Friday, November 6, 2015

The Liberals Must Deliver on their Environmental and Climate Promises after 10 Years of Conservative Rule

It won't be easy but the newly elected Liberal party has promised that its government will deliver radical change on climate and the environment. Soon after the Liberals won a majority in parliament, Justin Trudeau, the new Canadian Prime Minister went to work put together his cabinet. He has the most diverse cabinet in Canadian history and they may also be the most competent. This includes experienced politicians like Stephane Dion.

"The Liberals campaigned on a platform that recognizes environmental protection and economic prosperity can go hand-in-hand, and that clean energy infrastructure is a key climate solution," said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada.

However, living up to the raft of campaign promises will not be easy given the Conservatives' woeful environmental record.

Trudeau pledged to reverse Canada's international reputation as a climate laggard. Although Canadians have high hopes, this is a tall order after a decade of Conservative rule which includes tar sands complicity. Conservatives dropped the ball on environmental protections and climate actions. Harper and his ilk have undermined environmental oversight and scientific research. Nonetheless, Canadians will demand that the new prime minister live up to his campaign promises.

Just as Barack Obama inherited a financial crisis, Justin Trudeau has inherited a climate crisis. Obama had to clean up the economic mess left behind by George Walker Bush and Trudeau has to redress Stephen Harper's environmental abuse.

Environment Canada has been systematically gutted by the Conservatives so cleaning up after Harper will be no easy feat. Trudeau has to contend with a severely tarnished environmental record and anemic or nonexistent climate policies. As the former government doubled down on fossil fuels, 2014 was a very unimpressive year for Canadian clean tech stock and the country has fallen to 19th in the world in renewable energy development. It will take time to redeem Canada's record, but time is a luxury the Liberals do not have. Their first big test takes place in less than a month at the Paris Climate Talks.

The pressure is on as COP21 is the most anticipated UN sponsored negotiations in history. It is hoped that these talks will finally yield a global climate agreement. Over the last decade Canada has opposed meaningful agreements and has been widely regarded as a pariah. The comportment of the Conservatives at these talks can best be summarized as "shameful." For Trudeau COP21 will be a baptism by fire. He will have to redress the Conservative's sad legacy and unify provincial leaders who do not share the same vision on how to achieve emissions reduction.

The Liberals have promised to revamp the National Energy Board (just before leaving office outgoing Prime Minister appointed another one of his cronies to the board). The Liberals have pledged to transform the Board to ensure that "its composition reflects regional views and has sufficient expertise in fields like environmental science, community development, and Indigenous traditional knowledge."

The Liberals have also said they will no longer allow federal Ministers interfere in the environmental assessment process (something that was common under the Tories). New environmental assessments will now include "analysis of upstream impacts and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from projects.”  Something the Harper government ignored. While Harper seemed to care far more about oil than he did about wildlife, Trudeau has promised to "do more to protect Canada’s endangered species.” 

While the Liberals have made some nebulous promises like "credible environmental assessments," they have also made some very clear commitments like banning oil tanker traffic off the coast of British Columbia. Here are some of the specific Liberal promises made during this election:

Clean Tech

Add electric vehicle charging stations at federal parking lots.
Develop a Canadian Energy Strategy to protect Canada’s energy security.
Embark upon trade missions to promote clean tech.
Establish Canada Research Chairs in sustainable technology.
Increase government use of clean technologies.
Invest $100 million more each year in clean technology producers.
Invest $200 million more each year to support innovation and the use of clean technologies.
Issue Green Bonds to fund clean tech projects.
Make Canada the world’s most competitive tax jurisdiction for investments in clean tech.
Rapidly expand the federal fleet of electric vehicles.
Support green trade by training trade officials on clean technology.

Climate Change

Cancel Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Contribute $2-billion to a "Low Carbon Economy Trust” to drive clean tech growth.
Invest an extra $100 million more in supporting clean-tech companies.
Partner with the private sector to unlock venture capital.
Phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
Shift federal subsidies away from fossil fuels and into renewables.
Support energy efficiency and electric vehicles.
Work with the provinces to combat climate change through carbon pricing.
Work with the provinces to develop green power sources.
Work with the US and Mexico to develop a North American clean energy and environmental agreement.

Water

Follow recommendations of the Cohen Commission on restoring sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River.
Increase the amount of Canada’s marine and coastal areas that are protected to 5% by 2017 and 10% by 2020.
Protect the Great Lakes. 
Restore $1.5 million in annual federal funding for freshwater research.
Restore $40 million funding for federal ocean science and monitoring programs.

During the election campaign the Liberals pledged "real climate change solutions" and now they have to manage the mess left by the Conservatives and deliver on their campaign promises.

Related
Canada's Liberal PM and Provinces Unified for COP21
New Liberal PM's Mandate Letter to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
Canadian Government Scientists can Now Speak Freely Again (Video)
Canada's New Liberal Minister of Environment and Climate Change is Already at Work
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Harper Government's Tragic Environmental Record is Cause for National Shame 
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Video - The Tar Sands Give Canada the Worst Climate Record in the Western World
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Canadian Implications of Obama's National Climate Strategy
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