Question 2: Global Climate Change: What should be Canada’s International Commitments?

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Federal party responses below.

In 2015, Canada signed the Paris Agreement, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Every country in the world is part of the Paris Agreement (although the United States government has signalled its intention to withdraw from the treaty).

The Paris Agreement commits parties to contribute to limiting average global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. To meet this goal, each signatory commits to cut its carbon pollution, and submit a plan to reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). This plan is known as its “Nationally Determined Contribution” (NDC). Canada’s NDC is a plan to cut GHGs by 30% below 2005 emission levels by 2030. 

To deliver on its Paris commitments, the current Canadian government developed the “Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth” in 2016, which laid the foundation for subsequent policies and regulations designed to reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy. 

However, according to the latest assessment from the federal government there is still a gap of 79 million tonnes of GHGs between our 2030 target emissions and the levels Canada is on track to achieve, based on current commitments and practice.

Furthermore, we know that our current target is nowhere near what constitutes Canada’s fair share of a world-wide effort to hold global warming to the 1.5°C limit. A report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018 confirms that the current 2030 climate pledges of all Parties to the Paris Agreement aren’t consistent with any scenario that limits warming to 1.5°C. Rather, we can expect to see warming of between 2.6°C and 4°C if nations continue down the current path.

Addressing the need for greater ambition by the international community will be front and center at United Nations conferences to follow up the Paris agreement in September 2019 and November 2020.

What will be your party’s commitment to addressing global climate change? Under a government led by your party, would Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution:

  • remain at the present level, (i.e. a commitment  to cut GHGs by 30% below 2005 emission levels by 2030) but falling short on domestic action to meet this goal. 
  • remain at the present level, (i.e. a commitment  to cut GHGs by 30% below 2005 emission levels by 2030) but strengthening domestic action so that Canada meets this goal. 
  • increase Canada’s commitment, so that we cut GHGs by 45% below 2005 emission levels by 2030. 
  • double Canada’s commitment, so that we cut GHGs by 60% below 2005 emission levels by 2030. (Green Party)

Further detail from the NDP:

A New Democrat government will declare a climate emergency and put in place ambitious, science-based greenhouse gas reductions targets that will help stabilize the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We’ll put these targets in legislation and ensure accountability by creating an independent Climate Accountability Office to do regular audits of progress towards our climate goals. 

Response from the Liberal Party:

Our government helped to spur global ambition and strengthen resolve by pushing for the 1.5°C objective in the Paris Agreement in 2015, which has guided our climate policy ever since. The 1.5°C limit matters for Canada, which is warming at twice the global average – and at three times the global average in the north. The 1.5°C limit is even more essential for poorer countries, which often lack adequate resources to adapt to climate change. That’s why Canada has committed over $2.6 billion to support climate action in developing countries, which is double what the previous government committed.

In the past four years, that approach has delivered the biggest projected cut to Canada’s emissions ever. That’s a big step, but it’s just a first step. We know there’s much more to do. The Paris Agreement requires us to increase our ambition over time, and that’s exactly what we’ll do – through legislation, regulations, smart policies, and international commitment and leadership.

That’s why a re-elected Liberal government would adopt a net-zero GHG target for Canada for 2050. We would immediately appoint an expert advisory panel to recommend pathways to reach the 2050 target, and we would develop a plan to achieve it drawing on their recommendations, as well as on consultations with Canadians in all sectors and regions of the country. This will build off of the Generation Energy Report, which is a roadmap for Canada’s Clean energy transition over the next 25 years. We have also committed to put our net-zero 2050 target into law, and to legislate a series of five-year carbon budgets starting in 2025 to attain the 2050 target. The carbon budget trajectory will draw on the recommendations of the expert panel and consultations with Canadians. 

And to help us get there, a re-elected Liberal government will build on Canada’s climate plan by introducing a series of new measures to further cut pollution, notably by strengthening existing rules to cut emissions from Canada’s biggest polluters, including oil and gas. We will ensure Canada leads and succeeds in zero-emissions clean tech by cutting corporate taxes in half for businesses developing or manufacturing zero emissions technologies.

Nature is a critical ally in the fight against climate change. That is why we will also set new, ambitious targets in protecting more of Canada’s lands and oceans. By 2025, we will protect 25% of our lands and 25% of our oceans. And by 2030, we will protect 30% of our lands, and 30% of our oceans. In that same vein, we will also move forward with an ambitious plan to plant two billion trees over 10 years and to invest in other nature-based solutions, which will cut an estimated 30 Mt of emissions. 

We know there is more to do, and we will continue to look for opportunities to do more with Canadians. During our last mandate, we also provided $20 million over four years for an independent expert institute on climate change, which will inform future governments about best practices in emission reductions to achieve Canada’s target. The newly created Canadian Centre for Energy Information will provide publicly available modelling, forecasting and foresighting of energy data aligned to the Paris Agreement. 

As we move forward with developing net-zero legislation, we will carefully consider how we ensure that we are growing our economy today in a manner that is consistent with achieving a net-zero future. Further, by legislating net-zero and five-year milestones, we will provide important transparency for businesses so that they can plan long-life assets to be consistent with national climate goals and our international climate action commitments.

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