Failure to launch

Lack of heavy lifting by all levels of government hurts Canadian climate goals

Illustration by Talia Steele

Canada’s failure to keep its climate commitments reflects the need for more people to do any heavy lifting when it comes to taking climate action and the crisis head-on.

A new report released by the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development says Canada will miss its target of 40 per cent of 2005 amounts by 2030. The report suggested total emissions in 2020 were 13 per cent higher than 30 years previous in 1990.

Earlier this month, Jerry DeMarco, commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, told reporters that Canada is the only G7 country that did not see its overall emissions drop between 1990 and 2020. DeMarco also said the Great Recession in 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic were the only two periods that saw drops in Canadian emissions.

Meanwhile, as this report was released, another brouhaha between provincial premiers and the federal government began regarding the carbon tax.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in October that Canadians would see heating oil exempt under the federal carbon-pricing system, as the federal government works toward developing a program to subsidize heat pumps.

Many premiers have argued this plan is unfair, as only the Atlantic provinces primarily use heating oil. In response, they called for exemptions on other heating sources, such as natural gas, from the carbon tax.

Newly elected Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew jumped into the fray and said Manitobans should also be subject to exemptions from the carbon tax. Kinew noted that “The carbon tax is not the silver bullet when it comes to climate change,” arguing that Manitoba’s hydro-electric power is doing more good than the carbon tax.

Sound like the familiar Canadian climate-change playbook? Well, it is. The federal and provincial governments stall on effective policy, debate the right way to slash emissions and fail to reach emissions targets.

This failure to launch has happened time and again. Both federal and provincial leaders have pledged to cut past emissions by a certain amount but have always fallen flat.

Great motivational speakers like Eric Thomas and David Goggins suggest that if you want to see the results in your life, you have to set specific goals, take action and make the changes necessary to see those results.

The federal government has made commitments to improving the planet’s health by trying to implement policies like the carbon tax.

However the federal government, many provincial governments and institutions responsible for emissions aren’t willing to agree to do the actual heavy lifting when it comes to deciding to take climate action.

This will have dire consequences, as necessities like food and energy are getting more expensive due to climate change – and will continue to get worse.

By phasing out oil use, shutting down oil and gas subsidies, increasing public transportation funding, retrofitting older buildings with heat pumps and insulation and creating a corps of people to clean oil sands tail ponds on Indigenous lands before giving them back to their rightful owners, the federal and provincial governments have the power to do the heavy lifting when it comes to addressing the climate crisis at a rapid rate. That, or the public will pay from the ongoing failure to launch.

Adam Johnston is a public- and active-transportation advocate.

Published in Volume 78, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 23, 2023)

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