Liberals Have Failed To Deal Meaningfully With Climate Change For 20 Years And Actually Increased Emissions

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Liberals Have Failed To Deal Meaningfully With Climate Change For 20 Years And Actually Increased Emissions

Since the Liberals signed the Kyoto Accord in 1997, although they have continued to put forward a climate change agenda, they have failed over more than 20 years utterly to meet their own climate change targets or even come close. This was true under the Chretien and Martin Liberals and remains true today with the Trudeau Liberal government and their greenhouse emission reduction targets and the Paris Agreement. 

Canada was active in the negotiations that led to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, and the Liberal government that signed the accord in 1997 also ratified it in parliament in 2002.[2] Canada's Kyoto target was a 6% total reduction by 2012 compared to 1990 levels of 461 Megatonnes (Mt) (Government of Canada (GC) 1994). However, in spite of some efforts, federal indecision led to increases in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) since then.[citation needed] Between the base year (1990) and 2008 Canada's GHG increased by around 24.1%.

For those who argue that this the Conservatives fault, the data below shows that the Liberals clearly failed to have their actions match their words on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 1997 through the terms of the Chretien and Martin governments.

Canada is "one of the highest per-capita emitters in the OECD and has higher energy intensity, adjusted for purchasing power parity, than any IEA country, largely the result of its size, climate (i.e. energy demands), and resource-based economy. Conversely, the Canadian power sector is one of OECD's lowest emitting generation portfolios, producing over three-quarters of its electricity from renewable energy sources and nuclear energy combined." Canada GHG emissions increased from 1997 through 2001, dipped in 2002, increased again, then decreased in 2005. During the periods the Liberals were in power from 1997 to 2005 (they were defeated in January 2006 so it is not fair to look at the brief time they were in office that year) emissions increased on an almost continuous basis. Emissions actually declined somewhat for a couple of years under the Conservatives, but that was primarily due to the recession reducing economic activity rather than any climate action on their part. 

  • 1990 (461 Mt) (GC 1994)
  • 1997 (671 Mt megatonne)
  • 1998 (677 Mt)
  • 2000 (716 Mt)
  • 2001 (709 Mt)
  • 2002 (715 Mt)
  • 2003 (738 Mt)
  • 2004 (742 Mt)
  • 2005 (747 Mt) 33% higher than the Kyoto target
  • 2006 (719 Mt)
  • 2007 (748 Mt)
  • 2008 (732 Mt)
  • 2009 (690 Mt)




Even when Trudeau reached the Paris Agreement in December 2015, it was clear they could not meet the targets it had signed onto. Even when all he was doing was adopting the Harper Conservative goverment's targets, as the following article illustrates. However, it all sounded good and made it look like the Trudeau Liberals were dealing meaningfully with climate change. 

Now that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has adopted former prime minister Stephen Harper’s targets for reducing greenhouse (GHG) gas emissions linked to climate change, here’s why he’s not going to achieve them.

It’s called math. Earlier this year, the federal government estimated Canada’s total industrial GHG emissions will be 768 megatonnes annually in 2020 (a megatonne, or Mt, is a million tonnes) and 815 Mt annually in 2030. In order to achieve the Trudeau/Harper target of 17% below Canada’s 2005 emissions by 2020 and 30% by 2030, our emissions would have to drop to 622 Mt annually by 2020 and to 524 Mt by 2030.

Therefore, to meet Trudeau’s 2020 target, his Liberal government has less than five years to reduce Canada’s forecast emissions by 146 Mt (768 Mt-622 Mt) annually. It (or any future federal government) has less than 15 years to reduce Canada’s forecast emissions by 291 Mt annually by 2030, (815 Mt-524 Mt).

For Trudeau to reduce Canada’s emissions by 146 Mt in less than five years would require the equivalent of shutting down Canada’s entire electricity sector, which emits 78.2 Mt of GHG annually, along with most of the agriculture sector, which emits 72.9 Mt of GHG annually. For Trudeau to reduce Canada’s emissions by 291 Mt by 2030 would require the equivalent of shutting down the entire oil and gas sector, which emits 192.3 Mt of GHG annually, along with more than half of the transportation sector, which emits 171.3 Mt of GHG emissions annually.

If you believe any of this is going to happen, I have some oceanfront property in Alberta to sell you.



Once again the Liberals kept repeating that they were "absolutely committed" to their 2020 targets. When the auditor general told them they cannot meet their 2020 targets, their answer is they are "absolutely committed" to their 2030 targets. Considering the fact that emissions are continuing to rise even before their Trans Mountain pipeline that they did not have to buy comes online to further increase emissions, these reassurances are laughable. 

