Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Environment and climate: hot topics in Ottawa in 2024

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The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, during a question period in Ottawa, before the end of the work, in December 2023.

  • Valérie Boisclair (View profile)Valérie Boisclair

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From opposition to carbon pricing to maintaining jobs in the midst of an energy transition, federal deputies, who are back in the House of Commons, will cross swords on several environmental issues. Here are the issues that may pose challenges to the Trudeau government.

Parliamentary work resumes two weeks after Canadians received their first tax refund carbon.

Subject to strong tensions which experienced a resurgence last fall, the federal system of pricing carbon pollution, imposed in most provinces and territories, will remain in 2024 a bone of contention between the government and the elected conservatives.

In October 2023, the Justin Trudeau government raised the ire of certain provinces by granting a three-year carbon pricing reprieve to oil-heating homes. According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the measure favors Canadians from the Atlantic provinces; 30% of them depend on this fuel to heat their homes.

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The government, however, closed the door to requests from Ontario, #x27;Alberta and Saskatchewan, which demanded a similar exemption for natural gas. In the process, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe decided that the carbon tax would no longer be collected in the province from 2024.

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The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Pierre Poilievre, during of a press conference at Gardewine Transport, a transportation company, in Winnipeg.

The discontent aroused by the management of the Trudeau government in this matter has given ammunition to the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, who is actively campaigning for the abolition of the carbon pricing. According to Pierre Poilievre, the carbon tax adds pressure on the shoulders of Canadians, who already have to face an increase in the cost of living.

At the beginning of December, conservative elected officials sought to block parliamentary work in order to force the Trudeau government to grant other exemptions. In vain.

We have seen that Pierre Poilievre managed to misinform people by saying that carbon pricing is responsible for inflation, which is completely false. Inflation is largely the result of an increase in oil and gas prices, explains Caroline Brouillette, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada.

Although the federal government may want to protect what remains of its carbon pricing policy framework this year, it will face a lot of adversity on this front, he adds. alongside the director of government relations at Équiterre, Marc-André Viau. This is the sort of thorn in the shoe that will remain until the end of the Liberal government's mandate.

The poor decision to exempt the Atlantic provinces created a species distortion in the mechanism that causes the system to hold up less well.

A quote from Marc-André Viau, director of government relations at Équiterre

Another group intends to maintain pressure on the federal government: the agricultural industry.

Producers across the country are counting on Bill C -234 for the government to give them a break from the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act.

The bill initially aimed to exempt farmers from the carbon tax on natural gas and propane for certain activities, including grain drying, heating and cooling of facilities such as barns and greenhouses.

After going back and forth several times between the House of Commons and the Senate, the amended text obtained the green light from the Upper House on third reading last December. In this version, which will return to federal deputies at the start of the year, the exemption for heating and air conditioning of buildings has been withdrawn, to the great dismay of agricultural producers.

The latter, who wanted to see the initial text be adopted as is, received the support of several provinces, including Saskatchewan, Alberta and x27;Ontario.

A contest is to be expected between the House of Commons and the Senate, but also between the government and the opposition, according to Marc-André Viau, who recalls that the bill had obtained the support of all parties opposition in Parliament.

Last year, the Conservatives were criticized by the Liberals and New Democrats for delaying the adoption of Bill C-50, which should govern the country's energy transition. Formerly referred to as just transition, the text was renamed along the way to avoid semantic disputes with certain provinces.

The law must make it possible to support and protect workers in more polluting industries who may be called upon to change jobs during the transition.

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith also opposes the Clean Electricity Regulations, whose goal is to make the Canadian electricity grid carbon neutral by 2035.

Like Danielle Smith's Alberta government, Conservative MPs see the Sustainable Jobs Act as a Trojan horse intended to dismantle – and ultimately eliminate – the country's oil and gas industry. The PCC therefore says it opposes the bill in order to protect a key sector of the economy of the Western provinces.

According to the head of the climate and energy program at Environmental Defense, Aliénor Rougeot, the political battle in which elected officials are engaged is mainly due to the fact that the law weakens the influence of the oil and gas sector on Canadians.

It would remove the influence that the industry exerts on communities and workers to whom it presents itself as the only solution.

A quote from Aliénor Rougeot, head of the climate and energy program at Environmental Defense

The argument will no longer hold water once the workers have an effective gateway to other environments, such as jobs in the renewable energy sector, she adds.

Tabled in June 2023 by the Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, the bill should be examined by the Senate in February. Environmental Defense says it hopes the text will be adopted by June.

Minister Steven Guilbeault took advantage of COP28 last year on climate change, in Dubai, to unveil the outline of its framework for capping greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector. The federal government will require the industry to reduce its emissions by 35 to 38% by 2030 below 2019 levels.

This flagship promise, the implementation of which is impatiently awaited by environmental groups, must become more concrete this year with the filing of regulations in good and due form.

The Environmental Defense organization wants to be able to consult the text of the draft regulation by March. For the moment, it does not constrain anyone, underlines Aliénor Rougeot.

Although she welcomes the imposition of a ceiling, Ms. Rougeot deplores that the targets of the framework are below those imposed on the whole country, namely to reduce emissions by 40 to 45% by 2030. This disparity demonstrates, according to her , a huge gap between the efforts expected from the biggest polluters and the rest of the Canadian population.

Same story from the Climate Action Network Canada, where we anticipate that it will return to other sectors and x27;other workers to compensate for the flexibility afforded to the industry. It will also be necessary to pay particular attention to the measures planned by Ottawa to help oil and gas producers adapt, according to Caroline Brouillette. These loopholes, she says, risk weakening regulation.

The oil and gas industry that is raking in record profits by burning the planet does not x27;does not need flexibility measures. It needs robustness.

A quote from Caroline Brouillette, Executive Director of the Climate Action Network Canada

But Caroline Brouillette is especially concerned about the timetable planned by the federal government, which pushes back the cap on emissions to 2026. Much too late, according to her, to match Canada's climate objectives for 2030.< /p>

In this regard, Saskatchewan and Alberta are once again standing together against Ottawa. Their governments have also expressed their opposition to the proposed regulations to reduce methane emissions and to those on clean electricity, which the federal government must follow up on in 2024.

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