The Canadian government has an emissions reduction plan, but is it enough?
The 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan outlines Canada’s initiatives to combat climate change through cutting emissions and pollution, though experts question the government’s commitment.
On March 29, 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan: Canada’s Next Steps for Clean Air and a Strong Economy. The 290-page document details the federal government’s plan to reduce the country’s emissions to 40 per cent below its 2005 levels by the year 2030, with a long-term goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
The plan promises $9.1 billion in investments that will “cut pollution and grow the economy,” according to a federal government press release. Key focuses include improvements to electric car infrastructure; sustainability programs for homes, agriculture, and power grids; as well as increases in funding for emissions-reducing community projects.
Economic policy changes are also part of the plan. Trudeau’s signature carbon tax headlines the document, with plans to gradually raise the price on carbon emissions per tonne to $170 by 2030. The government goes on to propose signing contracts with “low-carbon project investors,” thereby guaranteeing future tax rates on carbon. If implemented, these agreements would remove the political uncertainty that plagues the carbon tax, letting investors plan for long-term emissions reduction projects.
Canada has a poor track record in fighting climate change. The country ranks seventh in the world for carbon dioxide emissions, despite having less than half the population of Iran, the country ranking eighth. Among members of the G7—a forum comprised of the world’s leading economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US—only Canada and the US saw increases in greenhouse gas emissions during 2016 to 2019.
Some experts question how the Emissions Reduction Plan will be implemented. “There’s always the obstacle of federalism,” says Andrea Olive, Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto Mississauga. “Justin Trudeau can set all the targets he wants, but he doesn’t have the power to make it happen. It’s the provinces that have that power.”
Olive says that several provincial governments are failing to take action on climate change. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has been outspoken about her opposition to the federal government’s climate change measures. On November 4, 2022, Ontario Premier Doug Ford proposed that land in the Oak Ridges Moraine Greenbelt be redesignated for housing construction.
Other experts question the federal government’s commitment to fighting climate change. “It’s telling that Justin Trudeau chose not to attend the COP27 summit in Egypt,” says Stephen Scharper, Professor of Anthropology and Environment at U of T. Scharper states that Trudeau—while having stepped up in climate action from the preceding Harper administration—has waned on his message of climate accountability.
Scharper notes that Canada is actively investing in environmentally destructive projects. He lists the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project and the Bay du Nord Offshore Oil Project as recent offenders. “As long as the federal government continues to invest in oil and gas, these [emissions reduction] plans will ultimately not work,” Scharper says.
Scharper also puts forth that the emissions reduction goals outlined by the plan are biased towards the oil and gas industry. He points out that the plan only proposes a 31 per cent reduction in emissions below 2005 levels from the oil and gas sector, compared to 45 per cent for the country overall.
“Canada has a history of being an extraction dependent economy, all the way back to the fur trade. Now it’s oil and gas,” says Scharper. “The problem with extraction industries is that they create these boom-bust situations. You use a natural resource until it’s destroyed, and suddenly thousands of people lose their jobs.”
Scharper compares Canada’s current oil reliance to the destruction of Newfoundland’s cod fishing industry in the early 1990s, where technology-driven overfishing caused the collapse of a 500-year-old market and resulted in more than 30,000 lost jobs.
“Politicians and industries push this false dichotomy; that we have to pick between the environment and the economy. It’s a lie,” Scharper states. “The green sector can produce more jobs than the oil and gas sectors. It’s a matter of making the transition.”
To Scharper, a sustainable future lies in the hands of the younger generation just as much as the government. “I have seen young people come up with solutions to climate problems that I or people my age would’ve never thought of,” he says. “I believe it’s critical to empower young people into the climate decision-making process, because that’s really where some of the best ideas come from.”
Associate News Editor (Volume 49) — Mihail graduated from UTM in April 2022 with majors in Professional Writing and Communications Technologies. He’s an aspiring journalist who loves researching, interviewing, and getting to the bottom of a killer story. He started working as an Associate News Editor with The Medium in October 2022 and hopes to share many exciting stories with readers. In his free time, you can find Mihail avoiding suspicious cliffs along the Bruce Trail, pretending to read literary classics, or losing at fighting games.