The Manitoba government is welcoming an Auditor General’s report that gives the province mostly a failing grade for its performance against climate change objectives. That’s because the failure falls exclusively on the former government, while the current government (elected April 19, 2016) is taking credit for the just-released “A Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan: Hearing from Manitobans” that addresses many of the Auditor General’s criticisms.
Manitoba released its new climate and green plan, with a made-in-Manitoba carbon price as its centrepiece, on October 27, 2017, just two days after the release of the Auditor General’s report, “Managing Climate Change”.
The weaknesses raised by the Auditor General will be familiar to students of government climate change planning in Canada: ambitious targets, inadequate, vague or non-existent programming to meet those targets, insufficient reporting of progress toward targets and, inevitably, failure to meet targets.
In 2008, the former government set a target of reducing emissions 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. Within a year, according to the Auditor General, the former government knew it was on course to fail, and still it waited until December 2015 to issue an updated plan with more ambitious targets and little detail about how they might be met.
The current government doesn’t dispute any of that. Instead, it argues that its new plan won’t repeat the empty promises of its predecessors. The new plan is at least partly a response to the threat of a carbon price imposed by the federal government if the province doesn’t impose one of its own. Manitoba is promising a carbon price of $25 per tonne of emissions beginning in 2018 and running unchanged through 2022. This is a concrete measure that the province says will cut cumulative emissions over the five-year period by just over 1 Mt.
However, that still leaves Manitoba with another 1.39 Mt of cumulative emissions to cut if it is to meet its new target, and specific programs to meet that objective are, for the most part, just as scarce in this plan as they were in its predecessors.
One measure that just might keep the province on course, however, is what Manitoba is calling the ‘carbon savings account’. It’s a principle rather than an actual account, and it is a direct response to the failure of governments across the land to live up to past climate change commitments. Under the carbon savings account principle, Manitoba will set five-year cumulative emission reduction targets. Annual reductions will feed into the requirement for each five-year cumulative target, and any shortfall at the end of a five-year period will be added to the reduction requirement for the next period.