A row of wind turbines line a yellow field in Alberta, Canada.

Summary

  • Canadians are becoming increasingly worried as global warming leads to extreme temperatures, wildfires and flooding. In the past, the Government of Canada has failed to deliver on its promises and didn’t meet the 2020 emissions reduction target.
  • The current policies highlight plans to reduce transport-related emissions by providing clean, affordable fuel to communities. The government plans to phase out coal-fired electricity while supporting the affected communities through this transition.
  • Despite these efforts, many people are criticizing the lack of action against the oil and gas sector. The world needs to switch to clean energy to displace emissions caused by fossil fuels and improve human health.
  • The next federal government is under scrutiny to deliver on their promises to reach net-zero by 2050 and increase clean energy supply.

Introduction

The effects of climate change have become very real for many Canadians who’ve experienced the wildfires, extreme flooding and health concerns that are affecting communities across the nation.

Climate change activists worldwide are fighting for governments to take global warming seriously and make the necessary changes to help save our planet from a crisis. The effects of climate change have become very real for many Canadians who’ve experienced the wildfires, extreme flooding and health concerns affecting communities across the nation.

There is no hiding from the very real experiences many have, and the government is under fire for its perceived failure to tackle the issue. For instance, the government claims to be doing its part to lower emissions by addressing emissions in the transport sector, but many people are questioning if it’s enough.

This article examines Canada’s efforts to confront global warming, whether these policies are enough to curb the disastrous effects, and how clean energy plays a role in Canada’s future.

An infographic depicting how greenhouse gases affect the climate and cause global warming.

What is Canada’s Climate Plan?

They pledge to make transport and power clean and affordable in every community.

According to the Paris Agreement, the Canadian government is committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. To reach its target, parliament introduced the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act on November 19, 2020. Once passed, it will cement the 2050 target into law, and they will set emission reduction targets for every five years to help reach this goal.

The current plans to tackle climate change are outlined in A Healthy Environment and a  Healthy Economy. Revised in December 2020, it builds on previous plans to cut pollution, create jobs and support the growth of a healthy economy and environment. The government says it is on track to exceed the 2030 Paris Agreement emissions reduction target and states it has the resources to reach a net-zero emissions future by the year 2050.

The government pledges to make transport and power clean and affordable in every community as part of the Paris Agreement. The plan outlines efforts to invest in renewables, new clean energy technology, and encourages clean modes of transportation, including zero-emissions vehicles.

The government hopes this will benefit the communities, making them healthier and less congested. Its promises to build a healthier Canada include a plan to phase out coal-fired electricity to reduce emissions and improve air quality. The government is keen to support coal workers and their communities during this transition; therefore, it has invested $185 million to help workers learn new skills to succeed in a cleaner future.

In the plans, the Government of Canada acknowledges that the oil and gas industry makes up 26% of total emissions. To reduce this, the goal is to decrease methane emissions by 40-45% by 2050. It is also developing a Clean Fuel Standard that aims to invest in cleaner fuel such as biofuel and hydrogen.

According to the government, the Canadian electricity sector makes up 8.8% of Canada’s emissions, which it plans to reduce by:

  • Reducing coal-fired electricity
  • Increasing renewable energy investments
  • Increasing smart-grid investments
  • Support remote communities as they reduce diesel dependence

In these developments, the government hopes to make 90% of the energy grid clean by 2030.

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Is Canada Doing Enough to Fight Climate Change?

According to Climate Action Tracker, despite the 2020 pandemic causing emissions to drop, Canada did not reach their 2020 target.

Despite the plans discussed, many people have criticized Canada’s role in working towards a healthier future. Between missed targets and inappropriate funding allocation, is Canada really doing enough to fight climate change?

In 2014, the Canadian government faced criticism for not delivering on its promises. By 2020, Canada committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 17% below 2005 levels. However, experts revealed the unlikelihood of reaching these emission targets. At that time, the government had not put any procedures in place to address emissions within the oil and gas sector, which was the fastest-growing producer of GHG.

The question stands, has the situation improved since? Well, it seems those criticisms were rightly voiced. According to Climate Action Tracker, despite the 2020 pandemic leading to a drop in emissions, Canada did not reach its 2020 target. However, despite past failures, the new 2021 plan still falls short as it’s deemed “highly insufficient”. Climate Action Tracker outlined that the new climate plan did not hold up to the Paris Agreement.

Justin Trudeau, Liberal leader and Canadian prime minister, is being criticized for not taking enough action against climate change. In fact, Canada is the only G7 country whose emissions have increased since signing the Paris Agreement.

In 2020, the Energy Transition Outlook reported that the oil and gas sector accounts for 74% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Although Canada plans to curb methane emissions and invest in low-carbon fuel, this may not be enough. This sector produces massive amounts of pollution globally, yet the government isn’t addressing CO2 emissions with enough urgency.

