Trudeau back-tracks on emission-reduction promise

Council of Canadians organizer Robin Tress challenges Justin Trudeau on the Energy East pipeline, August 2014.

The Trudeau government is back-tracking on the climate pledge it made during the last election.

During the October 2015 federal election, the Liberals promised, "We will work together to establish national emissions-reduction targets, and ensure that the provinces and territories have targeted federal funding and the flexibility to design their own policies to meet these commitments, including their own carbon pricing policies. These targets must recognise the economic cost and catastrophic impact that a greater-than-two-degree increase in average global temperatures would represent, as well as the need for Canada to do its part to prevent that from happening."

The Liberals had said the Harper government emission reduction target would be a floor "not the ceiling" of what needs to be done.

Now, CTV reports, "The Liberal government isn't going to update the Conservatives' carbon emission targets, despite calling them unambitious, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says." McKenna says, "What I said is that we will at least meet the target, and that is what I am committed to. The Harper target was a fake target because they did nothing. It's not a real target."

The Harper government had pledged to reduce carbon emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. When translated to the more commonly used baseline of 1990 levels, that pledge then equals just 14 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. In comparison Ontario has pledged 37 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, and the European Union has pledged a 40 per cent reduction.

Open Democracy has reported, "Cambridge University number cruncher Chris Hope concluded that if the European Union countries cut emissions by 40 percent by 2030, if the rest of the developed countries follow the U.S. commitment [which Canada is not even doing], and if the developing countries follow China’s promise [of stopping its emissions from growing by 2030], the most likely result will be a global temperature rise of 3.6 degrees Celsius in 2100."

That exceeds the 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels limit set by science, and according to studies even a 2 degree Celsius temperature increase would mean 9 per cent of the global population will struggle with absolute water scarcity and 21 per cent of the world's population will face chronic water scarcity.

The Canadian Press has reported, "British researchers [from University College London] have concluded that most of Canada's [tar] sands will have to be left in the ground if the world gets serious about climate change. The report, published in the journal Nature, says three-quarters of all Canada's oil reserves and 85 per cent of its [tar] sands can't be burned if the world wants to limit global warming." CBC adds, "[The study] says for the world to have a reasonable prospect of meeting the target, no more than 7.5 billion barrels of oil from the [tar] sands can be produced by 2050 — a mere 15 per cent of viable reserves and only about one per cent of total bitumen."

The Trudeau government is now widely expected to approve 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline on December 19. It is also not ruling out the 1.1 million barrel per day Energy East pipeline and is expected to make its decision on that pipeline by June 2018.

The Trans Mountain pipeline would be operational by 2019, the Energy East pipeline would be in service by 2020.

Scientific American has reported that the current average annual rate of global warming means we could reach the point of return by 2042. That means that by 2020 we have to begin significantly cutting back on global greenhouse gas emissions to avoid runaway climate change two decades later.

The Council of Canadians supports the Leap Manifesto call for a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050.

The United Nations COP22 climate summit will take place from November 7-18 in Morocco - just a month prior to the Trudeau government making its decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline.