Canada’s now official 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target is a far cry from what’s needed to avoid climate breakdown, say critics panning the goal for its inadequacy.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously announced Canada’s intention of setting its 2030 target at 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels. As outlined in the recent UN filing that confirmed that range as the official target, Ottawa is hoping to bend emissions down to between approximately 406 megatonnes (Mt) and 443 Mt of CO2 equivalent by the end of the decade.
Officially called the “nationally determined contribution” (NDC), the target represents Canada’s commitment under the Paris Agreement to hold warming to no more than 1.5 C. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found in 2018, to achieve the Paris target, global CO2 emissions need to plummet 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030.
“The acknowledgment that initial NDCs were incompatible with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement has led to a global call for all countries to set and work towards more ambitious NDCs,” said Moira Kelly, press secretary to Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. “Canada’s ambitious new target is in line with this goal and keeps us on a credible path to net zero by 2050.”
NDP critic for environment and climate change Laurel Collins disagreed, saying the target is neither ambitious enough nor in line with climate science.
“A range of 40 to 45 per cent (is) not in line with what the world’s top climate scientists are saying is needed to avoid catastrophic warming,” she said, adding “it’s far short of Canada’s fair share.”
Canada’s estimated fair share is in the neighbourhood of 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, according to a study from EnviroEconomics and Navius, commissioned by a handful of environmental groups.
“Targets are only as strong as the actions taken to meet them, and this government has a track record of failing when it comes to climate leadership and failing when it comes to meeting targets,” said Collins. “In the six years the Liberals have been in power, our emissions have risen every single year, and it’s shameful that we’re the only G7 country where that is the case.”
From 2016 to 2019, Canada’s emissions jumped 3.3 per cent, according to a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Corporate Mapping Project, the Parkland Institute, Stand.earth, West Coast Environmental Law, and 350.org. That’s far more than the United States’ 0.6 per cent growth over that same period, and is a significant failing compared to the other five G7 countries, which managed to curb GHG emissions by 4.4 per cent to 10.8 per cent.
Environmental Defence national program manager Dale Marshall said Canada’s lack of action and ambition amount to climate change denial.
“The biggest thing we keep looking for, and keep not seeing, is what we’re going to do about our oil and gas emissions,” said Marshall. “On numerous occasions, we’ve been told the solution to climate change is to address the source of the problem, which is fossil fuel production, and Canada refuses. Every government in Canada refuses to talk about how we need to phase out our oil and gas industry, and once again, this is what we see with this.”
Canada is also far behind its commitments to other countries, Marshall says, pointing to a goal under the Paris Agreement for wealthier countries to put up about US$100 billion annually for developing countries to meet climate goals.
“Canada’s fair share of that has been assessed at about four per cent, so that’s $4 billion US per year, and we’re delivering less than $1 billion,” he said.
Marshall said despite the new targets, he didn’t see any new measures to achieve them outlined in the NDC.
“That’s the point of the NDC. (It’s) not just to have a number, but to have all the measures that a country is going to take around action, and there’s nothing new in this,” he said.
Beyond its international signal, the 2030 target is the first goal under the recently passed Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. Government will have six months to create a plan for how it will achieve those emission reductions, along with a 2026 GHG reduction “objective.”