For 30+ years, prime minister after prime minister, has lied to Canadians, each setting bold targets for emissions cuts and then doing almost nothing to keep those promises.
For 30 years the UK has been slashing their emissions. The Brits are way down from their 1990 numbers. Canada, sadly, has gone in the other direction. So, what are the Brits doing that we're not?
The Brits introduced a plan, a way they would reach their targets and they kept going way past those promises. Canada, by contrast, rolled out promise after promise - empty promise after empty promise.
More than a decade ago, the U.K. passed a broad climate policy tool kit called the Climate Change Act 2008, also known as the "Carbon Budget" law. Here are four key things it does that Canada's climate policy still does not.
Key 1: It requires a plan
To start with, the law legally requires the U.K. government to create plans to meet all its climate targets. Hey, making a plan to reach your goal seems like an obvious thing to do, right?
But, while Canadian politicians regularly self-proclaim themselves to be climate leaders, the reality is that in 30 years of setting climate targets, Ottawa has never yet produced a plan to meet any of them.
Key 2: Acting soon enough
A second critical benefit of the U.K. Carbon Budget law is that it requires government to act "at least 12 years in advance to allow policy-makers, businesses and individuals enough time to prepare."
Canadians would hugely benefit from having the luxury of such long lead times. As it is, we only have 10 years remaining to our 2030 climate target, and the neither the public nor the private sectors know what will be required of them. What we do know is that we have a still growing pile of emissions to cut, a rapidly deteriorating climate system increasing the urgency and a rapidly shrinking timeline in which to cut our pollution down to safe and sustainable levels.
Key 3: An independent committee
To remove politics from the process as much as possible, the U.K. tool kit includes an independent Committee of Climate Change (CCC). As their website explains, "the CCC was set up to ensure emissions targets are set based on expert independent assessment of the evidence and to monitor the U.K.’s progress toward meeting the targets." The committee does the heavy lifting and then brings proposals for carbon budgets and the policies that could be used to meet them to the government to vote on. Then, the CCC makes sure the government of the day follows through.
Removing climate policy from political whiplash would make it far easier for Canadian individuals and businesses to plan ahead efficiently. It would help eliminate the chaotic policy reversals that come with each change in government. For example, as prime minister, Stephen Harper was famously opposed to carbon pricing: "Anybody who tells you that a carbon tax is an environmental policy is trying to pull the wool over your eyes." A few years later, the new Trudeau government switched Ottawa's focus to put carbon pricing at the centre of Canada's climate policies. The Conservative opposition threatens to eliminate the policy when they get back in power.
Key 4: Carbon budgets that cover all emissions in all years
At the heart of the U.K. Climate Change Act tool kit is the concept of "carbon budgets." The law requires the U.K. to set legally binding five-year carbon budgets. These must include all emissions in every year. These budgets are a critical tool to keep the country on track.
What are we waiting for? How much deeper into the gathering climate storm are we going to keep flying blind and dangerously off course?
The British still have a lot of emissions to cut, including those uncounted by all countries — international flights and shipping, plus from imported and exported goods. But they are making real progress on the emissions that all countries are responsible for under international rules — direct emissions inside their country.
Canadians, in contrast, have cut little from our direct emissions in the past three decades. Since 1990, our pollution per capita has gone from 22 tCO2 to 20 tCO2. At this rate, it will take us centuries just to get to where the British are now. We currently pollute triple the global average. And despite being one of the world's "Dirty Dozen" climate polluters, both in total emissions and per capita, we haven't taken responsibility for our excesses by meeting our climate commitments — or even by creating a plan that meets them.It's not that Justin Trudeau isn't sincere. It's just that he's not up to the job. He's got 10 years. Lots of promises. No plan. Remember, this is the Liberal government that proclaimed a state of climate emergency and then, less than 24-hours later, greenlighted a massive bitumen pipeline expansion.