The longest federal election campaign in recent history is coming to an end. We are now less than 2 weeks away from ushering in a new government, and advance polls begin this week. Unfortunately, the topic of the environment hasn’t received sufficient attention, so we haven’t heard a lot about strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or develop more renewable energy–including innovative and impactful solutions such as biogas. The Globe Debates didn’t shed any light on the political future of the renewables industry: “As the fastest-growing sector in Canada, it can’t be ignored, yet we didn’t hear details about a renewable path,” said representatives from the David Suzuki Foundation. One reason for this may be that the production of electricity is a provincial issue, not a federal one–but that being said–the environment (read: climate change and climate change solutions) is a growing concern among Canadians, and the topic seems to have been underestimated–at least initially–by party leaders and their teams.
When the election campaign first took off in August, Huffington Post Canada readers expressed that “the environment was at the top of their list” of campaign issues, and in early September, a survey of CBC’s Vote Compass users confirmed that the topic of the environment ranked second only to the economy, above health, accountability and even taxes! Despite the public’s interest in hearing about the environment, the economy has dominated discussions, and, as pointed out by the CBC, “the environment and climate change were reduced to fine print”. An article in Macleans echoed the sentiment, stating that “as party leaders make speech after speech promising millions for this and millions for that, even the global threat of climate change warrants barely a mention…The silence is deafening from all three major parties.” Indeed, continuing into October, The National Post wrote “If voters were hoping this election campaign would provide a stirring debate on the issue of climate change, with clear options from all the parties on how to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in the most cost-effective way, they will no doubt be disappointed. The parties have instead indulged in the usual finger-pointing and vows to do better, while failing to produce convincing plans to meet our international commitments.”
With the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris around the corner in November, it’s a surprise there hasn’t been a more concerted effort on behalf of the parties to communicate a strong message on what they think Canada’s position on climate change should be–especially since their current plans on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are essentially the same. As pointed out by The National Post, “There is in fact little difference between the policies on offer from the three main parties: all would largely leave the task of emissions reduction to the provinces.” That being said, The NDP is the only party to pitch an actual action plan on climate change ahead of the election. Will we hear more about a path for renewable energy alternatives as the election comes to a close? Your guess is as good as mine. For now, here’s what the parties have promised regarding the environment:
The Conservatives would:
• Lower GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
• Move to a low-carbon economy by 2050 and eliminate use of fossil fuels by the end of the century.
• Buy international credits to get to its greenhouse gas emissions goal.
• Reduce methane leaks from the oil and gas sector, capping emissions from the fertilizer and chemical producers and from natural-gas fired electricity.
• Approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline.
• Support both the proposed TransCanada Energy East project, and TransCanada Keystone XL oilsands pipeline.
• Protect Canada’s environment by promoting hunting, angling, and snowmobiling tourism.
• Pay $200 million over two years for Environmental projects such as cleaning up federal contaminated sites and protecting species at risk.
The Liberals would:
• Partner with provinces and territories to establish national emissions-reduction targets and provide funding to create the provincial strategies, including carbon-pricing systems.
• Invest $200 million a year to develop clean technologies in forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and farming.
• Put another $100 million into organizations that promote clean technology firms.
• Continue to oppose the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline; but support Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines.
• Phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
• Put a moratorium on tanker traffic along the northern coast of British Columbia.
• Reinstate $40 million cut from the ocean science and monitoring program at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
• Increase protected marine and coastal areas to five per cent from 1.3 per cent by 2017, and to 10 per cent by 2020.
• Along with the U.S. and Mexico, develop a North American clean energy and environmental agreement.
The NDP would:
• Lower GHG emissions to 34 per cent below 1990 levels by 2025-2030.
• Create a cap-and-trade system with a market price on carbon emissions; revenue from cap-and-trade would be invested in a greener energy sector in regions where dollars are generated.
• Redirect $1 billion a year from fossil fuel subsidies to investment in the clean energy sector.
• Introduce the Climate Change Accountability Act to ensure that Canada meets its long-term target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 per cent below that of 1990 levels by the year 2050.
• Invest in Sustainable Development Technology Canada – including wind, hydro, solar and geothermal technologies.
• Work with provinces to create a new fund to help Canadians retrofit their homes and offices to save energy and money.
• Would oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and the Northern Gateway pipeline (it initially supported concept of west-east pipeline, but says Energy East can’t be approved without more stringent environmental review process).
• Is promising that Canada will become “the global leader in the fight against climate change”.
The Greens would:
• Reduce emissions 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025 and 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, becoming carbon-neutral by 2100.
• Eliminate all fossil-fuel subsidies to industry.
• Bring in a $30/tonne price on carbon.
• Oppose “any and all” pipeline plans.
• Introduce carbon pricing through a fee-and-dividend system to reduce fossil fuel use and encourage private sector investment in green tech, clean energy and green jobs.
• Refine capacity to process the oil Canada already produces.
• Accelerate construction of green infrastructure, ensuring a majority of Canada’s energy needs come from renewable sources by 2025.
• Work with the provinces to ensure no new coal-fired electrical generation plants are built in Canada.
• Legislate a ban on super tankers on British Columbia’s coast and impose a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
• Produce stronger environmental assessment laws to help defend coastal communities from risky pipeline and tanker schemes.
• Repeal the Conservative omnibus security legislation.
The Bloc Quebecois would:
• Reduce dependency on oil.
• Make banks and oil companies pay more tax.
• Invest $40 billion in green technologies.
• Tighten security measures surrounding the rail transport of hazardous materials.
• Promote transportation electrification.
• Increase funding for greener residential, commercial and industrial buildings and introducing tax incentives for installing or converting clean heating systems via geothermal energy and hydroelectricity.