreth. Moment. Getty Images

An electric car plugged in at a free public charging station in Vancouver, B.C. Credit: Holly Hildreth. Moment. Getty Images

“It’s absolutely crucial to have a strong C-12,” Caroline Brouillette, Policy Analyst with the Climate Action Network Canada – Réseau action climat Canada (CAN-Rac Canada), a coalition of more than 100 organizations across the country. All parties in Parliament agree on the need for a climate accountability law. They also agree C-12 needs improvement and there is the will to strengthen it, Brouillette told The Weather Network.

Even with this agreement and five months of discussion, Members of Parliament (MPs) have yet to vote to send C-12 to the standing committee on environment and sustainable development where expert witnesses are involved and amendments tabled and voted on.

Why is Bill C-12 stuck? “It seems to be a matter of priorities for MPs,” suggests Brouillette. Ideas to strengthen C-12 can’t go anywhere until it goes to the standing committee.

“C-12 should move as fast as possible to show climate action is a priority for Canada,” she said.

Other countries have already implemented national climate accountability regimes, including Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

toronto traffic Credit: Katrin Ray Shumakov. Moment. Getty Images
toronto traffic Credit: Katrin Ray Shumakov. Moment. Getty Images

The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors greenhouse gas emissions in North America. Credit: Katrin Ray Shumakov. Moment. Getty Images

CAN-rac has a series of recommendations for C-12 including a 2025 carbon budget milestone on the path to the 2030 target to keep Canada on track. The 2030 target to cut emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels also needs to be increased. It is considered far too low by scientists to be consistent with holding warming below 2°C, nevermind 1.5°C as required under the Paris agreement.

C-12 must also legislate frequent and robust progress reports. As the Bill currently stands, the first such report would be in 2028, far too late to act if Canada is not going to make the 2030 target. And it must have binding obligations on future governments to meet the targets, said Brouillette.

Canada’s federal environment commissioner should be made an independent officer of Parliament, says Paul Fauteux, a former director general of the climate change bureau in the federal environment department. The environment commissioner should report directly to Parliament every five years on whether the measures to combat climate change were effectively implemented, Fauteux advised the standing committee in March.

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As an independent officer of Parliament, the government of the day could not eliminate the position as happened when the newly-elected Ford government eliminated Ontario’s independent environment commissioner.

“The results achieved by successive Canadian governments in the fight against climate change, as opposed to their promises, are a national disgrace,” Fauteux told the committee.

Canada will soon be on the international stage to tell the world about its climate actions as a participant in President Biden's Earth Day Leaders Summit on Climate, April 22 -23.

Some 40 countries have been invited to take part in the Summit, including 17 major economies responsible for approximately 80 per cent of global emissions and global GDP.

The Biden Administration, which recently announced a climate-focused infrastructure package weighing in at around US $2 trillion, is expected to improve it’s emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement.

More than 1,000 scientists have called for President Biden to cut emissions at least 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. A group of major U.S. businesses with more than $1.4 trillion in combined annual revenue want the US to have a net zero target for 2050 with an appropriate target in 2030.

“It is critical that America’s climate ambitions align with the urgent needs of the climate crisis,” the business leaders wrote in a letter to President Biden.

Thumbnail credit: Danielle Donders. Moment. Getty Images