Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Canada Failing to Meet its Emission Reduction Commitments

Canada's first ever review of its climate policies indicate that thenation will not meet it's 2020 emission reduction commitments. The election of Justin Trudeau's Liberal government was met with tremendous optimism from those concerned about climate change.

Although this government portrays itself as a climate leader, it is now clear that Canada will not meet its 2020 emissions reduction commitments. Canada has pledged to reduce its emissions by 17 percent compared to 2005 levels. This shortfall is in stark contrast to the ruling Liberal party's climate action rhetoric and it is at odds with this government's support for decreasing the upper temperature limit to 1.5° C as opposed to 2° C.

A new auditors report casts aspersions on Canada's climate leadership. The report indicates that except for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Canadian provinces are not on track to achieve their share of emissions reduction. To make matters worse neither the federal government nor individual provinces have adequately assessed the risk posed by climate change, nor do they have a clear idea of what is needed to adapt in the face of this threat.

The audit was conducted by the Federal Environment Commissioner and provincial auditors general. It examines climate change planning and emissions reduction between November 2016 and March 2018.

While the federal government is downplaying the 2020 target it is strongly emphasizing its commitment to the 2030 target. Canada is committed to reducing its national emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005. However, in the absence of detailed plans including timelines, funding requirements and specific actions, this appears to be an effort to kick the can down the road rather than a cogent strategy.

Where plans exist they are not executed the report concludes. The net result is that Canada will surpass their 2020 carbon goal by at least 200 million tons.

However, it should be pointed out that the audit does not take into account the Pan Canadian Framework to deal with climate change which includes all territories and provinces except for Saskatchewan.

Canada is warming faster than other parts of the world. The average annual temperature has increased by 1.6 degrees Celsius between 1948 and 2013.  Wildfires may be the most immediate global warming related impact in Canada. There is a marked trend towards bigger fires and longer fire seasons. We have seen devastating fires in places like Fort McMurray and last summer B.C. was ravaged by massive forest fires. 

There are also other immediate and long term threats from climate change. Arctic warming is melting the permafrost in Canada's far north and sea ice is melting at a dangerous rate. As the country with the largest coastlines, Canada is especially vulnerable to sea level rise. The irrationality of failing to deal with climate threats will destroy property and cost Canadians billions of dollars.

Even though the Canadian government continues to say all the right things about its desire to address climate change, words must be accompanied by deeds to be more than hollow rhetoric.

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