The NDP attacked Justin Trudeau and the Liberals’ climate change record on Tuesday, saying that despite big promises, the Grits have failed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada.
Trudeau and Singh traded pikes on Tuesday during the election campaign over plans to tackle climate change and reduce emissions.
“In 2016, Justin Trudeau ratified the Paris Agreement by pledging to reduce emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. He pledged ‘an ambitious plan to reduce emissions’,” said the NDP in a press release.
“Since then, Canada’s emissions have only grown – faster than those of any other G7 country. “
By signing the Paris Climate Agreement, the government initially pledged to reduce emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. The Liberal government has since adopted a more ambitious 40 to 45 target. % by 2030.
But have emissions increased since that deal was signed in 2016, which was also the first full year of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government?
With climate change being a major issue for many voters this election, CBC decided to verify this accusation.
What goes up can come down
Strictly speaking, the NDP’s statement is true when you look at the official data currently available.
In 2016, Canada’s GHG emissions were 707 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to government data. In 2019, the most recent year data is available, this number was 730. Emissions increased slightly from 2018 to 2019, from 728 to 730.
But there are a few important nuances to the question, experts say. Lack of data for 2020, for example, can help the NDP.
“It’s good that they didn’t include 2020, because with COVID, of course, there have been a lot of dramatic changes in activity and therefore also in emissions,” said Felix Pretis, assistant professor of economics at the University of Victoria and co-director of the Climate Econometrics Research Project.
Kathryn Harrison, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia who studies climate policy, agrees.
“It’s very likely that they fell from 2019 to 2020, due to the economic contraction during the pandemic – but we don’t have that data yet.”
It is important to note that GHG emissions have mostly stabilized since the turn of the millennium after increasing steadily throughout the 1990s.
One could conclude, based on the veracity of the NDP’s claim, that the Trudeau government’s climate change policies are not effective in reducing emissions. But Pretis and Harrison say that’s not necessarily the case.
Pretis cites the introduction of carbon pricing, which came into effect in 2019, as an example.
“We wouldn’t expect to see a change in programming in the same year,” he said. “When you put that kind of mechanism in place, a pricing mechanism, it takes a few years before we really see a change.”
“These past performances from 2016 to 2019 are not necessarily indicative of future performances.”
He adds that as the price of carbon rises – the party plans to raise it to $ 170 a tonne by 2030 – the policy will have even more impact.
Harrison says this is a political “delay” that the NDP might expect to see with many of its own climate change commitments.
She also points out that the Liberals never promised that the GHG emission reductions would be linear – that a decline would start in 2016 and continue until the Paris Agreement target was reached in 2030. In d ‘d’ In other words, the Liberals could still say their plan to cut emissions and fight climate change is ambitious and on track.
“When you’re on an upward trajectory, policies that work initially may only stabilize emissions,” Harrison said.
“It would be interesting to see how Mr Singh’s government offered immediate cuts.”
Pretis adds that although Canada saw a slight increase in absolute emissions from 2016 to 2019, per capita emissions have remained roughly stable.
Most of the growth, according to the two experts, is due to changes in transportation and oil and gas extraction.
The NDP may have good reason to distinguish Canada from the G7.
Many European countries have seen their emissions drop in recent years, an achievement that Canada cannot claim. The UK saw its GHG emissions fall by 2.8% in 2019 compared to the previous year.
“They introduced climate legislation much earlier,” Pretis said. “So we have the UK climate change law, which came into effect in the late 2000s, which really started to bite a few years later.”
The European Union, says Harrison, deserves special praise in this area. It recorded a 3.7% drop in GHG emissions from 2018 to 2019.
“The EU has really had ambitious climate policies,” she said.
The United States has seen a drop in emissions since 2005, but not because of a determined government plan – this is largely because coal has become less economical as an energy source.
Harrison notes that Canada’s population growth may contribute to its comparatively poor performance in reducing emissions. Canada’s population has grown faster than that of Germany over the past two decades, for example.
While both pundits say there are caveats against criticism from the NDP, they still say it’s important for Canada to cut emissions and not just keep them stable.
“It is important to be looking to the future,” said Pretis.
“We’re going to need high levels of carbon pricing to see a substantial change in emissions, and that’s ultimately where we need to go if we are to achieve net zero, which we should all be doing.”
Checking the facts: True.