A picture of PM Justin Trudeau with parliament in the background and a protest sign reading "you're on thin ice" in the foreground

2021 federal budget outlines a climate of inaction

Dylan Penner
5 months ago

The 2021 Federal Budget relies on magical thinking when it comes to the climate crisis. Instead of a real plan to begin a managed wind-down of the fossil fuel industry, it doubles down on business as usual with the window dressing of carbon capture and storage, a false and unproven “solution”.

Climate Action?

The budget states that “climate change is real” and yet fails to take it seriously.

It pledged to cut Canada’s emissions by 36 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — a target that was increased to 40-45 per cent on Earth Day. The U.S. targets are now 52 per cent

While 40 per cent is a marginal improvement, it is still a far cry from what’s needed.

The science tells us that Canada needs to reduce its emissions by at least 60 per cent by 2030. And we need a plan to actually get there, starting now.

We need to also keep in mind that successive Canadian federal governments have yet to even meet any of the lacklustre targets that have been set so far. So, set your dial to: more organizing. 

An initial read of the federal budget gives the impression that the government plans to spend $17.6 billion on the climate emergency. However, author Seth Klein points out that, if you look closer at the fine print, the budget’s climate spending is actually only “$4.5 billion over the next 5 years.” Meanwhile, the Trudeau government subsidized Big Oil with $18 billion last year alone.

Big oil bailed out, everything else left out — again

Big Oil didn't have to wait — why does everything else?

Instead of laying out a plan for economic transformation towards a low-carbon future, the budget focuses on “decarbonizing the facilities” of fossil fuel infrastructure. It's not just the emissions from the facilities that are the issue. We’re in a climate emergency because those facilities are extracting fossil fuels, shipping them through pipelines so they get burned, and releasing greenhouse gas in the process.

The only way to decarbonize a pipeline is to shut it down.

You can’t solve the climate crisis by sticking a windmill on a pipeline. That’s not how climate science works. But that’s basically the approach this government is taking.

Transit injustice

Transit systems from coast to coast are in crisis because of the pandemic and insufficient federal funding for operations. Meanwhile, transportation accounts for a quarter of emissions in Canada, which means building a Green New Deal for public transit is critical. A step toward this is emergency transit operational funding.

There was no commitment in the federal budget to address the urgent need for public transit operational funding, despite calls on the Finance Minister by the Council of Canadians and 60 other organizations.

Climate disaster response

The budget pledges $1.9 billion from 2021-2026 “to support provincial and territorial disaster response and recovery efforts.” This is a paltry amount. The cost of responding to the Fort McMurray wildfires in the spring of 2016 alone was almost $10 billion

The climate emergency is already here and we need to do far more than what the government has on offer to protect people and communities from the climate disasters that are knocking on our door.

Now is the time to build a Green New Deal

There was no Green New Deal, no just transition, no movement on Bill C-12 (the Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act), and no addressing the injustices of the climate crisis in this federal budget. It ultimately fails to recognize that we are in a climate emergency.

While the Trudeau government’s new climate targets are still nowhere near what the science calls for, they’d be much weaker if it wasn’t for the climate justice movement. Governments and corporations have been reluctant to adopt targets beyond “net-zero by 2050,” which would be far too late. The fact that 2030 targets are now a focal point is a direct result of our movement pushing for it. This underscores the importance of ramping up our organizing to push further for a plan that lines up with climate science and Indigenous knowledge.

The federal government’s continued failure to rise to the challenge of the climate emergency makes it all the more important that we take action in our communities to win the transformative changes we need. One place to start is joining the efforts already underway to build local Green New Deals in communities from coast to coast.

Want your community to be the next one to build a local Green New Deal? Get involved here.