Recommendations for increased climate action by federal and provincial governments

Pembina Institute and the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University published All Hands on Deck: An assessment of provincial, territorial and federal readiness to deliver a safe climate on July 24.  Although completed before the election call, the report is a timely and helpful assessment of where we stand, what our ambitions should be,  and reminds us that GHG emissions reduction is not up to the federal government alone. The report examines each province, territory and the federal government on 24 indicators across 11 categories, and concludes, in summary:

“The approach to climate action in Canada is piecemeal. It also lacks accountability for governments who promise climate action but don’t have timelines or policies to match the urgency of the situation. Despite the fast-approaching 2030 target, 95% of emissions generated in Canada are not covered by either a provincial or territorial 2030 target or climate plans independently verified to deliver on the 2030 target. No jurisdiction has developed pathways to describe how net-zero can be achieved.”  

The report states that Canada’s overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have dropped by only 1% between 2005 and 2019, and forecasts a national emissions reduction of 36% below 2005 levels by 2030, even accounting for the measures announced in A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy plan, released in Dec. 2020.  Despite the major impact of economy-wide carbon pricing and the phase-out of coal-fired electricity, emissions from other sources,  particularly from  transportation and oil and gas production, have increased since 2005.  

Taken in an international context, Canada has the third highest per capita emissions among the 36 OECD countries (approximately 1.6 times the OECD average), and was the second highest per capita emitter amongst the G7 countries in 2018. Perhaps most troubling, Canada is not moving fast enough to change – it has one of the lowest percentage reductions in GHG emissions per capita between 2005 and 2018.  The All Hands on Deck report offers specific recommendations for improvement for each province, as well as the following sixteen objectives that all jurisdictions should act on, listed below:   

1. Set higher emissions reduction targets and shrinking carbon budgets. Governments prepared to deliver on climate promises will: 

  • Commit to net-zero emissions by 2050 and model a pathway to achieve that goal
  • Commit to a 2030 target aligned with Canada’s historic contribution and ability to mitigate climate change
  • Translate targets into carbon budgets.

2. Make governments accountable. Accountability requires that federal, provincial and territorial governments:

  • Create an independent accountability body, and mandate independent evaluation and advice to the legislature, not the government of the day
  • Legislate targets and carbon budgets for regular, short-term milestones between 2021 and 2050
  • Mandate a requirement that climate mitigation plans, including actions to achieve legislated milestones, adaptation plans and evaluations, are tabled in their respective legislatures.

3. Prioritize reconciliation and equity. To begin the process of building reconciliation and equity into climate policy, governments need to:

  • Pass legislation committing to full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Commit to monitoring, publicly reporting on, and mitigating the impacts of climate change and climate change policy on Indigenous Peoples and their rights
  • Commit to monitoring, publicly reporting on, and mitigating the gendered, socio-economic and racial impacts of climate change and climate change policy.

4. Set economy-wide sectoral budgets and map net-zero pathways. In nearly every province and territory, either oil and gas or transportation (or both) are the largest source of emissions. As such, governments need to:

  • Set economy-wide sectoral budgets and strategies at national, provincial, and territorial levels
  • Prioritize emissions reductions in the highest-emitting sectors
  • Decarbonize electricity by 2035.

5. Plan for a decline in oil and gas. The federal government, and governments in fossil fuel-producing provinces and territories, need to:

  • Create transition plans for the oil and gas sector that are based on net-zero pathways and include comprehensive strategies to ensure a just and inclusive transition.

6. Accelerate the push to decarbonize transportation. Governments need to:

  • Mandate 100% zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales by 2035 and provide incentives for purchase and infrastructure
  • Develop decarbonization strategies for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and goods movement
  • Develop and fund public transit and active transportation strategies.

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