In a climate report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) clearly stated that fossil fuel investments need to stop to cap global warming to 1.5C, alongside phasing out oil and gas. Despite the urgency of the situation, the federal government invested at least $1.91 billion in the fossil fuel industry in 2020 alone. These figures represent a 200% increase from 2019 levels. Experts predict that Canada’s oil and gas sector will produce more emissions in 2050 than it did in 2019—which could amount to 16% of the global carbon budget.

Global warming is not a trivial issue as many people around the world experience it first hand. There were record high heat waves in the western provinces, with British Columbia reporting 569 deaths due to the extreme temperatures. What’s more, wildfires are destroying communities, homes and natural habitats, posing a threat to locals. If the Government of Canada continues to support the growth of the oil and gas sector, it can have disastrous consequences.

An infographic describing the different renewable energy sources.

What Can the Next Government Do to Push Clean Energy Initiatives?

Although incentives such as the Canada Greener Home Grant are encouraging, it’s the gas and oil sector that make up 26% of Canada’s emissions.

All eyes are on the next government to deliver actionable, sufficient plans to tackle the climate crisis. The September 2021 election saw Trudeau re-elected with the promise that Canada will reach net-zero by 2050 and exceed the 2030 emissions goal. Whether the government sticks to these promises remains uncertain. Before the election results, the New York Times reported on the lack of detail in the climate action plans during the election. Many were left wondering how exactly the parties planned on meeting these ambitious targets.

The need for renewable energy is rising. Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, are insufficient and will only reduce the chance of slowing climate change. With clean energy supplies, air quality will improve, dependence on fossil fuels will decline, causing the climate and public health to improve. The IEA outlines in its report that the energy sector is the only way forward to reach these goals, and solar PV will dominate the industry by 2050.

Boosting a clean energy supply is crucial to meeting the new environmental targets. Although incentives such as the Canada Greener Home Grant are encouraging, it’s the gas and oil sector that make up 26% of Canada’s emissions. Therefore, the new government needs to stop financing oil and gas projects alongside efforts to make homes greener, transportation cleaner, and phase out coal-fired plants. Instead, the focus must be on investing in systems that will help them reach the emissions targets before it’s too late.

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Closing Thoughts

There is pressure on the next federal government to reach the targets set out in its 2021 climate plan. After missing its initial 2020 target, there is no room for setbacks. Although measures are being taken to support coal workers and the communities which rely on the fossil fuel industry, the Canadian government is doing little to reduce the oil and gas sector; in fact, it’s predicted to keep growing. If plans continue, all the efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions will be redundant unless the government takes action now.

The question that remains is whether the government will finally pull through and meet these climate goals or let history repeat itself. One thing is for sure; the world is watching.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are Canada’s current climate policies?

The Government of Canada set out a plan called a Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy. It aims to phase out coal-fired electricity, encourage zero-emission vehicles and support the communities that rely on the coal sector. The government also plans to introduce the Clean Fuel Standard, which will see it invest in clean energy technology to provide affordable, clean fuel to all communities.

 

Why is clean energy essential for beating climate change?

The energy sector, which includes the electricity, heat and transport industries, makes up 73.2% of global CO2 emissions. It’s essential to target these areas by displacing fossil-fuel use with renewable energy sources, such as wind, hydroelectricity and solar power. These sources produce minimal greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, as fossil fuel use lowers, so will the associated emissions, leading to improved air quality and slowing climate change.

 

Is Canada doing enough to tackle climate change?

Canadians are growing increasingly anxious over the apparent lack of action and detail in the government’s plans to reduce emissions. After falling short of the 2020 climate goals set out in 2012, it’s no wonder people are worried. Although there are plans to tackle the transport sector and phase out coal-fired plants, the same criticisms from 2014 remain—the government still isn’t doing enough about the oil and gas sector emissions. In fact, there has been backlash over further investments into the industry, which may see oil and gas production to be more in 2050 than it was in 2019. If this is the case, efforts to stop climate change will be of little help.

 

What is the Canadian government doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Some of Canada’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions include:

  • Reduce gas and oil methane emissions by 40-45% by 2050
  • Introduce the Clean Fuel Standard
  • Invest in renewables
  • Phase-out coal-fired electricity
  • Support rural communities to reduce their reliance on diesel
  • Develop cleaner fuel for vehicles

 

What role does solar power play in the clean energy transition?

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar power will dominate the energy industry by 2050. It outlines renewable power as the key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping the global temperature limited to 1.5°C. Solar power, in particular, is now the safest form of energy and the cheapest to produce. To meet the climate targets, it’s vital to keep renewable energy investments going, especially in the solar power industry.

 

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