Opinion: To confront the climate crisis, voters have clear paths to choose from

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Canadians are faced with a highly consequential decision about their country’s path to clean-economy transition, even if they don’t know how the federal election campaign went.

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Despite this race settled in the middle of a summer in which the effects of climate change were inevitable and a United Nations climate conference In November, which is supposed to set the course for collectively working to avert the disaster, Canadian political parties’ respective plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rarely got the broadcast they deserved.

But look at party forums, and an unprecedented amount of serious climate policy is on the table in this campaign. Notably, the two parties with the most realistic chances of forming a government have increased their ambition since the last election, challenging voters to make choices about the scale and type of change to be made.


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Justin Trudeau’s liberals are following the broadest climate agenda ever made, with specific promises by a major federal party in almost every possible regard – from mechanisms to change consumer behavior, to infrastructure, to spending and industrial change. for regulation.

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Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives are not quite on that level of rigor, but have almost completely dismissed the issue of climate change under previous leaders to offer more detailed plans than the NDP and the Green Party.

On some aspects, the Liberals and Tories are now alike. Both propose sales quotas for electric vehicles; Strategies for Energy Retrofit for Buildings; Billions of dollars for nature-based solutions; Investing in adaptation, such as protection against wildfires and floods.

On other fronts, however, they propose very different paths – those with major implications for our economy, the lives of Canadians, and the health of the planet.

The most obvious is the goal of cutting national emissions by 2030. Earlier this year, the Liberals committed Canada to a reduction of 40 percent from 2005 levels. The Tories are stuck with the previous target of 30 percent.

Goals are not the most solid foundation on which to pass judgment, the previous ones are difficult to accomplish. But they have become more meaningful since Parliament passed accountability laws, requiring more transparency on progress. And they indicate the speed at which parties will implement policies to bring about change.

For voters who don’t think either major party is ambitious enough, the NDP is promising a 50 percent reduction and the Greens want 60 percent, indicating they can pressure a minority parliament.

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The second area, with two roads to choose from, that is critical as Canada tries to meet emissions targets, is carbon pricing.

Since conservatives no longer fully oppose that mechanism, there are some misconceptions of consensus. But since the last election, liberals have dramatically scaled up their plans, so the price of carbon has risen from its current $40 a tonne to $170 a tonne by 2030.

Instead, the Tories will limit the fuel duty paid by households and most businesses to $50 a tonne. They have expressed openness to sustain the planned increase in carbon price for large industrial emitters, for which Different system, but with caveats about running in line with Canada business partner.

There is confusion about the Tories’ plans for carbon tax revenue, currently returned to taxpayers through exemptions, which his party says it will put into “green savings accounts” for individuals. but it’s conservative clear would keep the price of carbon at a level where it would have little effect on consumer costs than the liberals plan.

This would mean that achieving the target of 30 per cent would require more effort along with other policies. The Conservatives’ platform gives some indication of what this might include, including a more stringent federal low-carbon fuel standard, which requires a reduction in the carbon intensity of fuels sold domestically. But the Tories will need to layer more to marginalize the carbon price.

So climate-conscious voters need to ask themselves whether they prefer to lean more on additional regulations and spending, and rely on the Tories to deliver on that, or carry more weight with carbon pricing. Huh.

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A third question those voters need to consider, and perhaps the hardest one, is where they want Ottawa to try to steer the fossil fuel industry – the biggest reason Canada is one of the world’s top per capita emitters.

The Conservatives’ position is essentially that Canada should aim to supply global demand for as long as it exists, while working to reduce domestic oil and gas use. This would include the repeal of liberal sanctions such as the oil-tanker embargo off the coast of British Columbia, while strongly promoting the export of natural gas as a transitional fuel to replace coal.

Tories also pledges to help reduce the fossil fuel industry’s emissions, including $5 billion for carbon capture, but partly as a way to remain competitive internationally.

The liberals promise to help oil and gas companies reduce their emissions, including through a carbon capture tax credit. But the party’s stance has changed a bit since the last election. (gradual, carefully managed) transition from this industry.

one of The liberals’ new promises are to swiftly end fossil fuel subsidies, such as through Export Development Canada, among other clean technology. The second is a $2 billion diversification fund for oil-dependent provinces. A resolution to impose a shrinking cap on regional emissions will likely limit growth in oil-sands production.

Further the Left parties proposed a very rapid change. For example, the NDP appears to be calling for an end to all subsidies, including clean technology. The Green Party wants Ottawa to do almost everything in its power, including to stop leasing federal lands to reduce fossil fuel production.

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All of these points of view can reasonably be argued with in good faith, making lane picking not easy.

It is true that many Canadians depend on oil and gas for their livelihoods, federal attempts to move away from it could jeopardize national unity, and that at least some of our oil sands will be supplied by global competitors. It is also true that Canada will not meet its international climate obligations without being counted as the largest contributor to its emissions, and in the long run, Ottawa will do no favors to the regions that depend on on fossil fuels if it ignores the coming global shift away from its product.

But for voters trying to navigate that course, there are less-than-serious options available – such as overall climate ambition, carbon pricing and more nuanced policy frames.

As they weigh those options, there’s another question voters must ask themselves: Who can be trusted to follow through with all of this?

Any of the many strategies proposed by each party for vehicles, buildings, industrial decarbonization, clean technology and more could topple the next government. All they have to do is to accomplish the goals. So it is worth considering who has the conviction and ability to overcome it.

There is no sure way to know the correct call. But there has never been a more important time to make choices on who leads Canada’s climate change, and there has never been more to choose from.

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