(September 16, 2021) The message of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change report, published in August, was clear—the climate emergency is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying”. Yet, while powerful photographs of hellfire landscapes continue to appear in the newspapers, and we hear of the suffering left behind by Hurricane Ida, many still seem to struggle to act. The IPCC report mapped out 5 different scenarios for the next 80 years, based on the degrees of our ability as a planet to curb a climate emergency. Only the two low-emissions scenarios, the ones with the most aggressive, uncompromising cuts to CO2 emissions, have a chance between keeping us beneath 2C degrees of warming globally. And every month counts. Even our most determined efforts won’t begin to bear fruit until children born today are getting ready to retire.
On September 20, Canadians have a chance to elect the government that will respond to the climate emergency during the next few years, essential years that will shape Earth’s climate for centuries to come. It’s crucial to assess the environmental platform of each party in light of the best and most up to date climate information that we have and demand a strong commitment to dramatically lowering emissions. Unfortunately, the Conservative climate platform doesn’t even make it out of the gate.
- The first point on the platform is a ‘low carbon savings account’, which would ‘enable Canadians to save money every time they fuel up.’ Apparently, these fossil fuel rebates can go toward investments in an electric vehicle, or greener energy accoutrements for the home. Setting aside the fact that only homeowners and vehicle owners can take advantage of this ‘savings account’, it is frankly insulting to suggest that subsidized gas purchases are a reasonable palliative for reducing emissions at this late stage in the climate crisis.
- A pledge to manufacture more electric cars in Canada, is inefficient and unimaginative. While electric cars have some potential to reduce emissions, tackling climate change through individual purchases is much slower and more complex than a top-down, decisive government change in Canadian energy policy.
- Their platform’s third point is a nod to the Paris agreement, a pledge made by several governments to limit global warming to 2C. Yet even 2 degrees of warming will have fearful consequences, with floods, storms, droughts, and heat waves becoming more frequent and dangerous. 1.5C must be the new goal, and sensible governments will act accordingly, regardless of the Paris Agreement.
- The Conservative environment platform promises a tough stance against China, including carbon border tariffs, to curb emissions globally. While the imprisonment of two Canadians in China is a diplomatic insult that must be addressed, we are not at all sure that carbon tariffs are the answer, a very blunt instrument with the potential to injure the global economy, as we saw in Donald Trump’s ‘trade war’ with China.
- In addition to the lowering of emissions, the IPCC report states that carbon-capture and storage technology will be vital in our efforts to maintain a liveable global temperature. Curiously, the Conservative plan doesn’t mention Canadian investment in carbon capture technology, even though as a talking point it would fit well with Conservative ideals of growth, profit, and industry. Missing this low-hanging policy promise shows an extraordinary lack of vision and imagination on the part of the party’s platform writers. Lack of vision is exactly the last thing we need as a country.
Our individual actions alone can’t fix the climate. We need committed investment into genuinely innovative changes in the way we obtain and consume energy to give us the tools to all work together. And the Conservatives aren’t even close.