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Canada’s Climate Action Called ‘Inadequate’ at UN Climate Talks in Marrakech

Last year the Canadian government enjoyed a positive reception at the UN climate talks in Paris. After 10 years of climate inaction under a Conservative government, the international community anticipated the new Liberal government would mean good things for the nation’s climate governance.

But Canada’s contribution to the world’s first climate treaty remains “inadequate” according to a new report released by the Carbon Action Tracker in light of the climate talks.

The Paris Agreement, designed to limit global warming to as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible, was signed in France last year and ratified, with incredible speed, less than one year later on November 4. Although a proud signatory of the agreement, Canada will not meet its climate targets, according to the new analysis.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau adopted the same climate targets as the previous Stephen Harper government, pledging to reduce Canada’s emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“Under its current policies, Canada will miss both its 2020 pledge and its 2030 [Nationally Determined Contribution] targets by a wide margin,” Climate Action Tracker states.

The group estimates that based on current climate policies Canada’s emissions will increase by three to 18 per cent by 2030.

Last month Trudeau announced a national carbon tax that will price carbon at $10/tonne in 2018 and increase to $50/tonne by 2022.

But according to the analysis of four prominent environmental groups, Tweet: Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies eliminate supposed benefits of that #carbontax http://bit.ly/2gdJtKk #cdnpoli @cathmckenna @JustinTrudeauCanada’s fossil fuel subsidies eliminate the supposed benefits of that carbon tax.

Canada Must Phase Out $3.3 Billion In Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Canada’s $3.3 billion annual subsidies to the oil and gas industry undermines the price on carbon, according to a new analysis released by Environmental Defence, Oil Change International, Équiterre and Climate Action Network Canada.
The subsidies effectively amount to paying oil and gas producers $19/tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent to release climate warming gasses into the atmosphere.

“It makes no sense to put a price on carbon while continuing to give handouts to oil and gas companies,” Alex Doukas, senior campaigner and author with Oil Change International, told DeSmog Canada. 

“That's like pouring water on the fire with one hand while spraying gasoline on it with the other.” 

Doukas added Trudeau promised to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies when campaigning last year.

“Now his government has to deliver.”

Canada first committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in 2009 along with other G20 nations. That commitment was later affirmed at a 2015 G7 meeting and named as a priority for Finance Minister Bill Morneau in a mandate letter from Trudeau.

“Unless Canada phases out massive subsidies to oil and gas companies, Trudeau’s carbon price will do little to encourage polluters to cut carbon emissions,” Dale Marshall, national program manager with Environmental Defence, said in Marrakech.

“The three billion dollars in annual subsidies could be put to much better use by investing in climate action, health care and other initiatives.”

In Marrakech, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna participated in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, an international group pushing for more integrated market-based climate solutions.

“In light of Minister McKenna’s participation…we take the opportunity to remind Canada that leadership requires coherent fiscal policies,” Annie Bérubé, Director of Government Relations at Équiterre, said.

“Finance Minister Bill Morneau must announce a predictable phase-out of all remaining preferential tax treatment to the oil and gas sector starting in Budget 2017.”

More Opportunity for Canadian Leadership at UN Climate Talks

The ongoing COP22 UN climate talks provide Canada with the opportunity to step into an international climate leadership role, according to Erin Flanagan, director of federal policy at the Pembina Institute.
 
“That’s a natural space for Canada to be in and we encourage them to take on that role,” Flanagan said at the climate talks.

She added there is some work to be done, however, to bridge the gap between Canada’s international climate commitments and decision-making domestically.

“This is a core question that Canada has to reconcile,” she said.

“Can we build a national climate plan that allows us to achieve the 2030 target with deeper reductions over time?”

Canada has come under harsh criticism recently for approving the Pacific Northwest LNG export terminal on the coast of B.C.  The LNG facility is estimated to be the largest single point source of emissions in Canada, adding the equivalent of 1.9 million cars to the roads.

Analysts have pointed out the approval of the LNG project is a serious obstacle to Canada meeting its climate commitments.

Flanagan said she sees an opportunity for Canada to really “do the math” on its climate targets.

“That’s really what this COP is about,” she said. “It’s about taking the rhetoric and turning it into plans that will drive the change we need to see.”

Image: COP22 signage in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Carol Linnitt/DeSmog Canada

Carol Linnitt is a journalist, editor, illustrator and co-founder of The Narwhal. Carol has been reporting on energy and environmental…

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