The federal election climate platforms: goal, dream, or hallucination?

Which party has the best climate plan? There are a number of election-climate tools and comparisons, some quite good. Ecojustice has a good one here, and The lawyer’s daily has a piece here.

Another summary is here, done by Leach and Hayhoe. A Twitter critique of that assessment said “It’s implicitly an endorsement of the Liberals based on two criteria: ambition and feasibility. My concern: way feasibility defined favours middle of road approach.” In other words, it’s based on an assumption that steep change is impossible.

Stand.Earth has a fairly comprehensive one here. Theirs may be the most rigorous, and honest, as it says they all are insufficient. Here are a few more comparisons; the Narwhal, Globe, and Policy Options. There are many more.

This one may the simplest, as there is only one question: How much does this platform reflect a costed, measured, clear PLAN to stay below 1.5? The IPCC has told us that;

… in model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 (40–60% interquartile range), reaching net zero around 2050 (2045–2055 interquartile range).

A preliminary assumption, for discussion purposes, is that a 30% reduction is actually enough to reach those targets. Many say it is not. Nonetheless, this post will focus on changes by 2030, as the IPCC has also told us that is what matters.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, in this interview shared with Greta Thunberg, sums it up well. He referenced how California set carbon emissions reductions targets, and beat them – with a plan. He said, “A goal, or dream, without action, is hallucination.”

NDP – a detailed but undefined goal 

The NDP climate plan, Power to Change, a new deal for climate action and good jobs, can be found here. It is the most thorough of them all, coming in at 22 pages, and with lots of detail. That said, it fails to pick a target for 2030 recutions, instead promising to  “Adopt science-based GHG emissions reduction targets for 2030 that are in line with stabilizing
the global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius” (p. 6).

A good promise, but not appropriate to today. The UN has told us the target – 30% by 2030. Is that likely to change over time? Sure, as things continue to move faster than predicted, the UN may at some point increase that (making it exponentially harder). However, if it doesn’t seem right, the NDP could just bravely set a higher target. It lacks ambition. And, despite the detail, does not cost out the transition clearly.

Green Party – a goal and a dream

The Green Party’s Mission Possible can be found here. It is excellent in a way, it covers all the bases, and is inspiring. But it lacks clear details, and also does not cost out the transition – in other words, it does not show, sector by sector, where we are now, and then how their plan will get us there. But, where?

But another good point about the Green plan – it aims for a 60% reduction by 2030. That’s double what the UN is calling for, and higher than even California’s targets. This is the best part of the Green plan – Mission Possible. But it definitely needs some detail.

The Green party attempt to build a plan which allows Alberta to keep pumping oil for quite some time, keeping it “Canadian” is out of keeping with an otherwise fairly sensible, although vague, plan.

Liberal Party – a dream

The Liberal platform is here. A key premise of their plan is, from Trudeau’s introductory speech, that “Canada is on track to reduce our emissions by 30% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels,” which is simply untrue. Not a good start.

The Liberal climate plan is to reach net-zero by 2050, which is good, but may be too late if the 2030 reductions are not enough. The 2030 goal is “exceed Canada’s 2030 emissions goal by introducing new carbon reducing measures.” (p. 29)

Their method of getting there is to; “set legally-binding, five-year milestones, based
on the advice of the experts and consultations with Canadians, to reach net-zero emissions,” and “appoint a group of scientists, economists, and experts to recommend the best path to get to net-zero.” p. 29

This is not a “plan”, it is a “plan to plan.” How long will that take, before any action starts? And what actions? Presumably those decided by the “group of scientists, economists, and experts.” A good strategy for 2009.

Global news summarised the Liberal climate platform as “The Liberal platform states that if re-elected, the federal government would set “legally binding” five-year milestones based on consultations with experts and attain net-zero emissions by 2050.”

The commitment to plant 2 billion trees is a good, concrete step, but will not get us there on its own.

Conservative Party – a hallucination / mirage

It is here. It is a disaster. It gives a fair bit of detail, all of it oriented toward anything other than reducing oil and gas output /consumption. The plan for supporting renewable energy is good, as are some other elements. We’ll need them in the 5 degrees of warming world their plan will lead to if elected.

Final thoughts

Another factor is the “reality spectrum” – if you’re a voter you’ll need to choose for yourself where to place your bet on this spectrum. A dream, which will likely never happen? Or a cold hard reality which will leave us with anything but. Or you can vote with an eye to the future, and how your vote today may shape party policies going forward. Those choices you must make for yourself.

The best plans, the Greens and NDP, and the mainstream plan – the Liberals (predictably), all fail in one area – carbon tax/carbon pricing. They all support it, in their various ways. And it is not enough. It is a good start, but in the end it is a neo-liberal, “the market will save us” scheme which will never truly yield the results we need. It is an important starting place. But cap and trade is closer, although still not enough. What we really need is source-reduction – we need to keep it in the ground (we’ll continue this thought in another post).

In that way, they all lack imagination. Again, as Greta Thunberg has said, we need new rules. All the plans lack courage to come out and really challenge the power base of our society, and the true source of the problem.




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