Most Canadians don’t understand the “magnitude of the challenge” presented by climate change, says the federal government’s new long-term climate strategy plan.
In order to match the ambitions of the Paris climate agreement, Canadians will have to cut their emissions to 80 per cent below 2005 levels by 2050.
Canadians currently emit 732 million tonnes of greenhouse gases every year. Meeting the agreement’s requirements means this needs to be reduced to 150 million tonnes – no small feat considering emissions are rising year by year.
“Most Canadians recognize the need to mitigate climate change and limit the increase in the global average temperature, but the magnitude of the challenge is less well understood, with a requirement for very deep emissions cuts from every sector by mid-century,” reports the 87-page plan.
Forestry, municipal waste, and technological innovation all have important parts to play, and receive their own chapters in the plan. Oil and gas, meanwhile, does not.
The strategy document makes no mention of the current debate over the approval of new, long-term fossil fuel infrastructure, such as the Keystone XL and other pipelines. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration has approved a major liquefied natural gas project in northern British Columbia. They will seemingly also approve a proposed tripling of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline by mid-December.
“Canada’s mid-century strategy is not a blueprint for action and it is not policy prescriptive,” the document notes. “Rather, the report is meant to inform the conversation about how Canada can achieve a low-carbon economy.”
These actions show a sharp discrepancy in climate policy within the Trudeau government. The plan outlines the urgent need to move away from fossil fuels and the seriousness of climate change, while the government’s policies instead set up long term fossil-fuel infrastructure.
“The report’s warnings on the dangers of building new infrastructure that locks in a high-carbon economy has to be seen as a big, flashing red light telling Trudeau to reject the Kinder Morgan and Energy East pipelines,” said a Greenpeace Canada representative.
But Don Iveson, Mayor of Edmonton, told The Canadian Press that he doesn’t see any conflict between approving new pipelines and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is product that is already being extracted and processed, to some degree, today,” said Iveson.
“And it’s going to continue to be as long as there’s a market for it. And there’s going to continue to be a market for it as we make this transition.”
During climate negotiations in Paris last year, Canada, through Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, was among the countries pushing for a target of limiting global warming closer to 1.5 degrees Celcius rather than two degrees.
Most climate scientists believe a two-degree increase in global average temperature would put the world in the ‘danger-zone’ of irreversible climate change.
Canada’s “Mid-Century Long-Term Low-Greenhouse Gas Development Strategy” outlines that the global community will need to reduce its emissions somewhere between 70 and 95 per cent in order to have a better than 50-50 chance of limiting the average global temperature rise to just 1.5 degrees.
The plan details a number of strategies, including a move to more efficient energy – 38 per cent of all emission cuts needed can be achieved by increasing energy efficiencies.