Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer‘s long-awaited climate plan is pitching billions of dollars in new spending on clean technology and putting an emphasis on incentivizing private-sector green investments.
The plan, released on Wednesday evening, is a contrast to the Liberal government’s approach of using a carbon tax and public investment funds that instead lays out requirements for Canadian companies to invest in green technology if they have emit more than 40 kilotonnes a year, and also includes a number of tax credits.
“Technology, not taxes,” Scheer said in a press conference describing the approach of his plan.
“The fact is we can actually create more jobs in Canada through technological growth while at the same time lowering global emissions. This is perhaps the single greatest difference between the Liberal scheme and the Conservative plan.
The plan, which Scheer has previously said will include cutting the carbon tax, would set emissions standards requiring major emitters that produce more than 40 kilotonnes per year of greenhouse gases to invest in private-sector research and development of green technology.
Those amounts will fluctuate based on the standards set for varying industries but would not be finalized unless the Conservatives are elected.
Under the current Liberal carbon tax, emission caps kick in for polluters that emit more than 50 kilotonnes per year.
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Under the standards described by the official, big polluters could meet those investment requirements by investing in subsidiaries of Canadian companies to do eligible research and development for emissions-reducing technology, a pool of industrial research and development green tech investments, and Canadian green bonds or financial tools focusing on emissions-reducing technology.
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They could also invest in Canadian clean technology companies that are piloting or adopting similar technology to reduce emissions, or into programs at Canadian colleges or universities focused on developing clean technology.
As well, roughly half of the costing of the plan focuses on three promises: a green home renovation tax credit, a tax credit for businesses using green technology, and an accelerator to help companies that can prove they are low emitters using industry-leading technology expand into other countries.
The Green Homes Tax Credit proposes spending $900 million over two years to give Canadians up to $2,850 each year on the cost of renovations to make their homes more energy efficient from a cost of between $1,000 and $20,000.
The Green Patent Credit would initially be $20 million per year before rising to $80 million after four years, and would reduce the business tax rate from 15 per cent to five per cent for businesses that can prove income stemming from a patented piece of green technology.
A Green Expansion Accelerator also proposes spending $500 million over three years to help fund the expansion of Canadian companies working in industries like light natural gas that want to expand into jurisdictions with higher emissions.
Combined, those pledges include a total of $1.42 billion in spending to spur green innovation and adaption.
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That’s not far from what the federal Liberals pledged in Budget 2019: $1.01 billion to make homes, public buildings and businesses more energy efficient, delivered to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities through the Green Municipal Fund.
They also pledged $300 million over three years as a purchase incentive for zero-emission vehicles, $130 million over five years to install more green vehicle charging stations, and $5 million over five years to work with the auto industry to develop better green vehicles.
As well, the Conservatives are also proposing measures including creating a “Canada Clean Brand,” described as “a product designation that will communicate to the world which technologies can lower emissions in other countries.”
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Scheer described the intent of the plan as to put Canada in the “best position” to hit its emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement while also ensuring that any money generated as a result of the reduction standards placed on industry stays in the private sector.
Canada’s commitment under the Paris Agreement is to reduce its emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, based off 2005 levels.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer said last week that the government may need a higher carbon tax in order to reduce emissions to hit that target but the Liberals maintain that they are on track and remain committed to hitting the targeted reduction levels.
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Climate change has become a significant political issue for the governing Liberals, who frequently use Scheer’s lack of a plan to lambaste him as a leader who will not prioritize the risks of a changing climate if elected as prime minister.
At a press conference following Scheer’s announcement, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna called the Conservative plan “fake,” saying “there are almost no details.”
“The plan across the board has no details, no numbers, no serious commitment to meet our international obligations,” she said. “Canadians deserve better. Canadians expect that we will have a serious climate plan, that we will take advantage of the economic opportunity and we will do better.”
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Speaking to reporters on Wednesday evening, NDP MP Peter Julian called the Conservative plan a “collection of boutique tax credits” and a “rebranding exercise.”
Scheer promised last year to release a climate plan but has taken until now to do so.
-With files from Hannah Jackson.