Canada’s Mid-Century Low Carbon Strategy: Necessary, but Not Sufficient

Written by Deborah Glaser, BCCIC’s Senior Policy Analyst direct from Marrakech, Morocco where she is representing BCCIC at the COP 22 climate change conference from Nov 9-16.

Many of us spent much of COP22 waiting to hear what Canada would announce as its long-term strategy for a low carbon future. For two weeks, world leaders have been discussing the ins and outs of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), climate financing, and mechanisms to assess progress toward any targets set forth. So as you can imagine, Canadian delegates were very excited for the unveiling of Canada’s Mid-Century Long-Term Strategy on Wednesday by Minister McKenna and her staff.

strategySo what is in this strategy? Well, let’s start with the term ‘strategy.’ What has been unveiled is not so much a strategy as it is a pathways platform to move Canada past its 2030 NDC targets that have been a key component of the discussions around the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change to be released later this year. Even Dr. Stephen Lucas, Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Climate Change at ECCC, has stated clearly that the country’s NDC won’t get Canada to our long-term targets.

To fill that gap, we now have a series of decarbonization scenarios to achieve 80% GHG emissions reductions below 2005 levels through priority pathways such as replacing fossil fuel energy with renewable energy and modernizing the electricity grid. This is not a detailed plan of action with implementation steps, nor is it policy prescriptive. It is a strategy outline that will inform discussion and progress at the first ministers’ meeting in Ottawa later this year.

The plan itself calls for six key elements to get us to 2050: 1) non-emitting electricity generation, 2) electrification of major end uses, 3) low-carbon fuels, 4) a strong focus on energy conservation and efficiency, 5) carbon sequestration in forests and on lands, and 6) short-term climate pollutants. It also, of course, references the national carbon pricing plan that Prime Minister Trudeau announced last month and includes provisions for differentiated pathways for emissions reductions across different sectors and regions.

BCCIC commends Canada for being one of the first countries to take this important step, but also has some concerns about how its mitigation and adaptation strategies may impact its international efforts, in particular around carbon sequestration modalities and the world’s most vulnerable communities. Offsetting – as well as compensation measures – should be used only as a last resort by developed countries and should not be a replacement for reducing emissions. As many of us know from working in the field, there are instances where financial mechanisms such as REDD+, while well-intended, end up hurting our southern partners and their communities. We must therefore be careful that the mitigation and adaptation balance is carefully weighed and that any forays into satisfying Canada’s decarbonization efforts abroad are done in the spirit of climate equity and from a human rights-based approach.

BCCIC also encourages the federal government to outline how it will link the forthcoming Pan-Canadian Framework to its longer-term vision for decarbonization and provide a mechanism to increase the country’s overall climate ambitions. The 80% reduction in emissions proposed in the plan is a start, but we have confidence that Canada can get to 100% reduction in order to protect the world’s most vulnerable communities.

A special thanks to the Climate Action Network Canada and Smarter Shift for detailed notes on the announcement.

Written by Deborah Glaser, BCCIC’s Senior Policy Analyst direct from Marrakech, Morocco where she is representing BCCIC at the COP 22 climate change conference from Nov 9-16.