In an effort that Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Julie Gelfand called historic, she and auditors general from most provinces and the three territories have prepared a collaborative report on climate change action in Canada. Its findings are a good news/bad news story. The good news is that all governments are working to address climate change. The bad news is that they’re not doing nearly enough.
The report is based, for the most part, on actions that pre-date the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, a fact seized upon by Liberal members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development during Gelfand’s testimony hours after the report’s March 27, 2018 release. In fact, Gelfand repeatedly characterized the Pan-Canadian Framework as among the best she’s ever seen, in large part because it was devised in cooperation with the provinces. She conceded what is already accepted: that the actions in the framework, on their own, will still leave Canada 50 Mt to 60 Mt shy of its 2030 target. However, she refused to be baited into discussing what other actions the federal government and the provinces might take to reach the 2030 goal.
Instead, she focussed on what the audit revealed. Those findings include that seven governments have not set 2020 emission targets. Of the six that have, only two (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) were on track to meet them when the audits were conducted.
Only Nova Scotia has made a detailed government-wide assessment of climate change risks, she said. She also praised Nova Scotia’s climate change adaptation strategy but noted that it dates back to 2005 and had not been updated.
Only five of 19 federal departments have completed an assessment of climate change risks, Gelfand said. “That was a little bit of a surprise for us,” she added. Perhaps most surprising is that Environment and Climate Change Canada found itself on the list of 14 that have fallen short.
Gelfand would not forecast the impact of the national carbon price on greenhouse gas emissions. She said that governments across the country are having a difficult time predicting the emission reductions that will occur as a consequence of specific actions, and that includes carbon pricing. [Editor’s Note: Manitoba is forecasting that its flat $25 per tonne carbon price will cut emissions by 1.07 Mt over the period 2018-2022.]
Gelfand also said that it was not clear to her that issues of policy coherence had been properly thought through. Policy coherence ensures that different policies support each other’s objectives or, at worst, do not work against each other.