Canada sets course for net-zero emissions by 2050 with proposed bill

GOLDSTEIN: Awaiting Trudeau's Alice in Wonderland climate law

GOLDSTEIN: Awaiting Trudeau's Alice in Wonderland climate law

So, even the Trudeau government's pie-in-the-sky prediction last year that it will miss its 2030 target by 77 million tonnes of emissions has increased by 11 million tonnes, or 17%, in two years.

But if momentum for action on climate change is truly coming to a tipping point, it could be hard for future governments to completely disregard (or even repeal) the legislation Parliament is now being asked to enact.

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, said she is more hopeful than she had been about the pending legislation, because the title of the bill has the words "transparency and accountability" in it. Each of these targets reflects Canada's global commitments on carbon neutrality, and achieving them would mean that any carbon emissions produced in 2050 would be completely offset by environmental actions such as planting trees - up to 2 billion, according to the government. That's why a growing number of companies and countries are factoring climate risk into their planning, and we believe the Government of Canada should be no exception.

Bill C-12, if passed, would require the federal environment minister to set five-year targets for cutting carbon emissions starting in 2030, and ending in 2050, when Canada is supposed to hit net-zero.

Many environment groups and opposition parties praised the legislation as a good first step but nearly all are dismayed the government did not set an interim five-year target for 2025.

The new bill comes as governments around the world increasingly commit to reach net zero emissions, often under aspirational terms rather than clear and enforceable targets.

Climate experts say Canada is on now on track to miss its 2030 Paris target, first agreed upon by the Harper government, that aims to reduce GHG emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels.

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Green Leader Annamie Paul declared her party unable to support the bill.

"Any government that does not have a plan to meet the targets will hear from the voters", he said.

The bill would establish a 15-member part-time "advisory body" with the mandate to provide the minister with advice on how to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. It would also order the environment commissioner to audit Canada's climate change mitigation measures at least once every five years. She would like the legislation to have a concrete reference to climate goals for 2025 and 2030 and a plan on how to achieve them.

If the bill gets passed, federal governments will be required to set emission reduction targets every five years for the next 30 years, to make sure they're progressing towards the overall goal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 19, 2020. Collins did not provide a temperature.

But if the bill can get through the House and Senate before the next election, could it prove to be as durable as some of the other structures previous governments built up to check and scrutinize the political actions of the day?

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