Trudeau’s challenge is to lead on pricing carbon and building pipelines
Canada’s first commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was made by Brian Mulroney in 1988, at an international conference on the “changing atmosphere” in Toronto. It was pledged then that Canada would seek a 20-per-cent reduction in its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2005.
Two years later, that target was adjusted to merely stabilizing GHGs at 1990 levels by 2005. Still, that would have kept emissions to 613 megatonnes per year.
Instead, in 2014, the last full year for which data is available, Canada emitted a total of 732 megatonnes of greenhouse gases, a 20-per-cent increase since 2005.
If Mulroney had put Canada on a path to achieving that target of 1990, if Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin or Stephen Harper had set Canada on its way to achieving any of the targets they subsequently set, Justin Trudeau would now be heading into a merely interesting fall, the biggest issue of which would be the negotiation of new health accords with the provinces or the consideration of a new electoral system.
In November, he is due to meet the premiers to finalize a national plan on climate change, or at least the makings thereof. By Dec. 19, his cabinet must decide whether to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline proposal that would transfer oil from Alberta to the port of Vancouver.
And between those two, Trudeau gets to wrestle with questions of federalism, the national economy and the future of humanity on a warming planet.
The climate change plan seems likely to include some kind of mechanism for pricing carbon. And while putting a price on carbon has become the focal point of debate about what to do about climate change, pipelines have, fairly or not, become a focus of attention for those who worry about the impact of GHGs on the planet.
The prime minister has, either explicitly or implicitly, committed to doing both. (Source: CBC)