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Federal environmental commissioner says Ottawa falling short on climate targets, adaptation

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 10/6/2017 8:44:00 AM

Critics of the federal government’s climate change plans have for some time noted that Ottawa stood no chance of meeting its 2020 greenhouse gas emission goals (17% below 2005 levels). Now, the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has added her voice to that chorus and, it seems, the federal government is agreeing — without actually saying so.

The practice in climate politics is to raise the target and push back the deadline whenever a near-term target falls out of reach. That’s what Ottawa has done, now paying scant attention to its 2020 target and introducing measures (such as the national carbon price) with the more ambitious (and distant) 2030 target as the objective.

The 2017 Fall Reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development also point out that the entire suite of announced greenhouse gas emission reduction measures currently planned will still leave Canada short of its 2030 target, even if they are fully implemented and perform as projected. Environment and Climate Change Canada has done a poor job of reporting on its progress (or lack of progress) toward its various emission targets, and the reports say that ought to change.

Environment and Climate Change Canada, in its response, says it will. Under a new Treasury Board policy and directive, it says Canadians should now expect clear and transparent reporting.

The federal government is also falling well short of its responsibilities as Canada’s largest landlord and employer, according to the reports. There may be a great deal of talk nationally about the importance of adaptation to climate change, but from the federal government very little has been done to plan for its impact on federal assets and areas of responsibility, let alone prepare them for it.

The federal Commissioner found that only five of 19 departments and agencies examined had assessed climate change risks in their areas of responsibility, and implemented measures to respond to them. Surprisingly, Environment and Climate Change Canada was not one of them.

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