Justin Trudeau is about to set an ambitious new target for greenhouse gas reduction.

May 5, 2021
Climate Change
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Image Source: https://www.thestar.com/

The federal Liberals are poised to commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 per cent by 2030, the Star has learned — a major ramping up of their climate ambition as the politics around their current target heats up.

That’s easier said than done — especially since Canada has managed to lower emissions by just one per cent over the past 15 years.

But taken together with the Conservatives’ new climate plan and surging investment into clean energy, it’s one more sign that Canada and Canadian voters are ready for fundamental changes to how our economy and our energy consumption work.

A Liberal commitment to surpass 40 per cent is aggressive. It takes the federal ambition beyond Stephen Harper’s 30-per-cent target of old, and it’s in the realm of what’s considered necessary to ensure global warming over the long term is held to just 1.5 C.

And it will set the cat among the political pigeons now that the Conservatives — after months of existential angst — have just laid out a plan for the 30 per cent target.

Under pressure from the White House in advance of U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate summit set for next week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to announce the new target some time after Monday’s federal budget or perhaps at the summit itself.

Biden is thinking big — in terms of money the U.S. is willing to spend, in terms of how steeply the U.S. wants to cut emissions, and in terms of what it wants its allies to do alongside it. And Trudeau, it seems, is all ears.

The problem, as both the Liberals and the Conservatives know, is how to actually achieve those emission reductions.

Under both Trudeau and Harper, Canada had promised to cut emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, but neither of their parties had put in place a credible plan that set the country on a path to reach that target until recently.

The Liberals laid out a detailed, fully funded plan to get there in December. It ratcheted up the carbon price for consumers, earmarked $15 billion in low-carbon initiatives, another $15 billion in public transit funding, and set out details to cut emissions by at least 31 per cent by 2030.

As they said at the time, if all the stars align, the plan should be able to deliver a reduction of between 32 and 40 per cent.

Now, the stars are actually aligning. With Biden fully engaged on climate change, Canada has a hope of working with the United States to reduce methane emissions for oil and gas production, and to harmonize fuel efficiency regulations for new cars.

“It certainly makes it a lot easier,” Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told the Toronto Star’s Alex Ballingall earlier this week. “It just works so much better from an economic perspective, if we can actually have common approaches (to) common targets.”

To surpass a 40 per cent reduction in emissions, however, the federal government will need more than compatibility with the Americans and a carbon tax aimed at consumers.

In Ottawa’s latest analysis of where emissions come from, released just this week, we can see that there are three sectors that make up the lion’s share of our emissions and where emissions are also on the rise: oil and gas, transport and buildings.

So meeting our new target will mean a laserlike focus on what we produce, what we drive, where we live and where we work. That means government spending to support innovation, a massive switch to electric vehicles, and retrofitting of buildings across the country. It also means financing for a hydrogen strategy as well as carbon capture and storage.

And it means collaborating closely with the private sector so that companies can shift their production to clean energy and low-carbon processes. In a position paper published on Thursday, the Business Council of Canada, the lobby group representing Canada’s biggest companies, said it was ready, willing and able to work with government to comply with carbon pricing, reduce emissions and fully embrace sustainable finance.

But it also implies lifestyle changes for regular Canadians — some hard choices about our energy consumption, our driving and commuting habits, and our willingness to learn new skills in a changing workforce.

Are we ready for this? Say what you will about the stringency and credibility of the new Conservative plan on climate; the fact that Erin O’Toole has finally now proposed a carbon levy of his own, embraced clean fuel standards and seems to adopt the Liberal price on carbon for large emitters suggests a recognition that voters are indeed ready.

If we can pull this off, the next generation just might thank us.

Story Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2021/04/14/justin-trudeau-is-about-to-set-an-ambitious-new-target-for-greenhouse-gas-reduction-canada-seems-ready-for-the-challenge.html

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