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Blog: A Christmas list: 3 amendments to fix the shortcomings of the climate accountability bill

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Mr. Trudeau, with the holiday season nearly upon us, Équiterre has made a wish list to strengthen the newly proposed Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act (Bill C-12).

Those who do not follow federal politics closely may have missed the tabling of Bill C-12 in November. In a nutshell, Bill C-12 “requires that national targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada be set, with the objective of attaining net-zero emissions by 2050.” The bill represents an important step toward establishing a climate accountability framework for Canada, a country that has failed to achieve any of the international climate targets it has set in the past decades.

However, the problem with the bill in its current form is that it contains few guarantees that this trend will change. Amendments are therefore necessary to get us on the right track.

Our wish list

1. Climate action now

The science is clear: we need to ramp up climate action immediately. 2030 emissions reductions targets must be strengthened in order to keep climate warming below 1.5°C.

To map out the path toward net-zero emissions by 2050, the government has included five-year milestones (or “intermediate targets”) in the bill. The problem is that these milestones will not start until 2030 (the original expectation was 2025). We cannot afford to wait another 10 years. Accountability must begin now, not in 2030!

2. Essential binding measures

Bill C-12 contains no binding measures. The government is therefore setting reduction targets for each milestone year, but there is nothing that obliges it to meet them. To correct this flaw, the government could incorporate carbon budgets, modelled along the lines of financial budgets.

Good faith is no longer enough. Mandatory outcomes are necessary.

3. Give the watchdogs teeth

The bill provides for a new advisory body to advise the Environment Minister on achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, as well as on any other matter given to it by the Minister.

The role of this advisory body must be strengthened and consolidated. It must be composed of independent experts with the ability and resources to conduct detailed studies in order to advise the government on its targets and plans as well as to track and monitor its progress.

The legislation also calls on the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to report every five years on the government’s implementation of the measures.

Neither of these two entities has the mandate or ability to hold the government accountable for its actions. As things stand today, neither is explicitly mandated to advise the government on its milestone targets. These watchdogs should be involved every step of the way toward net-zero emissions - not just when it suits the government.

To recap

Our three proposed amendments would enable the government to strengthen the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act and lend credibility to its pledge to do its part in the fight against climate change. We sincerely hope that our holiday wishes come true. After all, a healthy planet is the nicest gift we can offer one another.