Climate Change Accountability Act vote

2010-04-12

in Canada, Law, Politics, The environment

This Wednesday, Bill C-311 (Climate Change Accountability Act) will be debated at Report Stage. This NDP-sponsored bill includes targets of a 25% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% below by 2050. It also obliges the government to produce an emissions target plan for 2015, 2020, 2025, 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045.

I don’t know that the bill’s prospects for passing are, but it seems likely to have little effect in any case. Parliament previously passed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, in the face of government opposition. The government refused to alter its climate change mitigation plans in response, and the Supreme Court Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the law was ‘not justiciable’ and therefore not for the courts to enforce.

The only importance this bill seems likely to have is a mild and symbolic one. If it passes, it will show continued dissatisfaction on the part of opposition parties about the government’s climate plan. If it fails, it risks showing the opposition parties divided on the issue, or unwilling to make it a priority.

[Update: 13 April 2010] This post originally made reference to the Supreme Court of Canada, whereas it should have made reference to the Federal Court.

[Update: 15 April 2010] The bill passed the Report Stage and will go to Third Reading, probably via committee. The motion to send it to Third Reading passed by 155 to 137.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Padraic April 13, 2010 at 8:07 am

The Supreme Court did not rule on that case; it was the Federal Court of Appeal: http://canlii.org//en/ca/fca/doc/2009/2009fca297/2009fca297.html

Milan April 13, 2010 at 8:31 am

Thanks for pointing that out.

It has been corrected above.

Padraic April 13, 2010 at 8:32 am

No problem, I am happy to contribute to a great blog.

For the record though, the Federal Court of Appeal is not the same as the Federal Court…

Milan April 13, 2010 at 9:50 am

Fixed

Some more information on the ruling is contained in this document: Federal Court leaves Kyoto compliance to Parliament

It concludes that:

“The applications for judicial review hence failed for a number of reasons including:

* the drafters commingled mandatory language with permissive language;
* the Act called for policy decisions unsuitable for judicial review; and
* the Act calls for parliamentary accountability rather than judicial review.

With federal cap-and-trade regulations on the horizon, the decision suggests that any complaints of federal environmental (in)action will need to be taken up with the electorate rather than with the judiciary.”

Of course, those cap-and-trade regulations remain nowhere to be seen.

Milan April 13, 2010 at 9:54 am

Also, here is the earlier decision that was appealed:

Friends of the Earth v. Canada (Governor in Council), 2008 FC 1183, [2009] 3 F.C.R. 201

It seems worth noting that if the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act (KPIA) partly failed because it was poorly drafted, there is some chance that C-311 would not share the same ultimate fate, if passed into law.

. April 13, 2010 at 11:18 am

C-311, the country’s only federal climate-change legislation, will commit the federal government to achieving practical, science-based greenhouse-gas reduction targets, and make it accountable to Canadians through regular reports on actions taken to meet the targets.

Despite temporarily wavering Liberal support that stalled C-311 in committee for much of 2009, the Bill has to date enjoyed the support of the majority of the House.

C-311 was modelled on Bill C-377, which was introduced by New Democrat Leader Jack Layton in 2007. This bill was passed by the House of Commons in 2008 with the support of the Liberals and the Bloc, but died in the Senate when the election was called.”

Milan April 13, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Up for debate tomorrow:

Mr. McGuinty (Ottawa South) — That, in the opinion of this House, this government has lacked a commitment to principled environmental policy backed by action which is urgently needed to address the climate change crisis, and it is the further opinion of this House that the government has consistently ignored the legislative and regulatory powers at its disposal that allow the government to take immediate and decisive action to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve meaningful and science-based reduction targets, and therefore the House calls upon the government to: (a) use the legislative, regulatory and fiscal authorities already available to the Government of Canada to put in place immediately a national climate change plan that implements economy-wide regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, and invests in renewable energy, clean technology and energy efficiency in order for Canada to compete in the new green economy; (b) stop putting Canada’s environmental and economic future at risk by insisting that Canada must wait for the United States to act first before showing our own leadership on this most vital issue; (c) set a domestic legally-binding long-term greenhouse gas reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050; (d) report to Parliament annually on its policies and proposals to achieve the trajectory toward the 80 percent target and revise as necessary; (e) establish a non-partisan expert group approved by Parliament to set a science-based emissions trajectory to reach that 80 percent reduction target so that Canada does its part to keep global temperature increases to below 2°C; (f) reverse the decision to cut the ecoENERGY program that allowed Canadians to receive a rebate for greening their homes using energy efficient products and services; (g) restore Canada’s tarnished international environmental reputation by implementing Canada’s international commitment made during the Copenhagen negotiations to provide our fair share of new climate change financing for developing countries to support their adaptation and mitigation efforts to deal with the climate change crisis; (h) follow through on Canada’s commitment at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009 to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and report on implementation; and (i) convene within 90 days a First Ministers’ Meeting on climate change to build upon the best practices and leadership that have been demonstrated in the provinces, municipalities and the private sector.

If they are serious about “keep[ing] global temperature increases to below 2°C,” some extremely aggressive reductions in emissions will be necessary. That is hard to square with Ignatieff’s stance that the continuing expansion of the oil sands is a “fact of life.”

Mike April 13, 2010 at 3:35 pm

It is not the final Third Reading vote. The vote on Wednesday will determine whether or not debate continues. If the MPs vote against continuing debate, the bill dies. If they vote in favour of continuing debate, there will be another vote. If successful, the legislation moves forward to the Senate.

. April 13, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Status of the Bill
Bill C-311
An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change

. July 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 3:28 PM
Senate stalls over greenhouse gas bill

Gloria Galloway

The Senate is working quickly through many of the bills that were passed by the House of Commons in recent weeks but one controversial piece of legislation seems to be stalled.

Bill C-311, drafted by NDP MP Bruce Hyer, would require the government to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. It was supported in the Senate by Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell and has been read twice but has since been adjourned in the name of Conservative Senator Richard Neufeld. The legislation cannot move forward until he speaks to it.

Bill C-311 was passed by a vote of 149 to 136 in the House of Commons on May 5 over the objections of the Conservatives who say it establishes impossible goals that do not mesh with their own climate-change plans. The Bloc Quebecois and the Liberals supported it despite indicating that it contained some holes.

Mr. Neufeld said on Wednesday that there has been no organized effort to keep the bill from being passed into law. If it is not addressed before the Senate rises, probably next week, it can always be raised in the fall, he said. “Our chamber has been pretty busy,” said Mr. Neufeld.

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