Liberals back away from setting tougher carbon targets
Published Sunday, September 18, 2016 7:00AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 18, 2016 4:11PM EDT
The Liberal government isn't going to update the Conservatives' carbon emission targets, despite calling them unambitious, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says.
In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period, McKenna said the previous government did nothing to reduce carbon emissions during its10 years in office, calling their targets "fake."
Heading into last year's Paris climate talks, McKenna repeatedly referred to the previous government's carbon emission targets as a floor and "not the ceiling" of what Canada should be doing.
Now, McKenna says she's going to stick with those Conservative targets.
"What I said is that we will at least meet the target, and that is what I am committed to," she told Solomon.
"The Harper target was a fake target because they did nothing. It's not a real target."
Many people, including Liberal politicians, criticized the targets set under former prime minister Stephen Harper, who withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol after it was clear Canada wouldn't be able to meet its Kyoto pledge.
The Conservatives pledged to reduce carbon emissions 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 30 per cent by 2030. The previous government blamed its Liberal predecessors for not doing enough to meet the Kyoto targets to which Jean Chrétien's government had committed in the 1990s.
"We're going to take real action for Canadians. We're going to grow our economy, we're going to reduce our emissions and we're going to meet our target," McKenna said.
Will impose a carbon price
The Liberals campaigned on a promise to set a national target to lower carbon emissions and have been working to set a national price on carbon. McKenna now says she will impose a price on any province that doesn't come up with its own cap and trade system or carbon tax.
Currently, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, where 80 per cent of the Canadian population lives, have either a carbon tax or a cap and trade system. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall opposes any action he says would further hurt the economy in western Canada, which has already been impacted by low oil prices.
"It's mandatory that everyone will have to have a price on carbon," McKenna said.
Pushed to clarify, McKenna said "That means that we would have a system that would be imposed, yes."
McKenna said she spent part of her summer meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts to discuss setting a national target to cut Canadian carbon emissions, and that they've committed to setting a carbon price this fall.
McKenna said they still need to figure out some kind of equivalency between cap and trade and the carbon tax.
"You can't just say here's a price, because they actually work differently. But what we're saying is that every province needs to have a similar approach. We have two systems, we're going to need to figure out equivalency on those systems, and if provinces don't do that, the federal government will provide a backstop."
Wall said, in an interview on CTV's Question Period, that's "not the collaborative approach the prime minister promised when he was elected."
A committee of provincial representatives has been meeting since the last federal-provincial climate gathering in Vancouver last March, the Saskatchewan premier said, and is to report to the prime mininster on its discussions. The Canadian Press reported Friday that it and three other working groups looking at climate policy options missed a Sept. 2 deadline but are to report soon.
"If the feds have already made up their mind then I don't know why we're all wasting our time having a committee," Wall said.
Wall advocated for carbon capture and sequestration technology, arguing it could help other countries reduce their emissions from coal-fired power plants, which would have a bigger impact on reducing emissions than cutting Canada's emissions. Countries like China and India are building 2,400 coal-fired power plants around the world, he pointed out.
"We've successfully deployed a carbon-capture and sequestration technology on a coal plant in south-east Saskatchewan that's now burning coal three times cleaner than natural gas," Wall said.
"That's not kicking the can down the road, it's not saying someone else should do their work. I'm saying Canada should lead, with real investment" as Saskatchewan has, he added.
McKenna was recently criticized for having spent more than $6,000 on a photographer to shadow her and staff at the Paris climate conference. She says she won’t be doing the same thing for the next climate conference, to be held in Morocco in November.
"No, we're not going to have a photographer," she said.