The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the earth’s temperature must not rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. For the protection of least developed nations and small island states, this warming must be limited to just 1.5°C, a limit which was endorsed by Minister McKenna at Paris climate negotiations in December 2015.
Scientists have used modeling to estimate the amount of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) we can emit under 1.5 or 2°C of warming. Now policy-makers must help our societies set ambition, and "budget" these emissions carefully and wisely. To maintain a safe operating space for humanity, we must "decarbonize" our economies by 2050 at the latest.
Canada should establish a new emissions reduction target that takes scientific estimates of the global GHG budget seriously, and contributes equitably towards a 1.5°C limit on global warming.
Carbon pricing internalizes many of the environmental and societal costs related to the production and consumption of carbon intensive goods and services, so that industry and individuals become cognizant of the fossil fuels they use and have a financial incentive to lower their carbon emissions.
Canada should put a strong and predictable price on carbon of at least $30/tonne CO2 (eq), with planned regular increases to at least $160 by 2030. This increase over time will allow energy prices to better reflect true costs, drive sustainable innovation, and ensure that both industry and consumers make more efficient use of our resources.
Currently, the federal government provides over $1 billion annual subsidies and special tax breaks to the Canadian fossil fuel industry that, contrary to our stated climate change goals, encourage the exploration, development, refining, and export of oil, coal, and gas.
The federal government should follow-through on its repeated promise to phase-out these subsidies, and it should do this immediately.
The resulting increases in federal revenue from these initiatives should be used to make investments in people (i.e. job creation, education, and removing barriers to workplace entry), an initiative that will lead to economic recovery and growth, and enhance the common good.
Currently, GHG emissions are being addressed through a sector-by-sector regulatory approach. By 2018, heavy duty vehicle emissions will be substantially reduced to meet North American standards, and by 2025, passenger vehicles and light trucks will emit about half as many GHGs as 2008 models. But the oil and gas sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of Canada’s GHG emissions. Given the massive proposed expansions of the Athabasca oil sands activities, this percentage can only be expected to rise. This leaves Canada in need of urgent action if we hope to reach our stated GHG reduction targets.
Canada needs strict GHG emissions standards applicable across the entire oil and gas sector, without exception for subsectors such as the oil sands. Given that the oil and gas sector is the largest and fastest growing source of emissions in Canada, it requires effective regulation immediately.
The federal government has expressed a clear intent to invest in depleted infrastructure across the country, and it has the opportunity to do so in a way that meets the service needs of communities, while simultaneously addressing economic and environmental challenges. Research by the Green Economy Network indicates that “by investing up to 5% of the annual federal budget in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and public transportation, over five years Canada could create one million new jobs while reducing our annual greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 35%.”
Canada should increase investments in cleaner energy alternatives like wind and solar power. If, as recommended above, Canada were to phase-out the over $1 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies, we could re-direct this money to a “green” job strategy that would create thousands of new jobs and promote environmental responsibility.
Along with the reduction and prevention of GHG emissions, which is known as climate change “mitigation,” the fight against climate change must also include “adaptation” to the impacts of climate change that have already, and will continue to, challenge life. Climate change most negatively affects those who are already socially and economically marginalized--especially those in the Global South and the Far North.
Domestically, Canada should support the development of infrastructure and communities that are resilient to a changing climate, especially in northern and coastal areas.
As a developed nation with historical responsibility for emissions that have contributed to current climate change trends, Canada has a responsibility to help fund adaptation and sustainable development in less developed nations that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Canada should allocate generous funding for climate adaptation efforts abroad.