Climate summit won’t detail plans to meet federal GHG reduction targets
Don't expect to see a balance sheet laying out the specific path to 524 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.
OTTAWA — The long-awaited pan-Canadian climate plan to be finalized this week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers won’t include a detailed account of how Canada will meet its international 2030 emissions target.
Federal sources tell The Canadian Press that while there will be a list of climate policies taken by various governments, don’t expect to see a balance sheet laying out the specific path to 524 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.
That number represents Canada’s 2030 “nationally determined contribution” – representing a 30% emissions cut below 2005 levels – that the Liberal government pledged at last December’s UN-sponsored Paris climate conference.
There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then.
Trudeau emerged from the 2015 election promising to meet the premiers within 90 days to lay out a pan-Canadian climate plan after almost 10 years of federal-provincial climate gridlock.
“It’s not enough to have a target but we need to have a plan to achieve that target,” Trudeau said last Nov. 23 at a meeting with the premiers, just days after assuming office.
A first minister’s conference in Vancouver last March resulted in a plan to make a plan, and climate policy measures at the municipal, provincial and federal level have been rolling out ever since.
But the piecemeal policies have yet to be drawn into a clear trajectory to the national 2030 target. A number of environmental organizations hope to see one following Friday’s meeting.
Erin Flanagan of the Pembina Institute think tank said the expectation is that the first ministers will “do the math for us and show us the tonnes” of GHG reductions.
Flanagan and others are quick to praise policy moves so far, including a federal floor price on CO2 emissions starting in 2018, but also note the Liberal government’s recent major fossil fuel infrastructure approvals take Canada’s emissions profile in the wrong direction.
Those approvals include a massive liquefied natural gas project in northern BC and two major oil pipeline expansions that, when completed, would increase Canada’s oil export capacity by more than a million barrels per day.
“We have not yet seen the first ministers articulate what that balance sheet looks like for the country and we think that’s an essential output for the meeting on Friday,” Flanagan said Wednesday in a conference call.
Added Steven Guilbeault of the group Equiterre: “We absolutely need to have this overall picture of where Canada’s emissions are going.”
That “balance sheet” approach, however, doesn’t appear to be in the cards.
As one federal source put it this week, there’s no crystal ball that allows governments to forecast events 14 years in the future.
What will be Canada’s post-2022 floor price on carbon? What role will the forestry sector play as a carbon sink – or as an emitter, in the case of more massive wildfires? What new emissions breakthroughs might result from major new federal investments in technical innovation?
The multitude of variables makes it difficult to gauge specific greenhouse gas reductions from any single policy over a period of years, said the source, who was granted anonymity in order to speak freely. What matters is “setting the course.”
Environment Canada, for example, has estimated GHG reductions from Trudeau’s promised $50-per-tonne price on carbon dioxide emissions in 2022 would amount to about a nine-million-tonne reduction in emissions that year – assuming full provincial buy-in that has yet to be hashed out.
On Wednesday, the New Brunswick government released a climate plan that includes putting a price on carbon and phasing out coal-generated electricity.
But Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall continues to push back against the federal carbon price floor.
That makes Wall the lone vocal holdout among the premiers, although he asserts he may have the law on his side.
Provincial Justice Department lawyers will formulate a legal challenge once they see what any federally imposed carbon tax looks like, Wall said in Regina.
“So if we’re the only province that’s saying no _ not on your timeline, not right now – how do they do that?” he asked. “How do they impose a tax against one province?”
That’s not the only fly in the national carbon price ointment.
BC Premier Christy Clark, who faces the electorate in May, said her goal remains to have the rest of the country catch up to B.C. on carbon pricing, after which the country can move forward together.
The challenge, she said, is that existing provincial pricing systems will have to be compared in some way to find equivalence. Ontario and Quebec’s cap and trade system, she said, prices carbon at between $12 and $16 per tonne, compared to BC’s current $30.
“I think that’s going to be the very complicated question we take on and resolve,” Clark said. “If there’s going to be a national tax, it should be the same rate across the country.”News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016