Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030, short of U.S. goal

By Stephanie Taylor

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised Canada will slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent within the next decade, a goal significantly less ambitious than its closet ally.

The new target is higher than the 36 per cent reduction below 2005 levels the government says it can achieve under existing measures by 2030, and the 30 per cent goal Canada agreed to under the Paris Agreement.

Trudeau announced the higher target during a virtual climate summit of world leaders convened by United States President Joe Biden, who pledged to cut his country’s emissions by 50 to 52 per cent by 2030.

In his address, the prime minister said fighting the novel coronavirus remains his priority, but science says climate change is an “existential threat.”

“We must take action now because there’s no vaccine against a polluted planet,” said Trudeau.

Speaking in French, Trudeau told the convention, which included the leaders of China, India, the United Kingdom and Japan, that “only bold climate policies lead to bold results.”

He touted his government’s spending on growing the clean technology sector, and efforts to conserve its oceans and lands, as well as a centrepiece of the Liberals’ climate policy: a national carbon price that is set to rise to $170 per tonne by 2030.

“If major economies in the room were to follow Canada’s lead and adopt a rising price on pollution and commit to phase out coal plants, we would accelerate our global path for a safe, prosperous net-zero future,” Trudeau said.

Green Party of Canada Leader Annamie Paul slammed Canada’s new targets as not only falling behind those of the United States and European Union, but also the United Kingdom, which pledged to cut emissions by 78 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2035.

“We have said to the world that we don’t have that ambition for ourselves,” she said.

In a statement, Greenpeace Canada senior energy strategist Keith Stewart echoed that sentiment, saying: “After more than five years in office, the Trudeau government is still incapable of proposing a target as ambitious as that of Joe Biden, who took office just three months ago.”

He added there was no commitment to transition away from fossil fuels as Canada remains heavily tied to the oil and gas industry.

Speaking about the new targets in French, Trudeau said, “Canada is a country that produces and exports energy, and so I understand that this will not be easy.”

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network, said oil and gas production remains the biggest barrier the country faces when it comes to climate action.

“That’s something we’re going to have to tackle to not only meet the target that they laid out today, but to get closer to our fair share of the effort,” she said.

While Abreu said it’s welcome to see Canada improve its target, it falls short of the 60 per cent reduction by 2030 that she and others say is needed for the country to do its share to limit global warming to 1.5 C degrees.

“Part of what I’m encouraged by here is the potential for Canada to get into the swing of ratcheting up the ambition of our climate targets over time, which is what the Paris Agreement tells us we’re supposed to do,” she said.

Ahead of the summit, seven environmental groups released a report with modelling that said to limit global warming to 1.5 C degrees compared to pre-industrial levels, Canada should double the 30 per cent commitment it signed in the Paris Agreement.

Clean Prosperity, a climate policy organization, has said it could see Canada adopt a new target of between 40 to 50 per cent in recognition of the economic challenges around a clean energy transition and people employed in the fossil fuel sector.