Is there any issue that has had more plans and less action than global warming? Now the feds have presented us with another. And like its predecessors, it looks good on paper.
The big promise is cutting emissions by 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, to be achieved by deep reductions in the electricity, oil and gas, and transportation sectors.
And there’s money where the mouths are. Over $9-billion in new investments. The money will go toward incentives for a cleaner electricity grid, zero-emission vehicles, and tax breaks for fossil fuel companies for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). The carbon tax will remain the cornerstone of the plan, rising from $50 per tonne of emissions to $170 by 2030. Ottawa is also looking at tariffs on imports from countries that don’t price carbon. The budget for renewables was jacked up by $850-million.
In a politically prudent move, the feds will balance their intention to “phase-out financing for the fossil fuel sector” with subsidizing CCUS, something Alberta Premier Kenney has agitated for.
Of fundamental importance is the attention paid to a just transition. Roughly $2-billion will go towards “futures funds” in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador to “help workers across sectors upgrade or gain new skills to be on the leading edge of the zero carbon industry.” This is not only morally imperative but necessary to gain buy-in from working people dependent on the fossil fuels industries.
Industry is on board; environmentalists not so much. Said Terry Abel, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers executive vice-president, “We look forward to the consultation process for the elements of the plan and to supporting Canada’s role in reducing global emissions while enhancing energy security and affordability.”
Environmental groups welcomed the plan to curb oil and gas emissions, but want much more. Tzeporah Berman, a director at Stand.earth, commented “As a result of big oil’s relentless lobbying, the sectoral targets are set too low and must go up if oil and gas is to do their fair share.” Greenpeace concurred that the plan wasn’t enough. However, Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada, said she considers the plan “a fair and significant reduction,” which is generous as the oil industry did get off relatively lightly.
The proof of the pudding will, as always, be in the eating of it. We haven’t seen much proof to date. Four prime minsters, from Brian Mulroney to Stephen Harper, have committed us to nine climate targets. Most have been missed by wide margins. Once again, we shall just have to cross our fingers.