Auditor slams Canada on lack of climate actions

2017-10-05 08:45
Flag of Canada.

Flag of Canada. (iStock)

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Ottawa - Canada's rhetoric on climate change must be translated into action, the environment commissioner said on Tuesday in a scathing report blaming years of inertia for leaving the nation vulnerable to climate damage.

The government must move "from a seemingly endless planning mode into an action mode", said Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Julie Gelfand in the report.

"That shift needs to happen, and it needs to happen now, because Canada is already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate," she said.

An independent parliamentary watchdog found in 2016 that the country's carbon emissions linked to global warming had stabilised at just over 700 million tonnes per year.

That was still more than 200 million tonnes short of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Paris accord commitment to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 30% compared with 2005 levels by 2030.

A Senate report in March said it would require a "herculean shift" in energy use to meet the target - equivalent to removing all cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships from the country - after which the country might still fall short.

'Much stronger leadership is needed'

Gelfand echoed those concerns in finding that the government's efforts to cut CO2 emissions missed its target, and that it is not preparing fast enough to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

She pointed to successive plans to cut CO2 emissions gathering dust, and warned Canada is ill-prepared for the catastrophic wildfires, floods or extreme weather that warming is expected to bring.

"If Canada is to adapt to climate change, much stronger leadership is needed," she said.

Gelfand noted since 1992, consecutive governments pledged to act but went on to miss two separate targets - and predicted Ottawa is likely to miss the next one in 2020.

But defiant Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said she is "extraordinarily proud of what our government has done to tackle climate change".

She highlighted the closure of coal-fired power plants, multi-billion dollar investments in public transit, and the pricing of CO2 emissions starting at Can$10 and rising to Can$50 per tonne in 2022 - while laying the blame for past lapses on the previous Tory administration.

"We know we need to do more," McKenna told reporters. "After a decade of inaction by the previous government we have not only a target but a plan to make it."

Read more on:    us  |  climate change

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