OTTAWA—A Liberal MP from Toronto is urging the federal government to ramp up its fight against climate change, and on June 5 tabled a bill in the House of Commons that would commit Canada to effectively eliminate national greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the backbench Liberal MP from Beaches-East York, said he believes Canada needs to set a new target for its climate plan that is consistent with international calls to prevent the worst consequences of a warming world.
His private member’s bill — the Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions Act — would simply make that target official, so that Canada formally commits to achieving “net zero” emissions by the middle of the century. That means the country would emit no greenhouse gases, or be able to negate all of its emissions technology that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“We are not now working towards the ambitious goals that we need,” Erskine-Smith said in an interview Wednesday. “The first step has to be greater ambition so that the machinery of government can do the work to say, here are the different pathways to getting there.”
The Liberal government’s current target, set when the Harper Conservatives were in power, is to slash emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has not committed to steeper cuts, although she has suggested more ambitious reductions will be needed in the future.
Erskine-Smith said the government has made progress toward its 2030 goal, with actions like the carbon price, planned phase out of coal-fired electricity, action to reduce methane emissions and other greenhouse gases, and regulatory changes toward stricter clean fuel standards. But as Canada considers increasing the target in 2030, he said the country needs a longer term goal so planning can begin to achieve net zero emissions in the coming decades.
“There has to be a conversation about ratcheting up the 2030 goal. Work is already being done towards that. To me, the importance has to be: we don’t have any 2050 target at all,” he said.
Meanwhile, other parties have started rolling out their environmental platforms ahead of the federal election this fall. The Green Party wants to double Canada’s current target to 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and then hit net zero emissions by mid-century, as Erskine-Smith is proposing in his bill. To do this, the Greens pledge to halt all new fossil fuel development, stop importing foreign oil while Canada shifts completely toward renewable energy over the coming years, and create “millions” of jobs through programs like retrofitting all buildings in the country so they are energy efficient over the next 11 years.
The NDP’s climate plan involves $15 billion in new spending that it says will put Canada on track to exceed the Liberal target by, among other things, spend billions on public transit, create $15,000 rebates for made-in-Canada zero emission vehicles, and pursue home energy retrofits across the country. The party also says it would create a legal requirement for Canada to new “ambitious, science based targets” consistent with the call from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
That panel, which brings together leading scientists from all over the world, reported last October that “unprecedented” and rapid changes across all sectors of society around the globe are needed to keep global warming below 1.5 C this century. The panel says global emissions will need to drop by almost half by 2030, and hit net zero by 2050. Failure to do so would lead to more extreme weather like floods, hurricanes, wildfires and droughts, lead to species extinctions and disappearing coral reefs, significantly rising sea levels and greater shrinking of Arctic ice and glaciers, the report says.
The IPCC target is consistent with the Green New Deal in the United States, and was endorsed this week by Joe Biden, the former vice-president who is seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Canada’s Conservatives, meanwhile, have not released their environmental plan, but are the only major federal party committed to scrapping the federal carbon price, which kicked in this year with a minimum levy to deter greenhouse gas emissions across the country.
Article courtesy the Toronto Star.