Despite years of lofty promises from government officials, a recent Auditors General report shows that Canada has made little progress towards its climate action goals. This follows a United Nations (UN) report that says Canada is in danger of missing its 2030 Paris Agreement targets by a wide margin. ...

Canada’s auditor generals came together in 2016 to begin a collaborative investigation into our country’s progress on climate change action, looking back over recent decades and projecting ahead towards international climate goals. 

Their report, Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada—A Collaborative Report from Auditors General, was released in March 2018 and the results are concerning. 

The report details a lack of cohesion and implementation of climate action both within the provinces and territories and at the federal level, which has led to a series of missed climate action targets. Several provinces and territories still don’t have any set goals for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020, or even 2030. 

States the report: “Canada has missed two separate emission reduction targets (the 1992 Rio target and the 2005 Kyoto target) and is likely to miss the 2020 Copenhagen target as well. In fact, emissions in 2020 are expected to be nearly 20 per cent above the target.”


The annual UN Emissions Gap Report monitors the progress countries are making in reducing their carbon and equivalent emissions in relation to their respective 2030 targets, as agreed upon in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement on climate change, signed onto by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016, is to reduce annual emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. 

Released last November, the report states that Canada is well above its pledged target and that gap is expected to widen even further by 2030. ...

In response to the auditors general report, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told the CBC the federal government is “absolutely committed” to its 2030 target.


While the NDP needs to answer some serious questions about their climate change plan, the track record of failure on climate change for the Liberals for more than twenty years was once again brought home by the Environment Commissioner Gelfand's report just last month. As Gelfand notes, the failure to meet targets has been common to both Liberal and Conservative governments.

Why would anyone believe anything the Liberals or Conservatives say on global warming given their track record? 

Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand says Canada is not doing enough to combat climate change.

Gelfand delivered her final audits Tuesday before her five-year term expires, looking at fossil-fuel subsidies, invasive aquatic species and mining pollution.

But her final conclusions as the country's environmental watchdog say it is Canada's slow action to deal with the warming planet that is most "disturbing" to her.

"For decades, successive federal governments have failed to reach their targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, and the government is not ready to adapt to a changing climate," she said in a statement Tuesday morning. "This must change."

Gelfand's rebuke came a day after Environment Canada scientists sounded an alarm that Canada is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world, causing irreversible changes to our climate. ...

Gelfand said neither Liberal nor Conservative governments have hit their own targets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Canada is not on track to hit its 2030 target, despite policies like the national price on carbon that took effect this week. ...

Gelfand's audit says the Liberals are not keeping a promise to get rid of "inefficient" fossil-fuel subsidies, which are undermining efforts to combat climate change, encouraging wasteful consumption of fossil fuels and discouraging investments in cleaner energy sources.

Canada has pledged to eliminate inefficient subsidies by 2025 as part of both the G20 and G7 economic groups of nations, and the Liberals also campaigned on a promise to get rid of them. Gelfand concludes that both Finance Canada and Environment Canada have defined "inefficient" so broadly they can't decide what subsidies fall into that category.

Finance Canada's work on the subsidies focused exclusively on fiscal and economic considerations without giving any attention to the social and environmental issues at play. For its part, Environment and Climate Change Canada only looked at 23 out of more than 200 federal organizations when it compiled an inventory of potential subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry, Gelfand found. ...

Philip Gass, a senior energy researcher for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, said Tuesday using the World Trade Organization definition of subsidies, his organization found several that could or should be phased out. The IISD list shows more than $1.2 billion in fossil-fuel subsidies from the federal government.




In 2017, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions went up once again under the Trudeau Liberals. A november 2018 report notes that Canada is the world's largest per capita greenhouse gas emitter in the G20. What a Liberal greenhouse gas emissions reductions plan!

The Trudeau Liberals saw greenhouse emissions go in 2017 under their watch. "The latest national inventory report on emissions, filed this week with the United Nations climate change secretariat, showed 716 million tonnes of greenhouse gases were produced in Canada in 2017, an increase of eight million tonnes from 2016.

Canadians produce more greenhouse gas emissions per person than any other G20 economy, according to a new analysis.

Canada is the 38th country in the world by population, boasts the 11th largest economy and is the seventh biggest emitter.

The Climate Transparency analysis said, on average, each Canadian produces 22 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year — which is the highest among all G20 members and nearly three times the G20 average of eight tonnes per person.

