Learn More About Climate Change in Canada

The issue of how to deal with climate change in Canada is a controversial one, with various levels of government — municipal, provincial and federal — all taking different approaches to tackling this important issue.

climate change canada

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Up until the election of the new Trudeau federal government in October 2015, Canada had been roundly criticized both domestically and internationally for its lack of action on climate change. 

While progress was stymied at the federal level, there has been progress over the last few years at the provincial government level, namely in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which have both committed to a cap-and-trade system.

Up until recently, British Columbia was heralded as a leader on climate change, introducing the first carbon tax in the world in 2008. A study by researchers at the University of Ottawa found that the B.C. carbon tax had reduced fossil fuel use in the province by 19 per cent since its inception, when compared to the rest of the country.

However, in 2013 the B.C. government froze planned increases in the carbon tax, calling into question the government's commitment to climate action. The B.C. government now says it plans to keep the freeze on the carbon tax until at least 2018.

Climate change and environmental protection remain hot topics in Canada, with polls for many years consistently showing these issues as top-of-mind. DeSmog Canada reports regularly on the issue of climate change in Canada and we index all of that news in the section that follows below.

  


DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on Climate Change in Canada 
 
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B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Environment Minister Mary Polak

British Columbians will not find out before next spring’s provincial election if the province has adequate programs in place to adapt to climate change.

Earlier this month Auditor General Carol Bellringer released a list of projects her office intends to investigate in the next three years and, among the hot button issues — ranging from grizzly bear management to the Site C dam — is whether government is adequately managing risks posed by climate change.

In the wake of heavy criticism of Premier Christy Clark’s August release of the province’s “Climate Leadership Plan” — which does not include carbon tax increases or set emission targets for 2030 — some were hoping that Bellringer would release the report early next year.

It is a question I am being asked, but the timing is not going to work,” Bellringer said in an interview with DeSmog Canada.

We are probably going to have finished our field work by spring, but we won’t be able to issue it before the election,” she said.

Justin Trudeau and Canada's premiers

For decades, the urgent need for climate action was stymied by what came to be known as “climate denialism” (or its more mild cousin, “climate skepticism”).

In an effort to create public confusion and stall political progress, the fossil fuel industry poured tens of millions of dollars into the pockets of foundations, think tanks, lobby groups, politicians and academics who relentlessly questioned the overwhelming scientific evidence that human-caused climate change is real and requires urgent action.

Thankfully, the climate deniers have now mostly been exposed and repudiated. Relatively few politicians now express misgivings about the reality or science of climate change (the current Republican nominee for U.S. president being a notable exception, along with some other conservative bright lights like Sarah Palin and Canadian MP Cheryl Gallant).

That’s the good news.

The bad news is we face a new form of climate denialism — more nuanced and insidious, but just as dangerous.

Marc Jaccard

Last week, Mark Jaccard — a renowned climate policy analyst and professor at Simon Fraser University — published a short paper exploring federal approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report was quickly shared by other climate policy experts, including the University of Alberta’s Andrew Leach, Clean Energy Canada’s Dan Woynillowicz and York University’s Tzeporah Berman.

Unfortunately, many news outlets, including the Toronto Star and Metro, ran articles suggesting that Jaccard was petitioning against a carbon tax, with emissions reductions entirely accomplished via regulations.

That’s clearly not the case if one bothers to read the paper (a reality Jaccard spent much of the following days pointing out on Twitter).

Given the recent announcement by federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna that the government is examining carbon pricing as a tool to meet 2030 targets, actually reading Jaccard’s report is very much worth the time.

Salmon have been swimming in Pacific Northwest waters for at least seven million years, as indicated by fossils of large saber-tooth salmon found in the area. During that time, they’ve been a key species in intricate, interconnected coastal ecosystems, bringing nitrogen and other nutrients from the ocean and up streams and rivers to spawning grounds, feeding whales, bears and eagles and fertilizing the magnificent coastal rainforests along the way.

Catherine McKenna

On Sunday, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced that the federal government will stick with the previous government’s target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The news, delivered via an interview with CTV’s Evan Solomon, attracted a significant amount of criticism.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May described it as “nothing short of a disaster for the climate” and Press Progress suggested the news undermined election commitments and later statements by the Liberals.

