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Our Environmental Progress Report Card: What Worked and Where Can We Improve?


The current Federal government was re-elected as a minority government in 2019 (1). After four years at the helm of Parliament Hill, the Government of Canada made various promises surrounding climate change during the 2019 federal election (2). These included a net-zero emission future by 2050, planting two billion trees, an adequate disaster response, and investing all the earnings from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project in Canada’s clean energy transition (2). In addition, during the campaigning for the 2019 federal election, previous accomplishments from the previous four years were highlighted as a majority government. These included “[lifting] 87 long-term boil water advisories in Indigenous communities and are on track to eliminate all of them by 2021” and that they are “moving forward with a ban on single-use plastics” (2). As the next election has just been announced, it is a good time to explore the outcome of these promises.


Net-zero Emission Future by 2050


Introduced in November 2020, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act proposed many emissions reduction targets in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 (3). Under the act, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change is obligated to report to Parliament regarding each national emissions target with a plan to achieve the targets (4). In February 2021, the Net-Zero Advisory Body was launched by the Federal government as a permanent resource (5). This independent group is composed of 14 experts from across the country who will advise the government “on the best pathways to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050” (5). On June 29 2021, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act became law through royal assent (6). In addition to the objective of net-zero emissions by 2050, the Act reaffirms the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target as being 40-45% below the country’s 2005 levels (6). The act also requires emission targets to be set 10 years prior for 2035, 2040 and 2045 (6). Historically, Canada has failed to meet its self imposed climate targets (7).



Planting Two Billion Trees


This project was slated to begin in spring 2021, and according to the parliamentary budget office, the cost of this was just under $6 billion (8). The Government of Canada had originally estimated the project to cost $3.16 billion (8). The federal website has a timeline that states that the program will start “forging partnerships, planting trees and increasing seedling production” in spring 2021 and continues with “tree planting ramps up” from fall 2021 to 2030 (9). Natural Resources Canada provided an update in June 2021 which stated that the government has received 120 applications for tree planting in 2021 and is now finalizing agreements that would have the capacity to plant 30 million trees (10).


Investing all Earnings from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project in Canada’s Clean Energy Transition


The Government of Canada has owned the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project since 2018 (11). The pipeline cost more than $4 billion to buy and in February 2020, the Trans Mountain CEO estimated the total cost of the pipeline to be 12.6 billion (including the $1.1 billion already spent by Kinder Morgan, who was the previous owner) (12). The pipeline is not yet finished, and the completion date is estimated to be at the end of 2022 (13). TMX has faced widespread opposition from the Tsleil-Waututh peoples and the Wet’suwet’en First Nation (14,15). This opposition arises from many reasons, notably that pipelines transport crude oil and natural gas and are associated with many adverse effects on the environment such as spills (16). To read more about pipelines in what is currently Canada, read about the four proposed pipelines outlined in this resource.


Eliminate all long-term boil water advisories in Indigenous Communities by 2021


As of June 2021, there are still 58 long-term boil water advisories in 38 different first nations communities across the country (17). The federal government highlights that 101 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted as of March 10, 2021 (17). The new estimated date to find long-term solutions to all water advisories is 2025, as per documents from the House of Commons Public Accounts committee meeting in April 2021 (18). For a history and updates on the progress towards lifting all long-term boil water advisories, review and check-in on our living document here.


Moving Forward with a Ban on Single-Use Plastics


In the fall of 2020, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced that the next steps were to be taken to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030 (19). The next regulations are supposed to be put in place by the end of 2021 (19). This ban would include “plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery, and food ware made from hard-to-recycle plastics” (19). The latest press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada regarding plastic waste was on April 15th, 2021 and outlined $1.3 million in funding from the Government of Canada to support projects “that aim to reduce plastic waste, prevent plastic pollution and support the transition to a national circular plastic economy” (20). These projects are run by five organizations: Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation, Canadian Coalition for Green Healthcare, Conference Board of Canada, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Ontario and Scout Environmental (20). The press release reaffirms that the Federal government is continuing to work with provinces and territories to reduce plastic waste (20).



Additionally, there were more climate priorities included in the mandate letter for the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change written in December 2019 by the Prime Minister (21). These included:

  • Completing all flood maps in Canada

  • Helping to expand and diversity urban forests in cities

  • Expand the Learn-to-Camp program

  • Providing bursaries to families where cost is a barrier for national or provincial park access

  • Clearer designation and preservation of national heritage places

  • Eorking with the Minister of Fisheries Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to introduce a new plan to conserve more of Canada’s land and oceans

  • Strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act 1999

  • Creating a new Canada Water Agency

  • Protecting further large lakes in Canada

  • Evaluating and updating the Species at Risk Act

  • Supporting the implementation of the Oceans Protection Plan

  • Helping to advance towards a complete zero-emission vehicle target by 2040 (21).



Stay tuned for more information on the federal parties’ environmental and climate campaign promises.



My name is Rachel Howlett and my pronouns are she/her. I am from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, which is the traditional land of the Mi’kmaq known as Mi’kmaki in the region of Sipekni’katik. The Mi’kmaq Nation is part of the Wabanaki Confederacy, which includes land from what is now known as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Maine. Throughout my writing, I do not intend to speak on behalf of BIPOC communities. I am speaking from a position of privilege as a white settler and I want to acknowledge that intersectionality is essential in every topic in order to fully address the injustices of the world we live in. My goal as an ally is to reduce environmental injustices through encouraging climate action and demanding political accountability. This post was written to highlight the climate promises made by the last Federal Government so that this public information relating to the governance of

present-day Canada is more accessible to others.



