Prime Minister Trudeau’s emissions reduction announcement reveals a government rapidly shifting policy to adapt to the abrupt realities of a crisis in Europe.
It’s not just the war; results to date show their old 20th Century approach to climate was sorely in need of revision. Real-world problems need solutions that really work — it turns out actually reducing emissions is no different. So, while much of the rhetoric of the plan is couched in the talking points of earlier environmentalists repeating calls for government-imposed bans and caps, look closer and there are some interesting contradictory lines. The resulting plan has an interesting ‘horse built by committee’ feel to it — but the resulting camel has some positive hints our prime minister is open to adopting innovative solutions.
The new announcement shows the Liberal government might be converging with a new generation of solutions-oriented environmentalists, industry, and pro-social progress groups like Modern Miracle Network. The world population is anticipated to grow to 10 billion by 2050 and, like every generation before, will want a higher standard of living. This creates clear and evident global environmental challenges, including for climate. Managing these challenges while maintaining human progress has already become the challenge of our times. We must adopt new and innovative approaches to solve the increasingly complex policy problems of the 21st century.
The flagship proposal to reduce emissions from the oil and gas sector by 42% in eight years seems unattainable when one considers there was only a 1% reduction in the last 15. Add in there isn’t an actual plan to go with the platitudes and it seems like déjà vu.
Our prime minister told Canadians that an energy and humanitarian crisis in Europe means Canada has to help by reducing emissions in Canada. For Trudeau, the silver bullet to everything from the war in Ukraine to run-away inflation at home seems to be to reduce emissions in Canada — a bewildering and misguided approach.
However, read a little deeper and there are hints for hope. For the first time, this government agrees with the policy recommendations that Modern Miracle Network has been advocating since 2015.
Trudeau’s new plan acknowledges the need to export more low emissions Canadian products like our oil and gas. Climate is a global problem, and Canada — with lower embedded emissions products from BC LNG to Saskatchewan lentils to Quebec aluminum — should be exporting more. Up to now, the Liberal solution has been to tax the best, which only helps the rest. We welcome this recognition from our prime minister that Canadians are the best in the world, and we can help global emissions by producing more exports of products with lower emissions than the international competition.
Another part of the government’s plan, recently detailed by Ministers Jonathan Wilkinson and Steven Guilbeault in the National Observer is to increase reliance on the burgeoning carbon-tech sector. This dramatic new approach to a circular economy in hydrocarbons works through the three Rs of reduce, recycle, and return emissions under the ground. Canada’s new climate plan announcement singles out carbon sequestration, just one small aspect of carbon-tech. Also exciting are new technologies that recycle carbon into myriad valuable products — and the Elon Musk X-Prize is sure to discover more of them.
Finally, the plan says we need long-term carbon pricing to attract investment in reducing emissions, but the current Liberal excise tax does not. This has been the Modern Miracle Network’s position for some time. Local taxes on fuel penalize people for commuting to work and heating their homes. Worse still, it chases industrial production and the associated jobs and emissions to other countries with lower environmental and social standards. A true carbon pricing system can create reliable incentives for investors to reduce, reuse and return emissions under the ground.
That the federal government hiked the carbon tax on April 1st is just another contradiction in this document when they recognize that long-term reliable incentives is the right approach.
The new environment plan demonstrates a government facing the realities of war and an international energy crisis, and decades of failed policies based on bans and caps. While much of this 1980’s rhetoric remains, the plan promisingly teases glimpses of a Liberal government ready to embrace new and exciting solutions to this “super wicked” policy problem. Future energy policy needs to rely on a healthy balance of alternative energy sources with carbon-tech. This will be the true energy transformation, and the only just transition feasible for society. A future built around a sustainable approach to hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are 80% of our energy systems and an attainable solution will have to include them.
One hopes this plan represents a true sea change by our government. Modern Miracle Network welcomes this change in the national discussion to innovative policy solutions through a convergence of government, industry, and a new generation of pragmatic environmentalists.
The government will have to continue embracing a true 21st-century approach to meet the challenge of our times.
Michael Binnion is the Executive Director of the Modern Miracle Network, whose mission it is to encourage Canadians to have reasoned conversations about energy issues.