Liberals, NDP unveil climate proposals, commit to global targets
TORONTO -- Environmental initiatives dominated the election campaign trail on Tuesday as the Liberals and NDP pledged to fight climate change, a day after the United Nations Climate Action Summit called on world leaders to present concrete proposals to meet emissions reduction targets over the next decade and into 2050.
The Liberals said they would immediately commit Canada to becoming carbon neutral by mid-century if re-elected, joining pledges made on Monday by the European Union and 65 other countries. Party Leader Justin Trudeau also announced that companies that produce or develop zero emissions technology would get their corporate taxes cut in half.
But the party came under criticism from both Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh for its environmental track record over the last four years.
The Liberals said the focus on clean technology will create jobs, grow Canadian businesses, and help Canada reach its 2050 targets. It also said it will set legally-binding, five-year milestones in consultation with experts including scientists and economists, to reach its 2050 goal. In addition, it plans to ensure all federal buildings will run on clean electricity by 2022.
“We are living in a breathtaking, pivotal moment,” said Trudeau. “The climate crisis is real, but we can’t waste anymore time … We can lead that fight from right here in Canada. In fact we have to, since our country is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.”
Trudeau criticized Conservative politicians for ignoring climate issues, despite its major economic impact. Earlier on Tuesday, Liberal candidate and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna also addressed the party’s climate goals, but conceded they are setting an ambitious target.
“Action on climate change can no longer be a partisan issue,” McKenna said.
Unde the Liberal proposal, small clean tech companies would see their taxes reduced to 4.5 per cent from 9 per cent, while larger businesses would see their taxes fall to 7.5 per cent from 15 per cent. The party hopes the economic incentives will lure cleantech companies to set up shop in Canada.
Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, told CTV’s Power Play that the Liberal climate change platform makes them a “genuine contender” among the parties’ “friendly race to the top” toward having the best plan to tackle climate change.
“We don’t have all the details, but what we do have with the Liberals that we don’t have with the other parties is a record of what they’ve done over the last four years,” she said.
Abreu points to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which Trudeau introduced in October 2016, as a good start toward meeting a lot of the commitments the Liberals introduced with their new climate plan.
“We have the hooks for a lot of the policies that something like a net-zero by 2050 target is going to need to actually be achieved,” she said. “We’ve laid some of the groundwork, but certainly they will have a lot of work cut out for them to actually get there in the next 30 years.”
The NDP derided the plan with a simple, but very pointed brief statement following Trudeau’s cleantech proposal: “You. Bought. A. Pipeline.”
In Winnipeg, Singh told supporters that despite the Liberal pledge, Trudeau’s government over the last four years have “failed a future generation of young people who are demanding action.”
The NDP proposal focused on helping communities most impacted by climate change, including partnering with Indigenous people, ensuring they have a decision-making seat on climate change policies.
“We believe that we have to take action now, we are committed to moving away from fossil fuels,” Singh said. “We know the future for our country and for the world is a future where we are not burning any carbon for fuel.”
Singh added that an NDP government would meet the targets laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), limiting global warming to 1.5 Celsius. The NDP, which also promised to support provinces who want to connect their power grids across the country, put a $15-billion price tag on its climate action plan.
The Liberal and NDP proposals follow intense focus on the urgency of addressing climate change this week, with historic demonstrations from Australia to India that were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and led by school students around the world. It culminated on Monday at the UN Climate Action Summit, when Thunberg gave a scathing speech to world leaders about the consequences of their inaction for the next generation.
Scheer, who was in St. Catharines, Ont. to discuss his tax review plan with the small business community, did not offer a number when asked what his emission reduction targets would be for 2050, but criticized the Liberal plan, calling Trudeau a “master of improv, coming up with things on the fly, no details.”
“Under Justin Trudeau we're falling further and further behind and I do not understand why he is still going all in on a carbon tax that has been proven to fail,” Scheer said.
The Conservatives derided the Liberals’ new pitch, arguing that it would cost taxpayers billions of dollars, drive gasoline prices up sharply, and “destroy the economies” of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and the manufacturing sectors in Ontario and Quebec.
The Conservative party unveiled its climate plan in the spring, billing it as Canada’s “best chance” to meet the Paris targets. Scheer said a Conservative government was committed to meeting those targets, though its plan did not quantify or specify targets on how it would achieve those reductions in emissions.
In Sackville, New Brunswick, Green Party leader Elizabeth May expressed disappointment in the Liberal platform’s lack of near-term goals.
The Green Party announced its climate plan in May, promising zero emissions by 2050 and modernizing the electricity grid across the country, making it possible to distribute renewable energy from one province to province. The party also proposed retrofitting every building in Canada and ending all imports of foreign oil.
“A commitment to get to carbon neutrality by 2050 is good, but they’re putting a promise out there for 30 years from now. I need to know what they’re going to do in two years, in 18 months, I need to know what they’re going to do by 2025,” May said, pointing to the Liberal government’s current 2030 targets, which it had inherited from the previous Conservative government.
With files from CTV’s Rachel Aiello in Ottawa and Ben Cousins in Toronto