“It’s because of the oilsands and because of transportation,” said Abreu. “Oil and gas and transportation are the two largest and fastest growing sources of emissions in the country.”


The Liberals have also increased the greenhouse emission exemptions for Canada's largest emitters, thereby shifting more of the financial costs of dealing with reducing emissions onto middle and working class Canadians. 

Most firms that produce 50 megatons of carbon dioxide or similar levels of pollution a year won’t face any penalties until their emissions reach 80 per cent of the average within their specific industry. The previous limit was 70 per cent, according to a framework published July 27 by Canada’s environment ministry.

The limit will rise to 90 per cent in four industries facing “high” competitive risks — producers of cement, iron and steel, lime and nitrogen fertilizers. Details of the revised policy were reported earlier Wednesday by the Globe and Mail newspaper.


The Trudeau Liberal government in giving the exemptions to the largest greenhouse gas emitters in Canada have once again subsidized the fossil fuel industry, something that has continued on an ongoing basis under both Liberal and Conservative governments. As the following article shows, the Liberals' carbon tax will only go a very small way toward reducing emissions. 

Furthermore, tar sands production under current plans is set to almost double by 2038, as noted below!

So why is a carbon tax one of the cornerstones of the Trudeau government’s plan? Some believe it’s because Liberals have no desire to force the powerful oil and gas sector to clean up its act. In fact, by supporting the construction of pipelines like Trans Mountain and Keystone, tar sands production in Alberta is set to almost double by 2038. 

At the moment, Canada is producing 722 megatons of carbon dioxide  per year – of which 26 per cent (190 megatons) comes from Canada’s oil and gas sector. In order to reach the Paris climate target of 517 megatons by 2030, Canada must cut more than 200 megatons over the next 12 years. The proposed carbon tax will cut only 60 megatons

Yet the Liberal government is imposing weak emission restrictions on the oil and gas industry, while projecting the sector will grow. Instead, the plan is almost entirely on the backs of consumers, says Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Ottawa-based Climate Action Network. She says “It’s absolutely unfair the rest of the economy, and therefore Canadians, are expected to compensate for the lack of action happening in the oil sands.”

But the coddling of the oil and gas sector is not only undermining Canada’s efforts to meets its Paris obligations. It’s also bad economics given the growth in renewables. The energy sector accounts for less than seven per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP), of which the tar sands accounts for no more than two to three per cent. As Green Party leader Elizabeth May notes, “roughly the same size as tourism.” 

Today, 190,000 people are employed by the oil and gas sector. And something like 60,000 to 65,000 of those work directly in upstream oil and gas extraction, according to Jordan Brennan, an economist with Unifor, a trade union that represents some 12,000 workers in the oil industry.  By comparison, the financial services sector, which also accounts for seven per cent of GDP, employs some 800,000 people. 

Unifor has lobbied against the building of new pipelines on the grounds they ship raw, unprocessed bitumen to be refined outside of Canada – in Asia or the U.S. – costing jobs here. Far more jobs are created in refining than in extraction, yet 23 refineries have been shuttered in Canada since the early 1980s.  “We are shipping bitumen down pipelines but shipping thousands of jobs with it,” says Steven Shrybman, an Ottawa lawyer who’s represented Unifor before the National Energy Board. 

And then there’s the myth that the tar sands have developed due to free market forces. In reality, they’re a creation of massive government intervention.  Even though Alberta is the third-largest deposit of oil in the world, separating oil from tar is prohibitively expensive, and Alberta is landlocked. 

When Peter Lougheed became premier in 1971, there was only one tar sands operation producing a mere 30,000 barrels a day.  But as a 2017 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives notes, Lougheed’s Alberta government, “used all the power and money it had at its disposal in the 1970s to kick-start tar sands development” – which meant subsidies, tax breaks and gutting environmental regulations to let companies off the hook when it came to paying for ecological damage. Today the industry continues to receive $3.3 billion annually in taxpayer-funded subsidies. 

Another myth is that the energy sector fills government coffers.  In fact, it generates modest tax revenue, comparatively speaking. Back in the 1990s, royalties paid by the oil companies to Alberta were chopped to one per cent and remain low compared to other countries.


And this is why the carbon tax is doomed to failure


The title of the following article says it all when it comes to determing how effective the Trudeau Liberal's climate change policies have been : "Canada on pace to meet climate change targets ... two centuries late"

The following graph illustrates how Conservative and Liberal governments have increased greenhouse gas emissions over 30 years, while others such as the UK have decreased emissions by 38% in the same period. 

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UK v Canada emissions past and projected