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A closer look at the NDP's climate platform

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Jagmeet Singh at the second National Bike Summit. Image: Yvonne Bambrick/Wikimedia Commons

In 2006, the federal NDP earned their reputation as sound environmental stewards with the Climate Change Accountability Act. This act was based on well-researched reports and recommendations from the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, (an arms-length advisory body consisting of experts from business, universities, environmentalism, labour and public policy), and guidelines from the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. The Climate Change Accountability Act, supported by the Liberals and Greens, passed three readings in Parliament. It was killed in the Senate, without a word of debate, by Conservative senators in 2010.

So how are the NDP doing now in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election?

"Power to Change: A New Deal for Climate Action" is a dense 6,042-word document. Only three per cent consist of attacks on the Liberal and Conservative policies and actions. There are a few photographs. It has eight parts.

Part one

"Working Together" speaks to the need for collaboration with Indigenous people, support for reconciliation and mitigations of the negative effects of climate change in remote communities. There are quite a few aspirational sentiments expressed here without much detail.

Part two

In "Taking Climate Leadership," the NDP promise to "declare a climate emergency and put into law the requirement for the government to establish a plan to meet ambitious, science-based GHG emission reduction targets that will help stabilize the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

The NDP propose to continue with the existing regime of carbon taxes, including the rebates, as put in place by the Liberal government. They promise to roll back the "the breaks the Liberals have given to big polluters."

They have made a big promise to lower our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to recent International Panel on Climate Change recommendations: 45 per cent of 2010 GHG emissions by 2025. We would have just over five years to reduce our footprint to roughly 311megatonnes (Mt). (The Liberals are on track to reduce our GHG emissions to 381Mt by 2030 which is 79Mt short of their goal of 302Mt.) It is hard to see how the NDP plan could be done without increasing both the carbon tax and the current clean fuel standard (carbon cap on emissions for industry).

"Our plan will use the powers of the federal government to ensure that the provinces set and meet interim emissions reduction targets in the lead up to 2030 and 2050." The current government has twisted itself into knots trying and failing to get territorial and provincial buy-in on a very modest carbon tax. Given the resistance of Prairie citizens, how will the NDP do better?

The NDP propose to establish an independent climate accountability office. Is that not the job of the auditor general's office?

"We'll work with the provinces and territories to make Canada an innovation leader on methane reduction in such areas as real-time monitoring and leakage detection." This is a really good idea. The fossil fuel industry doesn't report fugitive methane leaks from well heads. Nor are the provinces willing to ask for it.

"The federal government can also model change, by becoming a trail-blazer in energy efficiency, clean technologies, and renewable energy use." I think that Environment Minister McKenna has worked very hard on this already. Check out the Liberal government's sustainable development strategy.

"Canada must also step up and be a global leader in tackling climate change by doing more to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change and working with partners in North America to advance GHG emissions reductions and protect biodiversity." This is a part of both the Liberal and the Conservative parties' mandates although they interpret this as a policy to promote liquified natural gas (LNG), which is largely fracked, instead of coal.

Part three

"Creating Good, Secure Jobs for All" is an extremely difficult, albeit noble goal. The NDP are committed to re-training of "Canadians working in carbon-intensive industries." Can new renewable energy industries provide the kinds of incomes to older, uneducated workers that the fossil fuel industries have? It seems more likely that some workers and inflated expectations will be left behind.

The plan is for employment insurance-based training. Again, cooperation with territories and provinces is required. Is it likely that former fossil fuel industry workers from Alberta would be willing to settle for secure but lower-paying jobs?

Infrastructure projects are often used to keep economies and jobs viable during times of transition. Whether it is working in collaboration with manufacturing, the fossil fuel industry, construction or agriculture, there is nothing new in the NDP green jobs plan that the Liberal government isn't already working on.

Part four

"Improving Where We Live and Work" is a plan to work "in partnership with the provinces and territories to fund energy efficient retrofits on social housing units and government buildings, expanding outwards from there. We'll improve the National Building Code to ensure that by 2030 every new building built in Canada is net-zero energy ready." The current government is already on this.  However, the National Building Code provides a template rather than a rule for provinces and territories which have their own building codes.

Helping communities develop "resilience with the tools to help mitigate the impacts of climate change that are already occurring, like flooding, thawing permafrost, and forest fires" is as laudable as it is necessary.

Part five

"Improving How We Get Around" deals with transit and energy-efficient vehicles. An NDP "government will create a permanent, direct, allocation-based funding mechanism to modernize and expand public transit in communities across Canada." They propose a $5,000 incentive to purchasers of zero emission vehicles (ZEV), similar to the current federal incentive. But the NDP also hope to kick-start the Canadian automotive industry by providing a $15,000 rebate to purchasers of ZEVs made in Canada.

Part six

"Powering Our Communities Carbon Free" speaks to the goal of transitioning to net-carbon electrical generation by 2030 and zero-emissions electrical generation by 2050. The NDP propose to establish a Canadian climate bank capitalized with $3 billion in federal money that will spur green investments. This is a bold idea. Will $3 billion be enough to do the job?

Part seven

In "Protecting Our Land and Water," the NDP propose a federal environmental bill of rights to "enshrine in law the right to a healthy environment." The far-reaching proposal will ban single-use plastic, restore navigable waters protections for all waters, fund waste management and waste-mitigation projects, work with provinces to plant trees, reduce emissions from shipping and fishing, expand marine protections zones and work with Indigenous people to "conserve ecosystems and increase bio-diversity."

Part eight

In "Getting Results," the NDP propose to spend $15 billion, in addition to the $3 billion in the Canadian climate bank, in their first mandate if they form government to finance all of the above programs.

Aside from a few glitches, "Powering Change" is a fair plan. The best parts of this proposal take current Liberal government policies even further, which is what we need to do in order to meet our Paris accord agreement. And the environmental bill of rights and the Canadian climate bank are bold ideas. However, the plan is short on details. And it isn't clear where the money will come from. However, if an NDP government cut subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, it might just be possible to finance clean technology.

Read Linda Leon's full analysis of climate platforms in the 2019 federal election here.

Yukon is full of artists, thinkers, eccentrics and rabble-rousing political trouble makers. From the windows of her Acting Out Studio, Linda Leon observes the view from North. Every good artist knows that you have to stand far away to get a full perspective.

Image: Yvonne Bambrick/Wikimedia Commons

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