Here's All You Need to Know About Canada's 'Climate Election'
By Chloe Farand for Climate Home News
Canadians are voting on Monday in an election observers say will define the country's climate future.
Climate policy has played a bigger role than ever before in the lead-up to a federal election. Against a backdrop of mass demonstrations for climate action, all major parties have been keen to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris agreement.
Hit by a racism scandal in which he was exposed for wearing blackface on at least three occasions, prime minister Justin Trudeau has pivoted to environmental issues.
The question in front of voters is how and how fast should their government decarbonize the country's economy?
Canada has committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 but it is not on track to meet its goal.
At the heart of the debate is Canada's carbon tax. Introduced in 2016 by Trudeau's Liberal government.
During his campaign for re-election, Trudeau has been pressured by the main opposition Conservatives to scrap the tax and accused on the left of failing to have put the country on course to meet its 2030 target. Trudeau has bet his survival on navigating between them.
When is the election?
Monday, 21 October
Conservative Party: Andrew Scheer
Liberal Party: Justin Trudeau (current prime minister)
New Democratic Party: Jagmeet Singh
Green Party: Elizabeth May
Bloc Québécois: Yves-François Blanchet
People's Party of Canada: Maxime Bernier
What's their climate plan?
Trudeau has ramped up his climate ambition for the election, committing to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and establishing legally-binding five-year targets. To achieve the goal, Trudeau is committed to keeping a price on carbon and hopes to exceed the 2030 target but stopped short of increasing it.
Other measures include planting two billion trees over the next 10 years, interest-free loans to help owners retrofit their homes and improve energy efficiency, expanding incentives for zero-emissions vehicles and halving taxes for businesses developing clean technologies.
Trudeau has been accused of "dissonance" over his climate record for giving the green light to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a day after declaring a climate emergency in Canada.
Scheer has accused the carbon tax of hitting families and small businesses hardest while letting big polluters off the hook. Instead, the Conservative candidate said he would "fight climate change with technology, not taxes," financed with green bonds.
The Conservatives have promised to repeal the carbon tax and the clean fuel standard. The existing mechanism by which heavy emitters pay a carbon price for output emissions above their allowance would also be scrapped. Instead, industrial facilities emitting above the allowance will have to fund research and development in green technology.
Scheer also plans to export Canadian technology and liquefied natural gas (LNG) to countries such as China to help them transition away from coal. Analysis has found the Conservative plan would see emissions rising until 2030, reversing the current trend.
New Democratic Party
The left-wing NDP promised to align their policies with limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C by achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
An NDP government would establish a climate accountability office to audit progress towards the country's climate goals, ban all-single use plastics by 2022, end oil and gas subsidies, make all Canada's electricity carbon-free by 2030 and move towards electric and free public transport.
The Green Party's manifesto puts climate action at the heart of its vision for society. It promised to cut emissions by 60 percent by 2030 with interim five-year target, achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, ban all extraction of new hydrocarbon while phasing out existing operations and achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Both the NDP and the Greens would maintain a carbon pricing mechanism and oppose the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
The French-language separatist party has a climate plan aligned with Québec's provincial plan. It backs policies in line with the tougher 1.5°C goal of the Paris agreement, including an end to fossil fuel subsidies, a reform of fiscal policy in favor of green finance and a carbon tax.
People's Party of Canada
The newly-created far-right party denies the scientific consensus on climate change and pledged to boost Canada's oil and gas industries.
What do the polls say?
The Conservatives and the Liberals are neck-and-neck with less than a point between them, according to some estimates.
The NDP are trailing with around 17 percent and the Greens hover under the 10 percent mark.
With less than 33 percent of national support, neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals are likely to form a majority government. Instead, one of the two major parties could form a minority government, relying on cross-party support and agreements to pass legislation.
What does that mean for climate action in Canada?
The election is "a deciding factor in the next decade of Canada's climate action," Cat Abreu, executive director at Climate Action Network Canada told Climate Home News.
A majority Conservative government would see "the dismantling of key sections of Canada's climate plan," including the carbon pricing system, said Isabelle Turcotte, director of policy at the clean energy think thank Pembina Institute. But without a majority, a Conservative government would likely have to "soften" its stance to broker deals with other parties, Abreu said.
In the case of a minority Liberal government, propped up by progressive parties, "we might see the potential for some pretty big moves on climate," she added. Turcotte told CHN a minority Liberal government could hold the Trudeau administration accountable for its pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
"It's great that we have been able to talk about climate change in this election but there has been a poor quality of debate. We are not seeing the level of debate that will allow us to see pathways for what a[n energy] transition looks like," Turcotte added.
Ross Mckitrick, professor specialised in environmental economics at the University of Guelph, Ontario, told CHN the election exposed the "contradictions" of Canada's climate policy debate.
"Climate policy is popular enough that every party is on board with it but specific policy measures are very unpopular. It's still the case that people [in Canada] have an aversion to very expensive climate policies," he said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmog UK.
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By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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