New Government in Canada, New Direction on Climate Change

Canadian FlagA new day for climate policy is dawning in Canada.

Canada will be coming to the Paris negotiations with a new position on climate change thanks to a stunning electoral result in last night’s federal election. Out is the Conservative Party which held power for the past decade, in is the Liberal Party.

In the past decade, Canada has become a climate pariah. Its climate policy stagnated and even reversed itself when Canada became the only country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. At COP19, Canada’s federal government was awarded the “Lifetime Unachievement” Fossil award for its persistent blocking and stalling of negotiations, and its long-standing failure to make meaningful contributions to reduce its emissions.  Canada’s per capita emissions and total emissions now rank amongst the highest in the world.

The newly elected Liberal Party has a clear position on addressing climate change. “We’ll meet the provinces within 90 days of the UN Climate Change Conference this December to develop a carbon pricing policy.” This is a stark contrast to the Conservative Party position which portrayed carbon tax and cap-and-trade proposals as job-killers, economic suicide, and the wrong thing for Canada.

The Liberal Party wants the provinces to lead in the development of a carbon tax and the federal government to serve in a coordinating role. Canada has one province (British Columbia) with a carbon tax, two provinces (Quebec and Ontario) participating in the California cap-and-trade program, and the biggest emitter province (Alberta) is increasing its emissions intensity targets and doubling its carbon levy in 2017. With provinces promoting different plans, the new federal government has its work cut out to build a cohesive national strategy to address GHG emissions.

Canada is viewed as a beacon in the world of international relations but it has failed miserably at home and at the UNFCCC to address GHG emissions. How quickly the Canadian government will act remains to be seen but last night’s election charts a new direction to Paris and beyond.