Fair enough: McKenna had previously called the targets the “floor,” noting that “certainly we want to try to do better.” And in election materials, the Liberals stated: “We will work together to establish national emissions-reduction targets.”

Not exactly a broken promise, but some had hoped for more.

But here’s the thing: yes, the Liberals could have set a more ambitious target. And yes, to help keep global temperatures below two degrees of warming, they will need to in the future.

Tweet: So @JustinTrudeau’s using Harper’s old climate targets. But what matters is not setting a target, it’s meeting it http://bit.ly/2dkGU6LBut what matters is not setting a target — it’s meeting a target.

The National Energy Board is fundamentally broken.

That was a point repeatedly highlighted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2015 federal election — and one confirmed for many with recent revelations that former Quebec premier Jean Charest had privately met with senior NEB officials while on the payroll of TransCanada.

Trudeau and his federal cabinet have the chance to change that: in June, the government announced dual review panels to assess the mandates and operations of the NEB and the country’s oft-criticized post-2012 environmental assessment processes (it also announced five interim principles until those reviews are completed, including a requirement to assess upstream greenhouse gas emissions although it’s unclear how that information is being used).

Seismic blasting in the Arctic

The Arctic’s Baffin Bay and Davis Strait region is home to seals, bowhead whales, polar bears and up to 90 per cent of the world’s narwhals. The area’s marine waters also provide habitat for 116 species of fish, such as Arctic char, an important dietary staple for Nunavut’s Inuit communities.

Although the area is crucial to Inuit for hunting and other traditional activities, the federal government has approved underwater seismic blasting by a consortium of energy companies. They plan to fire underwater cannons from boats to map the ocean floor for oil and gas deposits, in preparation for offshore drilling.

The blasting, approved by Canada’s National Energy Board in 2014, is meeting fierce opposition.

It’s 31 degrees outside and I was planning to go to the lake this afternoon — and I’d be willing to hazard a guess that many British Columbians are in the same boat.

Tweet: .@christyclarkbc’s #ClimateActionPlan comes out 6 months late in the summer so no one will notice http://bit.ly/2bktGUS #bcpoli #dogdaysThat’s exactly why B.C. Premier Christy Clark chose tomorrow to release her Climate Action Plan — originally scheduled for release nearly six months ago.

Politicans often “take out the trash” on Fridays during the dog days of summer and this time is no different.

The plan — according to a leak in the Globe and Mail today — will fail to increase the carbon tax or update greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Those were two of the cornerstone recommendations from the province’s own expert committee.

The depths of August on a Friday afternoon is not the time you release a plan that you want a lot of people to pay attention to,” said Josha MacNab, B.C. director for the Pembina Institute.

Thicker insulation may not be the first thing one imagines as a top solution to climate change (heck, it probably doesn’t even crack the top five list).

Tweet: Canadian organizations want to develop an energy strategy focused on constructing & retrofitting buildings http://bit.ly/2blHuy3 #cdnpoliBut a new collaboration of Canadian environmental organizations want to change that via the development of a national energy efficiency strategy that focuses on constructing and retrofitting buildings.

Earlier this week an open letter was sent to Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, signed by 11 groups including the Pembina Institute, Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance, the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, Environmental Defence and Architecture Canada.

This very long piece is the last of a four-part series on B.C.’s climate action plan. Part One addressed B.C.’s GHG reduction targets. Part Two addressed how that plan is at risk of being co-opted by Big Oil. Part Three took a closer look at the B.C. Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations for the carbon tax. This analysis explores how the oil and gas industry, and especially the LNG industry, might financially benefit from hidden subsidies recommended by that advisory body.

Like so many other governments around the world, British Columbia’s Liberal government led by Premier Christy Clark has been duped by the barons of Big Oil.

Beguiled by the petroleum industry’s promises of new investment and jobs, the Clark government has repeatedly proved itself a patsy in acceding to the LNG industry’s every demand.

In the process, it has subjugated B.C.’s global-leading 2008 climate action plan to its misguided vision for the unchecked exploitation of non-renewable natural gas.

It has broken its own law, in failing to meet B.C.’s legislated targets for provincial greenhouse gas reductions.

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