Trudeau’s climate failure

In closing, a few words can be said about other aspects of the PCF [Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change]. The complete ignoring of the 2020 target illustrates the power of the Canadian dynamic of policy failure set out in chapter 1. Disguising the lack of will and effort needed to achieve an international commitment by focusing on a new target, some years distant, was done in 1997, in 2010 and again in 2015. It provides the government in question with environmental legitimacy by allowing it to appear committed to policy action while avoiding the conflicts and costs the must be borne to actually achieve a target. Unless things change, there is a very real chance it will be done again in the years leading up to 2030, regardless of which government is in power. Because we are so willing to push action off into the future, we are able to avoid the regional conflict inherent to the allocation issue. The Justin Trudeau government’s focus on the easy challenge (which, as events turned out, has not been so easy) of ensuring carbon pricing throughout Canada when the big four emitting provinces already had pricing in place, rather than the much more difficult task of convincing those four to do more than they had already themselves decided on, is a continuation of the dynamic first seen with the easy challenge of the 1995 voluntary program. At that time, as discussed, a voluntary program was all that could realistically have been hoped for. In 2015, however, with very different public attitudes, foreign and domestic examples, and a majority government eager to act, the PCF was a missed opportunity. Taking advantage of that opportunity would have required facing the challenges that are the subject of this book, in particular vastly different western and eastern energy interests. That was not done because the Canadian dynamic of favouring peaceful relations over effective policy was exerting its usual force.

As of the spring of 2019, the Pan-Canadian Framework program, so completely a product of this dynamic that has brought only policy failure since 1990, was providing the worst of both worlds. It did not have the programs in place capable of meeting the stated goal, while a major element of the program, federal construction of a pipeline, will if implemented increase emissions. While providing no guarantees of achieving its goal, the PCF is causing considerable damage to national unity and the possibilities of constructive federal-provincial engagement. The outcome of the 2019 Alberta election made that situation even worse since by then a supposedly national program was opposed by half the provinces, representing more than half the population, and three-quarters of total emissions.

Macdonald, Douglas. Carbon Province, Hydro Province: The Challenge of Canadian Energy and Climate Federalism. University of Toronto Press, 2020. p. 232–3


Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

3 thoughts on “Trudeau’s climate failure”

  1. LNG can help address climate change, provide safe energy investment: minister
    Canadian LNG is the best choice for global energy investors looking for sustainable and competitive natural gas production, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said Monday.

    His speech on the opening day of the virtual Gastech 2020 conference comes just two weeks before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to unveil his promised “ambitious green agenda” in a throne speech laying out his government’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan.

  2. On climate change and the environment, Trudeau’s policies to date have not strayed significantly from the Harper era. Both the Liberal and Conservative governments advocated a vision of responsible expansion of tar sands oil production and the pipelines to take it to market. As in the Harper era, critics contend that current Canadian actions ensure the country will not meet its international emissions reduction targets.

  3. So when we filed a constitutional climate-change challenge on behalf of our two House groups against the federal government a year ago, it was a natural progression of our 10-year entanglement with Canada’s fossil-fuel industry, and 200 years of experience dealing with the Crown’s asserted jurisdiction over our territories.

    In both cases, government responses have largely been comprised of solemn pronouncements, fact-finding investigations and performative legislation and policy. Court-encouraged aboriginal rights consultation, for example, has become a bureaucratic note-taking and box-ticking exercise, resulting in business-as-usual resource development. Meanwhile, Canada has promised to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions in four international agreements since 1992, and even declared a climate emergency in 2019 – and yet still fails miserably to meet any of its targets.

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