Canada’s actions on climate change fall short

The most developed countries in the world are not doing enough to fight climate change and Canada is among them.

When we think about Canada, the first thing that comes to mind after Tim Hortons and hockey is a well-developed country with good education, free health care and pristine natural beauty. We might also assume that this must be a country that cares about the environment and does everything in their power to fight climate change. The citizens themselves seem to care, as during a September protest in Montreal, nearly 500,000 people came together to advocate for their planet. However, critics have said that the government of Canada is not doing nearly enough to fight climate change.

The most developed countries in the world, Canada, the United States, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and France, a.k.a. the G7, are expected to help lead the fight against climate change. But like those of their peers, Canada’s plan has disappointed advocates. Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada said, “The richest countries in the world are delivering the poorest performance and some of the smallest and poorest are leading the way.” 

Montreal-based environmental group Equiterre argues that the primary targets of the plan should be to eliminate federal subsidies on fossil fuel production, implement the national Clean Fuel Standard to encourage the use of clean technologies and lower-carbon fuels and implement federal regulations to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sectors, among other things. 

Once good targets are in place, action must be taken quickly, Equiterre says, as the effect of climate change are getting worse rapidly. We are not yet seeing reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile, temperatures are almost reaching an extreme level, the sea-level is rising, and some provinces are even expecting more forest fires in the following years.

Climate action tracker

While Canada has the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 based on the Paris agreement, current projections show only a 19% reduction in emissions by that time. The Climate Action Network states that in order for the country to be able to meet its goal, the government will need to invest much more in clean energy, stop providing $1.3 billion in handouts to the oil industry every year, and stop the growth of Alberta’s tar sands. 

With Alberta’s oil and gas industry being an important part of the country’s economy the leaders of the nation’s energy industry are keeping a close watch Trudeau’s new government. Having lost their majority in parliament, the ruling Liberals will have to share the power with parties that take climate change more seriously, which could affect federal actions related to the oil and gas industry. However, Trudeau himself has tried to reassure Alberta that this would not affect the industry. 

Some of the positive actions that Canada has been taken include the performance standards on natural gas-fired power plants adopted in December 2018 as well as the $300 million allocated to support individuals and businesses to purchase zero-emissions vehicles. The country has also adopted sales targets for zero-emissions passenger vehicles of 10% by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040. 

But even with those kind of actions it is not enough to achieve Canada’s stated goals. 

Canada is not the only developed country that is not doing enough to fight climate change. The United States, for example, is doing even worse than Canada. One of the most developed and richest countries in the world is doing so bad that their actions are taken as critically insufficient by specialists

Climate action tracker

With the Liberal Party winning the Canadian 2019 federal elections, it is hard to know if a change will actually happen. A big part of the Party’s plan against climate change is to transform Canada into a carbon neutral country by 2050. The plan also includes a phase out coal power by 2030 to help Canada exceed the Paris agreement. They also want to end what they call “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. 

Picture taken by a student before the climate change strike in Vancouver on Sept. 27

But change will require more than empty promises and modest goals.

Pressure is growing and it is often coming from the younger generation. Climate change strikes, also known as “Fridays for Future,” have spread around the world after Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg started leaving school every Friday since mid 2018 to protest government inaction.

All around the world millions of teenagers took over the streets on September 27th to protest against the climate change and show that they care about the planet. In Vancouver, more than 100,000 people participated on the climate strike according to the Vancouver police. At the other side of the country, in Montreal, Greta joined about 500,000 protesters on the same day for the same cause. During her time in Canada she also met the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who ironically joined the population in a protest against his own government measures. In their meeting, Thunberg said that what Trudeau’s government has been doing is not enough to fight climate change and she also said, “My message to all the politicians around the world is the same: just listen and act on the current, best available united science.”

Canada’s Green Party affirms that the most effective way of changing Canada’s current rank as one of the worst climate change plans is to establish a carbon pricing regime that would put Canada on a path to deep carbon reductions. “By making producers and consumers pay for the harm caused to the environment, a national carbon price would promote environmentally benign, sustainable practices throughout the economy.” 

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