Despite three decades of efforts, Canada’s CO2 emissions 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 the federal government’s top environmental watchdog say.
The condemnatory ruling applies not only to previous 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. But after a series of missed opportunities, it has become the worst priest of all G7 nations since the landmark Paris agreement on climate change was adopted in 2015,” said Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner Jerry V. DeMarco in a media statement.
“We can not continue to go from failure to failure; we need action and results, not just more goals and plans.”
DeMarco’s five reports look at various federal efforts in the environmental field and conclude that despite failures in a number of policy areas, Canada still has time to reverse its record.
“With strong, coordinated efforts by parliamentarians and Canadians, Canada can get past its poor performance on climate change and meet its international climate commitments,” one report said.
“By building on momentum around the world and at home, including newer climate legislation, stronger plans and increased funding, Canada can achieve a cleaner future with net zero emissions for future generations.”
The report, which looks at Canada’s record for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is not a revision, DeMarco’s office said, but rather a study of progress intended to help governments improve performance going forward.
The Commissioner identifies eight lessons that could get Canada back on track with its goal of reducing emissions by 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The first requires improved political 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 climate change debate to shift the debate from whether the country should reduce its emissions significantly and towards a discussion on how to reduce emissions,” the commissioner said.
The commissioner’s office said that while Canada’s oil and gas sector is responsible for eight percent of GDP, it is also responsible for 25 percent of emissions.
To turn it around, the commissioner said Canada needs to fund efforts to move workers away from emissions-intensive industries and increase the country’s dependence on lower-emission energy sources.
Preparation for climate disasters
The commissioner said dealing with weather-related disasters, such as the catastrophic floods in the interior of BC, is costing the country up to six percent of GDP annually. Better preparation for such events is critical one of the reports said.
“Compared to the high cost of cleaning up after disasters, early investment in adaptation measures will avoid losses and generate significant economic, social and environmental benefits,” the report said.
The report notes that the latest poll shows that only three-quarters of Canadians agreed that global warming is caused by human activity, and only 60 percent of Canadians surveyed believed that the federal government would fail its citizens if it did not address climate change.
To address this, the Commissioner urges the federal government to do a better job of addressing misinformation about climate change.
The commissioner’s office says Canada’s stated climate goals have not been supported in the past by strategies to be followed up.
“While the implementation of Canada’s current climate plans may meet Canada’s original 2030 target of a 30% reduction below the 2005 level, Canada now has a new, more ambitious target of 40% to 45%. Therefore, the government will need to revise the plans, policies and actions needed to achieve the new goals, “says one of the reports.
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 their influences. He said Ottawa could 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 the latest legislation, such as the Canadian law on net zero emissions and the law on greenhouse gas pollution pricing, represents progress, more needs to be done.
“Parliament… must step up its efforts in the fight against climate change to make up for decades of missed opportunities and mistakes,” the report said.
DeMarco’s autumn reports also included a number of revisions. One of the revisions examined the Emission 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 maintain jobs, attract investment, increase competitiveness and accelerate the deployment of equipment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane.
Poor reporting standards
The audit found that Natural Resources Canada in designing the program did not ensure that withdrawal from the fund would actually lead to emission reductions in the oil and gas sector. The audit also found that expectations for emission reduction were “overestimated”.
“It is important that programs targeting oil and gas companies are effective and efficient in delivering emission reductions,” said DeMarco. “Otherwise, such programs risk undermining Canada’s efforts to combat climate change.”
A separate audit in 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 although these departments “contributed to the objectives” of the federal government’s Sustainable Development Strategy, they failed to adequately follow the guidelines or properly report how the actions they took contributed to the objectives set by the federal government. government had lined up.
“Hubs in reporting make it difficult for lawmakers and Canadians to understand progress toward Canada’s commitments to sustainable development,” DeMarco said.
The fall reports also noted that efforts to reduce excess nutrient deposits in Lake Erie, Lake Winnipeg and Wolastoq-Saint John River would be significantly improved if the federal government shared information and resources with other organizations involved in water management.
Excess nutrients, combined with a warming climate, can lead to “runaway growth of algae” threatening the water supply, the report said.