OTTAWA – Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is unveiling his long-awaited climate plan, which he has billed as Canada’s “best chance” to meet the Paris targets without a carbon tax, but his proposals lack any estimates on how successful this slate of policies would be at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The 60-page plan—“A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment”—provided to reporters in advance includes more than 50 policy proposals aimed at supporting green technology innovation, and protecting the environment. A carbon tax is not one of them, nor is a ban on single-use plastics.
Scheer’s plan is billed as one that will conserve the environment, protect children from the effects of climate change—which the Conservatives state is a real and urgent problem— and further lower emissions “without taking money out of Canadians’ pockets.”
However, the plan, previously described by Scheer as “the most comprehensive policy announcement by an opposition party in Canadian history,” does not include any estimates on how much the wide-ranging ideas within the plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or contribute to meeting the Paris Agreement commitment of holding global warming below 2 C and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 C.
Despite this, Scheer is reasserting his party’s commitment to meeting the Paris targets. This had been in question over the last year, since he said on CTV’s Question Period last April that he would deliver a climate plan ahead of the 2019 election that would meet the Paris Agreement, without a carbon tax. Months later he appeared to walk that back, instead saying his plan would have "meaningful reductions."
Under the Paris Agreement, Canada had committed to reducing its emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels.
“The Paris targets are Conservative targets and our plan will give Canada the best chance at reaching them,” reads the Conservative policy document.
Critics of the current federal government’s environmental plan have pointed to various reports from watchdogs and audits that have cautioned that Canada will not meet its current emission reduction targets without either boosting the cost of the federal carbon tax— a key plank of their plan—or finding other ways to reduce emissions. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has continued to assert that the Liberals will meet the Paris targets, while knocking Scheer’s plan before it was revealed as one that will “do nothing” on climate change, while accusing him of developing the plan alongside oil lobbyists.
Among the dozens of smaller scale ideas within the policy document:
- Creating a two-year “Green Home Tax Credit” that would help homeowners pay for energy saving renovations. It remains unclear when this plan would be launched, but would be a 20 per cent refundable credit on income taxes for improvements such as solar panels, that cost between $1,000 and $20,000. The Conservatives estimate this would cost $900 million a year and would mean up to a $2,850 rebate per household.
- Work with provinces and municipalities to end the dumping of raw sewage into marine or freshwater ecosystems, saying they should not be used as “a toxic dumping ground”;
- Review and update current strategies for the conservation and control of invasive species, and pests, as well as improving conservation funding;
- Focus on “greening the grid” by supporting the adoption of smart grid technology and adopting renewable power technologies, citing nuclear power as an example; and
- Ban exporting plastics waste until it is shown that it will be recycled, minimizing the plastic packaging on products, and harmonizing Canadian regulatory standards for plastics recycling.
Speaking with reporters after delivering his policy speech in Chelsea, Que. not far from Ottawa, Scheer was asked whether he would be coming forward with more details about the impacts on emissions his ideas would have. He said much of the policy has been informed by work done by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
“This type of rapid investment in technological advancement gives Canada, gives countries a better chance of reducing those emissions on a much more accelerated scale,” Scheer said. “Our policy to incentive Canadians to make investments in making their homes more energy efficient will help reduce those emissions as well. Of course as a Conservative government upon taking office… Would be able to go into greater detail on some of the measures.”
Big polluters to invest in clean tech
As previously reported by CTV News, the plan proposes to force large-scale polluters to reinvest in clean energy technology, instead of paying penalties to the government. A major criticism of the Liberal plan is that it goes easy on big polluters. If Scheer was to form government he is pledging to set emissions standards for major emitters that will both lower greenhouse gases and drive businesses to create the highest standards of green technology.
As part of this, Scheer is proposing to require Canadian companies to invest in emissions-reducing technology “related to their industry” if they fall short of emissions standards. This investment will be a “set amount” for every tonne they emit over the limit, and will need to be certified as acceptable initiatives by Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The objective of this would be to keep money in the private sector in an effort to keep businesses competitive and foster innovation.
"Conservatives fundamentally believe that you cannot tax your way to a cleaner environment," Scheer said. "Instead, the answer lies in technology."
