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Environment minister says he could accelerate climate action if he didn't have to 'fight' Conservatives

Federal officials are characterizing this year's wildfire season across the country as "unprecedented," and a "new normal" driven by, among other things, climate change.

"People would say, well, we've always had forest fires; what's new?" Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told Power Play host Vassy Kapelos. "Well this year the area that's being burned is ten times normal average… we know that because of increased global temperatures and climate change, we will have more episodes like forest fires."

Kapelos asked Guillbeault whether that means the government would move more aggressively on net zero targets. The current target is 2050, but the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in March prompted the UN’s Secretary General to argue developed countries should push the date to 2040.

Guilbeault argued the federal government could be more aggressive without political pushback.

"What would greatly help our capacity to accelerate our fight against climate change in Canada is if I didn't have to fight with certain jurisdictions all the time on doing the bare minimum to fight climate change, if I wouldn’t have to fight the Conservative Party of Canada," he said.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre this week threatened to block the federal government's budget implementation bill in part if Liberals did not agree to stop increases to the carbon tax. Tories argue, backed by a report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, that the carbon tax rebate does not cover the cost to Canadians and the tax is therefore punitive. The government disputes the PBO's findings because they don't account for the cost of the effects of climate change.

When pressed on a timeline to any changes to the net zero target, Guilbeault could not provide one but did not rule out the possibility of moving it to 2040.

"I can't tell you now whether or not we can do it; but, what I can tell you is we will look at the possibility of doing that for sure."



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