Op-Ed

Canada is a signatory member of the Paris climate agreement, but has yet to ratify it. Photo: Angjelos Fero.

When it comes to environmental action, our government falls short

Sept. 5 marked the end of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, where leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies met to discuss economic, environmental, and development issues that affect the global economy.

This year’s meeting has been particularly monumental in the field of environmental policy. The United States and China, the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which affirms their commitment  to ensuring that global temperatures do not rise more than two degrees celsius past pre-industrial levels.

This ratification also shows just how far behind Canada is when it comes to fighting climate change. Canada has been a signatory member of this agreement since April. However, despite being the eighth-largest emitter of greenhouse gas, Canada has not yet ratified this agreement, and has thus far failed to put in place decisive policies mitigating its emissions.

While Prime Minister Trudeau has spoken about ratifying the convention by the end of this year, Canada remains without any national greenhouse gas reduction plan.

Canada is also currently nowhere near achieving its 2009 Copenhagen Accord commitment to reducing emissions 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. Our nation is even further away from its commitment to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, a goal already achieved by many countries in the European Union.

In fact, according to data obtained by the Globe and Mail, without a plan of intervention, Canada’s carbon emissions are set to rise to eight per cent over the 2030 targets.

The G20 summit itself has been criticized for not doing more to enforce compliance with environmental legislation—not setting a clear deadline for when the Paris Agreement must be signed, and, even more alarmingly, not setting any deadline for when fossil fuel subsidies must be phased out.

The agreement resorts to ambiguous language affirming “medium-term” commitments to eradicating this practice of subsidies.

Yet this ambiguity is standard practice in G20 summits, as enforcing deadlines is not its purpose or even within its scope of power. The G20’s only real goal is to provide outlines—it’s up to the individual countries to hold themselves accountable.

And in this light, Canada is not doing its part. In addition to not ratifying the Paris Agreement, Canada has failed to take action in eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, a practice that costs Canadians $2.7 billion each year.

Last March, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr asserted that now is “not the moment” to start phasing out these government subsidies, rather locking itself into a liquefied natural gas subsidy until 2025.

These subsidies, which are measures that keep fossil fuel prices for consumers below market levels, undermine the world’s efforts to combat climate change as they incentivize the consumption, extraction, transportation, and processing of natural gas.

It’s time that Prime Minister Trudeau puts his money where his mouth is and ratifies the Paris Agreement, puts in place a national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and begins phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

Canada’s delay in taking such action is shameful and serves only to accentuate our country’s lack of commitment to dealing with climate change, the most pressing and important issue in the 21st century.