Canada’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change: an important first step

first ministers.jpgOn December 9, a Communique from the First Ministers of Canada announced the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, following the commitments made in the Vancouver Declaration of March 2016 . The Framework promises that 90 percent of Canada’s energy needs will be met by clean sources by 2030, and  emphasizes carbon taxes and new investment in clean technologies.  For a general summary, see the CBC here  .  Unsurprisingly, Saskatchewan, which has been steadfastly opposed to carbon taxes, refused to sign the agreement; Manitoba, more surprisingly, also refused, and has been accused of attempting political horsetrading by linking support for the climate pact to health care budget needs.  See “Trudeau claims victory on national climate framework”  and  “Inside Christy Clark’s climate change brinksmanship”  in Maclean’s (Dec. 9 &  10) for reporting on what went on behind the closed doors of the premiers’ meeting.

There is scant reference to jobs or workers in the Pan-Canadian Framework.  A weak and unique reference to Just transition appears in this statement on page 40, in the “Section on Clean Technology, Innovation and Jobs”:  “Further development of clean technologies could create new opportunities in Canada’s resource sectors, increase the productivity and competitiveness of Canadian businesses, and create new employment opportunities, while also improving environmental performance. Canada will need to be able to access the skills and expertise of talented workers from around the world to enable Canadian businesses to succeed in the global marketplace. It will also be important to ensure a commitment to skills and training to provide Canadian workers with a just and fair transition to opportunities in Canada’s clean growth economy.” Civil society groups are only vaguely indicated in the statement:  “Governments, Indigenous Peoples, industry, and other stakeholders all have a role to play and must be engaged.”

See a dedicated website with details of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change . The Framework document is here .   The Ministers’ discussions were informed by the reports of the four Working Groups struck following the Vancouver Declaration : the Working Group Report on Carbon Pricing;    the Working Group Report on Clean Technology, Innovation and Jobs;  the Working Group Report on Specific Mitigation Opportunities ; and the Working Group Report on Adaptation and Climate Resilience .

Climate Action Network has compiled responses to the Framework  in “ Civil Society Responds to Release of Canada’s National Framework for Climate Action”;  most reactions reflect the  common theme that this is a commendable good start, but much more is required to meet our Paris commitments.  The comment from the David Suzuki Foundation was also typical:  “For a plan to be credible, it must not send mixed signals about national priorities. Responsible action on climate change means shifting from fossil fuels and diversifying the economy to ensure Canadians have good jobs today and into the future while also protecting the environment.”

The Pembina Institute says specifically:   “We applaud the first ministers’ effort made to date and expect continued collaboration and swift implementation of all recently announced climate measures. In particular, it is essential that provinces work with the federal government to adopt strengthened building codes, to implement an effective clean fuels standard, and to increase the carbon price after 2022.”

The Climate Action Network also cites specifics  in  A Canadian Accountability Mechanism ,   asserting: “Canada must adopt a more ambitious climate pledge (NDC) in 2018, by which time all countries should come up with the tougher actions they will take after 2020. …  “It’s time to break the cycle of empty target-setting in Canada. We know it’s absolutely possible to reach Canada’s current goal of reducing GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. We also know the 2030 target does not represent our fair share of addressing global climate change and that Canada needs to do more. CAN-Rac’s estimations of Canada’s fair share contribution suggests we should be reducing emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 while increasing our contribution to international climate financing to $4 billion/year by 2020.”

The Framework highlights all the right things, including: “ respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples, with robust, meaningful engagement drawing on their Traditional Knowledge” , and  “the importance of ongoing collaboration”, “leveraging technology and innovation to seize export and trade opportunities for Canada, which will allow us to become a leader in the global clean growth economy”.  But it is not yet a plan: (“We have tasked our ministers and officials to implement the Framework and report back to us on progress within a year, and annually thereafter.”) Nor will it be implemented quickly: (“ Federal, provincial and territorial governments will work together to establish a review of carbon pricing, including expert assessment of stringency and effectiveness that compares carbon pricing systems across Canada, which will be completed by early 2022 to provide certainty on the path forward. An interim report will be completed in 2020, which will be reviewed and assessed by First Ministers. As an early deliverable, the review will assess approaches and best practices to address the competitiveness of emissions-intensive, trade-exposed sectors.”)    An essay by the Pembina Institute, from the Pembina Institute, “Canada is back” — on Friday, let’s hope for one more time with feeling”  (Dec. 8) anticipates what should be included, and thus   provides a yardstick by which to measure how successful the Framework agreement will be.

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