Here is a summary of what’s happened.
Good news #1: Ratification of the Paris Agreement
On October 5th 2016, the threshold required for the coming into force of the Paris climate agreement was reached. Of the original 191 signatories to the Paris Agreement, there are currently 86 countries representing more than 60% of global emissions that have ratified, and this number will keep growing.
The Paris climate agreement, not even one year old, officially comes into force on November 4th. This represents an unprecedented level of international cooperation and underscores the global sense of urgency attached to our fight against climate change.
What does it mean?
It means the world’s nations will start meeting regularly at the United Nations to discuss how to strengthen their individual climate pledges over time and work toward their agreed-upon goal of keeping global warming below 2°C. Governments will also have to regularly report and review their progress on emission reduction to the UN. Those reporting mechanisms will be discussed at the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement to take place in Marrakech in November.
That same day the House of Commons voted in favour of Canada ratifying the Paris Agreement (207 MPs in favour, 81 against). This means Canada has contributed to its coming into force and remains a champion of the climate agreement.
The ‘not so good’ news:
September 2016 marked the first time that carbon dioxide officially passed the symbolic 400 ppm mark, never to return below it in our lifetimes, according to data released by NASA scientists. This means, even if the world stopped emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, what has already been put in the atmosphere will linger for many decades to come.
What does ratification mean for Canada?
Canada submitted its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target as part of the Paris Agreement ratification process. Our current target (put forward by the previous Conservative government) is to reduce GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. This is a floor to surpass. In order to meet our commitment to the international community, and to Canadians, Canada must do better in terms of emissions reduction. Parties to the Paris Agreement can submit a revised emission target at any time, and increased level of ambition is actually a commitment of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. And Canada will have to do so.
In addition, we still do not have a plan in Canada on how we will meet our Paris target. As our report shows, our approach in Canada to reducing GHG emissions is all over the place.
This early ratification by Canada now puts the onus on federal, provincial and territorial governments to craft an ambitious climate plan to reduce emissions in Canada. The pancanadian framework on clean growth and climate change to be announced in December must deliver the goods to render governments accountable towards Canadians and the international community.
Stay tuned for a summary of Équiterre’s policy proposals for the pancanadian framework on climate change!
Good news #2: Canada will have a pancanadian carbon price
In a dramatic move that surprised everyone, Prime Minister Trudeau announced in the House of Commons on October 3rd that the federal government would implement a nationwide carbon price starting in 2018.
This federal floor price will start at $10 per ton of CO2 and rise to $50 per ton by 2022 and will be imposed upon provinces that do not have an equivalent carbon price by 2018.
What does it mean?
Individual provinces can forgo the federal carbon price and adopt their own carbon pricing mechanism — so long as they slash emissions by an equivalent amount. Provinces can implement an explicit price-based system (e.g. a carbon tax like British Columbia’s) or a cap-and-trade system (e.g. Ontario and Quebec) to avoid the federal carbon price. Revenues from carbon pricing will remain in the provinces and territories.
Yes, it’s complicated. The devil is in the details, and more details on implementation are needed.
To date, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan do not have a carbon price. Let’s hope this federal back stop will provide sufficient incentive to those provinces to impose their own carbon price before 2018!
The ‘not so good’ news :
Non-objection from British Columbia to the federal carbon pricing scheme came at a high cost. On September 27th, the federal and B.C. governments conditionally approved a major carbon export infrastructure project as part of the bargain : Malaysian-based Petronas’ liquefied natural gas terminal in British Columbia. It is expected this project will emit 5 megatonne of CO2 every year, or about the equivalent of one million new cars on Canadian roads each year.
Most importantly though, is that federal and provincial governments are sending mixed price signals to the markets.
On the one hand, putting a price on carbon aims to move private investment capital away from carbon intensive industries towards low carbon industries…While at the same time, federal and provincial governments continue to provide generous fiscal incentives through the tax system for the exploration and production of oil and natural gas in Canada. Makes sense?
It is estimated that the federal government alone provided about $1.6 billion in subsidies, in the form of tax credits, to the oil and gas sector in 2013.
See Équiterre’s recommendation to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies here.
And stay tuned for our analysis for what these subsidies mean for the real price on carbon in Canada…
Good news #3 : A new global deal to reduce emissions from aviation
In Montreal, on October 6, more than 190 countries agreed to offset much of the global growth in aviation emissions starting in 2020. In simple terms, airlines will be required to purchase carbon offset units for their growth in CO2 emissions above 2020 levels, effectively capping carbon emissions growth from international aviation at 2020. It’s the first time the International Civil Aviation Organization has started tackling the climate impact of flying — one of the fastest-growing sources of CO2. It is an important deal because these international emissions are not included in any individual country’s GHG emissions target under the Paris Agreement.
And now there is momentum for a deal to be reached to reduce emissions from international marine operations.
The ‘not so good’ news :
This deal only applies to international aviation emissions, the emissions associated with flights that take off from one country and land in another. We have yet to tackle emissions of flights within Canada.
Good news #4 : A new global deal to phase out HFCs
Finally, on October 15, 197 countries agreed to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), an incredibly potent greenhouse gas used in refrigerators and air conditioners. This important climate policy will prevent between 0.2°C and 0.44°C of warming by the end of the century. If ratified, this treaty will be legally binding and enforceable through trade sanctions.
The ‘not so good’ news :
Under this agreement, rich countries, including the US, Japan and Europe, will start phasing out synthetic HFCs in 2019, China in 2024, and India and less ambitious countries in 2028. Too little, too late?..
In addition, existing HFCs are often simply vented into the atmosphere when air conditioners and refrigeration units are disposed of. Following this international agreement, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna stated in the House of Commons that the federal government would announce domestic regulations to reduce the use of the chemicals in the coming years.
After ten years of federal inaction on climate, we all needed a good dose of good news. So for now, let’s breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate the entry into force of the Paris Agreement. And let’s hope that this momentum will carry on.