Canada, a Climate Change Laggard?

Deciding which countries will successfully meet climate change goals is as difficult as choosing the winning horse before a race starts. There are too many variables to be certain of the outcome.,

So, just as in a horse race, an assessment of a country’s commitment to meet these goals requires a consideration of “the odds”, i.e. those factors that will highly influence the outcome.  In this consideration it is useful to compare Canada’s performance with that of another Federal country:  Australia.

The fossil fuel industry is important to both countries. Australia is  a very large exporter of coal to the Pacific Rim countries and India.  Canada has the tar sands, and large reserves of oil and gas, which together are a principal contributor to Canada’s high emissions and its economy.

The two countries are the among the least densely populated in the world.  Their vast national territory results in large emissions from the transport industry.   These circumstances result in very high per capita emissions. Australia has the highest in the world, and Canada is close behind.

Many experts refer to Canada and Australia as Climate Change Laggards. This characterization is much influenced by their failure to meet their Copenhagen undertakings to reduce national emissions. Canada admits that it will not meet its Copenhagen target.  Australia has made no such admission – but it has not yet put in place policies that would enable it to meet this target.

In 2015 both countries submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’s) to the reduction of world emissions.  Canada’s 2030 target is a 30% reduction of GHG’s by 2030. Australia’s commitment is close to Canada’s: a 26 – 28% reduction of GHG’s by 2030.

As federal states, they have prudently included domestic jurisdictions in the formation of climate change policies: – in Canada 10 Provinces and 3 Northern territories, and in Australia 6 States and two Territories. This approach requires extended consultations, as provinces/states have in several instances pressed for adoption of policies that are not compatible with Federal objectives.

How will Canada plan or intend to achieve a reduction of this magnitude?

For the last two years, Canada’s Federal Government has been promoting “Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change,” a flexible Canada-wide mechanism for putting a price on carbon. The price on carbon increases over time, which should lead to a declining consumption of fossil fuels.

Its immediate problem is to convince Provincial Governments to support its Framework for putting a price on carbon.  The Federal Government has advised reluctant Provinces that if they do not support this Framework, it will impose a tax on carbon consumed in a province, and share the proceeds of the tax directly with provincial inhabitants.

Climate Action Tracker (CAT) is an independent scientific analysis produced by three research organisations tracking climate action since 2009. CAT categorized Australia’s climate reduction proposals as “insufficient” and Canada’s as “highly insufficient”!!

Canada’s Federal Government is working to change that assessment.  CAT recognizes that Canada could over achieve its INDC target if – with the support of the Provinces and Territories- it fully implements the policies of the Framework

A big IF?  Yes, but one that all levels of Canadian Government must work toward!  Let’s show the world that Canada is not a laggard!

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