The Conservatives say Canada’s path to achieving the Paris targets will hinge in large part on the development of green technology, not taxes.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) unveiled the plan in Chelsea, Que., a small municipality just 10 kilometres north of Ottawa. In the face of criticism from the Liberals that his party was dragging its heels on taking action on climate change, Mr. Scheer immediately addressed the anticipation that has been building over the plan’s release by attacking the government’s approach.
“If Trudeau’s approach was working, if Canada’s environmental performance was actually improving, nobody would care what Conservatives have to say,” Mr. Scheer told those gathered at his policy event.
In the 60-page document released Wednesday, the federal Conservatives proposed a package of market-based measures pitched at creating incentives for innovation—including a requirement for companies to invest in clean technology if they fail to meet emissions standards and a two-year, $1.8-billion tax credit to help Canadians retrofit their homes—that they say will collectively bring Canada closer to meeting its commitment under the Paris Accord. The Conservatives’ plan, however, is silent on setting markers for closing the emissions gap that Canada is on track to hit. But the Conservatives intend to stand behind the Paris commitment, which they’ve billed as Conservative targets set by the previous Harper government.
In committing to the Paris Accord—a landmark agreement signed in 2016 by nearly 200 countries—Ottawa agreed to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 to 513 megatonnes. The agreement looks to limit the temperature from rising even higher to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophic climate events. But government projections from 2018 show that Canada is likely to fall short of meeting its Paris target by 79 megatonnes.
For months, the Conservatives have faced repeated attacks from the Liberals for not releasing their plan sooner. The official opposition, in turn, has routinely ripped into the feds’ carbon tax, pledging to immediately scrap the Trudeau government’s carbon tax that has been a source of grievance for several provinces led by Progressive Conservative premiers. They’ve argued that it unfairly penalizes consumers, while letting major polluters off easy. The NDP and the Green Party have committed to keep the carbon tax.
Mr. Scheer and his party have sought to frame the debate on the carbon tax as an affordability issue.
“[What’s] Trudeau’s solution? A carbon tax. A carbon tax will hit hard-working families the hardest, with higher costs for gasoline, groceries, and home heating,” he said. The government has sought to offset those additional costs by sending tax rebates, with more money expected to go towards those with limited means.
A Conservative government would also introduce a “green investment standards certification” process for verifying that major polluters that emit more than 40 kilotonnes of CO2 emissions per year are spending money on the research and development of technology designed to reduce emissions. Environment and Climate Change Canada would oversee its implementation.
For homeowners, the plan proposes offering a tax credit to help Canadians retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient. Under the plan, those who, for example, install solar panels or invest in high-efficiency furnaces, could receive a 20 per cent refundable tax credit on their income tax. To encourage more investment in green technology, the plan also pitches a $340-million “green patent credit” aimed at prodding companies to spend more on research and develop their products for market. Such new technology, the plan proposes, could then be exported to help other countries curb their emissions.
A recent report from the parliamentary budget officer said that Canada would need to add another carbon tax to achieve its 2030 Paris target, starting with a $6-per-tonne levy in 2023 to $52 per tonne in 2030. The levy is one in a series of measures the Trudeau government has proposed to rein in emissions.
The Conservative Party also pledges to do away with the Liberals’ pledge to phase out the oil and gas sector, billing the move as an unrealistic, given that projections show demand will increase.
On promoting the shift to zero-emission electric vehicles, the Conservatives don’t plan to adopt the Liberals’ incentive of up to $5,000 to put towards its purchase. Instead, the party is banking on technological advancements, such as the creation of a fast-charging battery for electric vehicles, to help usher the transition. It also plans to consult with the trucking industry to see how the sector can curb emissions for heavy-duty “vehicle fleets.”
Meanwhile, as part of its climate plan, the NDP has pledged to spend $15-billion and to create some 300,000 jobs. Its plan also proposes deeper cuts to emissions—to 38 per cent by 2030—than the Trudeau government’s target of 30 per cent below 2005 levels, which was set by the Harper government.
The Green Party’s plan, titled “Mission: Possible—the Green Climate Action Plan,” sets a 2050 deadline for achieving zero emissions and proposes slashing emissions to 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The Hill Times
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