Instead of paying penalties to the government, Scheer’s plan proposes that large-scale polluters—those who emit more than 40 kilotonnes a year— be forced to invest in the development of clean technology, including investing in Canadian companies that do eligible research into clean tech, supporting university or college programs that aid in the development in green technologies, or investing in Canadian clean-tech organizations.
Large-scale polluters would also be able to pilot or adopt emissions-reducing technology as part of the plan.
A lot of the proposals centre on the idea of investing in green technology. Scheer says he wants to encourage the development of environmentally friendly alternatives to energy.
Two other ways he is proposing to do this is by establishing:
- A Green Patent Credit that would incentivize research, development, and commercialization of green technology with the aim of making Canada a “destination” for green innovation. This credit would reduce the tax rate to 5 per cent on income generated from green technology that is developed and patented in Canada. It’s estimated to cost $20 million a year starting out; and
- A Venture Capital Action Plan that would put $250 million into the hands of the private sector, requiring venture capitalists to invest $4 for every $1 the government has put into the fund, towards developing new green technology companies.
A focus on global emission reductions
The plan couches Canada’s role in the global climate change fight within the context of the reality of larger global emitters like China, saying that Canada will not make an impact by only focusing on reducing emissions domestically.
Scheer’s plan includes a pledge to help Canadian innovators reach global markets, marketing Canadian energy resources, and a focus on making Canadian oil and gas the “cleanest in the world” and billing them as such to international markets, citing LNG and aluminum as two examples of products where Canada can replace dirtier alternatives used in other countries.
"Greenhouse-gas emissions do not recognize borders," Scheer said in his speech. "Nor are the impacts of climate change proportional to any one country's emissions. Whether emissions are reduced in Canada or in China, the scientific impact on global climate change is the exact same."
As an example of this, the plan states that if China fitted the top 100 of its coal plants with carbon capture and storage they could eliminate nearly half of the emissions from the Canadian economy, in a year.
Two other ways he is proposing to focus on global reductions:
- Exporting Canadian technology that has been proven to reduce emissions for use in other countries, such as no-till or low-till farming techniques; and
- Launching the “Canadian clean” brand, in which the Conservatives would stamp Canadian products as such, marketing them as “the cleanest in the world” to global customers.
Final in a series of policy announcements
This announcement is the last of a series of keynote speeches in which he has broadly discussed his policy ideas for Canada in the lead up to the fall election. Other topics he has spoken about are: foreign policy and defence, the economy, immigration, and confederation and intergovernmental relations.
It comes with just days left in this Parliament, and as the environment and climate change are poised to be top election issues, given that Canadians are seeing an increase in natural disasters and are being asked by the current government to pay for their share of pollution.
Scheer’s climate plan also comes on the heels of two major environmental headlines this week. On Monday the House of Commons—without the support of the Conservative caucus—passed a motion from Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, declaring a national climate emergency, and supporting Canada’s commitment to meet the Paris Agreement emissions targets.
Then on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his cabinet has yet again approved the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. On Tuesday Trudeau doubled down on the natural resource project being the right move for both the economy, and the environment.
In an effort to sell it as such, Trudeau announced that every dollar of revenue from the project will be reinvested in green technology or clean energy development, though twinning the pipeline’s capacity will increase the amount of greenhouse gases Canada emits each year. The Conservatives support the development of the Trans Mountain project.
“There is a reason he waited until the last hours of this Parliament. He wanted nobody around to debate ideas that will cost Canadians more while doing less to protect our environment and the future for our kids,” said McKenna in a statement reacting to Scheer’s proposals.
‘A plan only an oil lobbyist could love’
Environmentalists were quick to pounce on Scheer’s plan.
"This is a plan only an oil lobbyist could love. It checks all the key boxes on the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ wish list and if it ever became federal policy it would deepen the climate crisis,” said Greenpeace Canada Climate and Energy campaigner Keith Stewart in a statement.
Clean Energy Canada’s Dan Woynillowicz told CTV News that if the focus of a federal environment plan is on research and development than emissions will rise rather than decline.
“We need more than hope, we need bold climate action plan… not Stephen Harper’s previous plan,” said NDP MP Tracey Ramsey on CTV’s Power Play.
Similarly, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said that the plan is an improvement from no plan at all from the official Opposition party, and that there are some good ideas within it, but “it doesn’t avert disaster.”