Canada’s environment watchdog blasts government for going from ‘failure to failure’

, Canada’s environment watchdog blasts government for going from ‘failure to failure’, Nzuchi Times National News

Canada is ‘the worst performer of all G7 Nations’ in the fight against climate change, says commissioner report, which deals a serious blow to Liberals’ environmental credentials

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OTTAWA – Canada has become “the worst performer of all G7 Nations” in the fight against climate change and keeps going from “failure to failure” as it plays a “large role in the dangerous accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

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That dire warning was made by none other than Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Jerry V. DeMarco in his latest vitriolic report on the country’s “action and inaction” on climate change over three decades, and particularly since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

“Canada was once a leader in the fight against climate change. However, after a series of missed opportunities, it has become the worst performer of all G7 nations since the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted in 2015”, DeMarco said in a statement Thursday.

“We can’t continue to go from failure to failure; we need action and results, not just more targets and plans.”

The report from the federal environment watchdog deals a significant blow to both the country’s and the Trudeau government’s environmental credentials, namely because it points out Canada’s poor record on fighting climate change since the Liberals were first elected in 2015.

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Canada’s current targets commit to reduce emissions by 36 per cent compared to 2005 levels by 2030, although the Liberal government has committed to increasing that target to 40 to 45 per cent.

“Will Canada finally turn the corner and do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?” the commissioner asks at the beginning of his report, which he describes not as an audit but as a “historical perspective” on the country’s actions to mitigate climate change.

“Despite commitments from government after government to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the past three decades, Canada has failed to translate these commitments into real reductions in net emissions. Instead, Canada’s emissions have continued to rise,” the commissioner said.

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The Liberal government defended its record after the reports were published, with Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson arguing that much had been done since their party first came to power in 2015.

“In 2015, Canada’s emissions were on a steep climb, projected to be 12 percent higher in 2030 than they were in 2005, despite Canada’s international commitment to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The Commissioner’s retrospective analysis of Canada’s record on climate action paints a vivid picture of the mammoth undertaking by the Government of Canada in 2016 to slow, stop, and reverse this upward trend of emissions,” they said in a joint statement.

Their statement also insisted that the commissioner’s analysis failed to take in account “more than one hundred” measures that they say also directly impact greenhouse gas emissions, such as funding for residential and commercial building retrofits and “pollution pricing”.

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In his analysis, DeMarco points out a host of recent decisions by the Liberal government that he considers to be incoherent with meeting Canada’s climate commitments, such as investing in the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion or applying “minimum” requirements for carbon pricing throughout the country.

In another passage that he tacitly admits will be met with criticism in certain parts of the country, the commissioner also notes that Canada’s “growing” oil and gas production is a “key barrier” to the country’s climate targets.

His analysis notes that Canada’s oil and gas sector accounted for up to 7.8 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product employed hundreds of thousands of people in 2019, but also accounted for just over one quarter (26 per cent) of its total emissions that year.

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“Because of these competing pressures, aggressive climate policies face not only climate skepticism, but also pushback from power industry interests,” he wrote in the report.

, Canada’s environment watchdog blasts government for going from ‘failure to failure’, Nzuchi Times National News

During a press conference, he said that Canada is currently at a crossroads and both society and government have some difficult decisions to make.

“The choices are difficult. One leads to disaster that we all want to avoid, which is continued warming climate. Reaching a net-zero economy will involve some difficult decisions and some tough transitions, but it’s better than just giving up and leaving our children with a planet that is compromised,” DeMarco summarized.

“If that’s our legacy, then we failed.”

Over three decades, Canada’s climate targets and commitments, such as the goals set in the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels, have rarely if ever been backed by real plans or actions, DeMarco said.

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That also applies to the Trudeau government’s new, more ambitious targets to reduce emissions by up to 45 per cent within two decades.

“If past performance is the best indicator of future performance, then the story is not good,” DeMarco said. “We’ve had several plans, nine plans, over the last 31 years, from 1990 to now, and none of them have achieved their objective.”

To adequately respond to the climate crisis, the commissioner’s office published eight “lessons” it says will help Canada learn from “past failures” and meet its climate change commitments.

  • Developing stronger leadership and coordination amongst levels of government to fight climate change
  • Transitioning away from emission-intensive sectors
  • Adapting the country’s infrastructures to the “worst” effects of climate change, such as flooding and wildfires
  • Increasing investments to support climate targets
  • Increasing awareness to climate change
  • Enacting “strong” actions to achieve climate targets
  • Increasing collaboration with non-government actors to find climate solutions
  • Acting quickly before the window to address the “intergenerational crisis” closes

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Another issue highlighted by separate audits from the commissioner is the inefficiencies or flat-out uselessness of certain environmental programs put in place by the Liberals to reduce emissions, namely the Onshore Program of the Emissions Reduction Fund.

The commissioner found that Natural Resource Canada’s program, a $675-million pandemic support program that provided interest-free loans to companies in the oil and gas sector to retain jobs and reduce gas emissions, failed to do either of those things.

“I am disappointed with both the design and the implementation of the emissions reduction fund” which did not create any value for the money spent, DeMarco said. He was also very disappointed with the department’s reaction to his audit because it failed to recognize all of its findings or commit to changes he believed necessary.

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