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HomeWorldContradictory spending, slow pace trouble Trudeau government’s emissions-reduction plans: Environment Commissioner

Contradictory spending, slow pace trouble Trudeau government’s emissions-reduction plans: Environment Commissioner

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A report by Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Jerry DeMarco said that while the county’s emissions growth is slower than its economic growth, Canada’s emissions have increased since the 2015 Paris Agreement was signed “making it the worst performing of all G7 nations.”J.P. Moczulski/The Canadian Press

Canada has the worst emissions record in the G7 since 2015, contradictory policies and has been slow to implement the plans to meet its current targets after three decades of missed climate-change pledges, the federal environment commissioner says.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Jerry DeMarco released a report Thursday that chronicles three decades of federal government failure in translating talk into action to cut emissions linked to global warming. Spelling out the affects of climate chance on Canada today, his report warns of deaths linked to extreme heat and wildfire smoke, and says the frequency of natural disasters is going up along with the costs of responding to them.

“Over the past 30 years, Canada has gone from being a climate leader to falling behind other developed countries despite recent efforts,” the report says.

“Past inaction on climate change has created the present crisis. Meanwhile, continued inaction unfairly burdens future generations, who will experience even greater effects from the long‑lasting greenhouse gases that have already been emitted.”

Mr. DeMarco told reporters at a press conference that he’s optimistic Canada can break its streak of “unfulfilled promises” but he said there has been a lack of urgency and sluggish leadership from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

“Not everything that could have been done was done. Canada was relatively late at the federal level in taking a leadership position on carbon pricing,” Mr. DeMarco said.

“We can’t continue to go from failure to failure. We need action and results, not just more targets and plans.”

In a joint statement released Thursday, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson defended the government’s work to date and said since the Liberal election in 2015, the government has turned the tide.

“In 2015, Canada’s emissions were on a steep climb, projected to be 12 percent higher in 2030 than they were in 2005, despite Canada’s international commitment to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The Commissioner’s retrospective analysis of Canada’s record on climate action paints a vivid picture of the mammoth undertaking by the Government of Canada in 2016 to slow, stop, and reverse this upward trend of emissions,” the ministers said.

“We are confident that we’ve put in place the fundamentals, including with one of the world’s most stringent pollution pricing and rebate programs, to take Canada’s climate fight to the next level.”

Following Canada’s most recent climate commitments made in Copenhagen, under former prime minister Stephen Harper, and Paris, under the current government, Mr. DeMarco’s report said “the timely implementation of policies and actions outlined in the plans to meet targets has been sorely lacking.”

From 2005 to 2019 emissions only dropped by 1.1 per cent, the report notes. And while the county’s emissions growth is slower than its economic growth, Canada’s emissions have increased since the 2015 Paris Agreement was signed “making it the worst performing of all G7 nations.”

On the same day that the environment commissioner released his reports, Environment and Climate Change Canada department released a statement heralding Canada’s “whole-of-society, whole-of-government” approach at the international climate talks in Glasgow, called COP26, almost two weeks ago. Those negotiations ended with the president of the summit, Alok Sharma, fighting back tears as he apologized to countries for the watered down deal that was struck, but which he still said was worth protecting.

With seven international commitments since 1988 and nine plans released since 1990 to meet those goals, Mr. DeMarco said setting targets and writing plans is not the federal government’s problem. Instead, the problem is yielding results.

He noted that while emissions have continued to climb under the current government it has already set a new target before work on its past ones are complete. In April, Mr. Trudeau said Canada would cut emissions by 40-45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The commissioner’s report noted that so far the government has only announced policies to get to 36 per cent.

“If past performance is the best indicator of future performance, then story is not good,” he said, while adding that he’s still optimistic Canada can start delivering results.

Mr. DeMarco told reporters he hasn’t audited the government’s current plan and said it will be soon superseded with the new plan, expected as early as December.

“Regardless of when Canada makes a new plan to match its new targets, the emphasis this time (unlike with its previous plans) should be on meeting the targets and not just making plans,” the report said.

Canada’s emissions represent 1.6 per cent of global emissions, but the report suggests that stat downplays Canada’s impact on international picture. The country is in the top 10 emitters, has one of the highest levels of emissions per capita, and “continues to play a large role in the dangerous accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” the report finds.

The Liberal government’s own decisions are also stymying its ability to meet the emissions-reduction goals it has set for the country. Cabinet’s June 2019 decision to invest in the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion is an “example of policy incoherence with progress toward climate commitments,” the report said.

More recently, the 2020 pandemic support program that Mr. Trudeau announced for the oil and gas sector, called the Emissions Reduction Fund for onshore facilities was not designed “to ensure credible and sustainable reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector or value for the money spent.”

At his press conference, Mr. DeMarco said he was “very surprised” and “very disappointed” by the approach from the Natural Resources department to the $675-million program. It wasn’t doing the necessary tracking to estimate net emissions and took a “myopic view” on the program where some companies may have actually increased emissions.

“It was a hastily put together program, but that’s still no excuse. Luckily most of the funds are still in the kitty and they could improve the program before its too late,” Mr. DeMarco said.

His report also highlights a lack of coordination between federal departments and agencies and between all levels of government in the provinces and territories.

It concludes calling on Ottawa to “intensify efforts in the fight against climate change to make up for decades of missed opportunities and missteps.”

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