References


  1. Neumon, Scott. Canada’s Justin Trudeau Rejects Coalition in Favor of Minority Government [Internet]. NPR. NPR World; 2019 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.npr.org/2019/10/24/772945398/canadas-trudeau-rejects-coalition-in-favor-of-minority-government

  2. Liberal Party of Canada. Forward: A Real Plan Moving Forward [Internet]. Liberal Party of Canada. Federal Liberal Agenda of Canada; 2019 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://2019.liberal.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/292/2019/09/Forward-A-real-plan-for-the-middle-class.pdf

  3. Canada. Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada, 2021 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/climate-plan/net-zero-emissions-2050.html

  4. Canada. Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada, 2021 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/climate-plan/net-zero-emissions-2050/canadian-net-zero-emissions-accountability-act.html

  5. Canada. Government of Canada delivers on commitment to appoint an independent net-zero advisory body [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada, 2021 [ cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2021/02/government-of-canada-delivers-on-commitment-to-appoint-an-independent-net-zero-advisory-body.html

  6. Canada. Government of Canada legislates climate accountability with first net-zero emissions law [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada; 2021 [cited 2021, Aug 5]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2021/06/government-of-canada-legislates-climate-accountability-with-first-net-zero-emissions-law.html

  7. Johnson, Lisa. Net-zero emissions by 2050 is the goal. So how do we get there? [Internet]. CBC News. CBC; 2020 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/whatonearth/net-zero-emissions-by-2050-is-the-goal-so-how-do-we-get-there-1.5694015

  8. The Canadian Press. Liberals’ two-billion-trees promise to cost $2.78 billion more than planned, PBO says [Internet]. CTV news. CTV; 2021 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/liberals-two-billion-trees-promise-to-cost-2-78-billion-more-than-planned-pbo-says-1.5286044

  9. Canada. 2 Billion Trees Commitment [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada; 2021 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/campaign/2-billion-trees.html

  10. Canada. The Government of Canada Provides an Update on Planting Two Billion Trees [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada; 2021 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/natural-resources-canada/news/2021/06/the-government-of-canada-provides-an-update-on-planting-two-billion-trees.html

  11. Canada. Trans Mountain Pipeline System Purchase Agreement FAQs [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada; 2020 [cited 2021, July 13]. Available from: https://www.cer-rec.gc.ca/en/applications-hearings/view-applications-projects/trans-mountain-expansion/trans-mountain-pipeline-system-purchase-agreement-faqs.html

  12. Little, Simon. Trans Mountain pipeline expansion now estimated to cost $12.6B, finish in 2022 [Internet]. Global News. Global: 2020 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://globalnews.ca/news/6521398/trans-mountain-pipeline-expansion-new-cost-estimate/#:~:text=The%20company%20says%20it%20has,by%20the%20end%20of%202020

  13. McIntosh, E. Trans Mountain pipeline expansion could be at least two months late. Canada’s National Observer. Observer Medial Group 2021: 2020 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/09/25/news/trans-mountain-pipeline-expansion-could-be-least-two-months-late.

  14. Bakx, Kyle. Plans to sell Trans Mountain pipeline to Indigenous groups take another step forward [Internet]. CBC News. CBC; 2021 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bakx-tmx-pipeline-negotiations-1.5918712

  15. Matte-Bergeron, Timothé. Coastal GasLink: tensions encore vives en territoire wet’suwet’en [Internet]. Radio-Canada. Société Radio-Canada; 2021 [cited 2021, April 1]. Available from: https://ici.radio-canada.ca/recit-numerique/1675/wetsuweten-coastal-gaslink-gazoduc-conflit-chefs-hereditaires-autochtones-grc

  16. Canada. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Concerning Federally-Regulated Petroleum Pipelines in Canada [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada; 2021 [cited 2021, July 13]. Available from: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/energy-sources-distribution/clean-fossil-fuels/pipelines/faqs-federally-regulated-petroleum-pipelines-canada/5893

  17. Canada. Progress update on the Government of Canada’s commitment to clean water in First Nations communities [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada; 2021 [cited 2021, July 13]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/indigenous-services-canada/news/2021/03/progress-update-on-the-government-of-canadas-commitment-to-clean-water-in-first-nations-communities.html

  18. House of Commons. Standing Committee on Public Accounts Thursday April 29 2021 [Internet]. Canada. Parliament of Canada; 2021 [cited 2021, July 13]. Available from: https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/PACP/meeting-28/evidence

  19. Canada. Canada one-step closer to zero plastic waste by 2030 [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada; 2020 [cited 2021, June 6]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2020/10/canada-one-step-closer-to-zero-plastic-waste-by-2030.html

  20. Canada. Government of Canada invests in reducing plastic waste and supporting the transition of a circular economy for plastics [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada; 2020 [cited 2021, Aug 5]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2021/04/government-of-canada-invests-in-reducing-plastic-waste-and-supporting-the-transition-of-a-circular-economy-for-plastics.html

  21. Canada. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Mandate Letter [Internet]. Canada. Government of Canada; 2019 [ cited 2021, Aug 5]. https://pm.gc.ca/en/mandate-letters/2019/12/13/minister-environment-and-climate-change-mandate-letter

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