If approved, Bill C-12 would see Canada set greenhouse gas reduction targets every five years starting in 2030.
The bill was announced by federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson in Ottawa Thursday.
“We cannot afford inaction in combating climate change,” he said.
“Tackling this challenge and making the most of new opportunities with require resources, pragmatism and very much, Canadian ingenuity.”
The Net-zero Emissions Accountability Act would lay out a detailed plan for how Canada can achieve neutrality in its emissions over the next 30 years.
“If a target is not met, the government must table a report in Parliament detailing the reasons why, and the specific actions that will be taken to course correct,” Wilkinson explained.
The government’s policy will be driven by an advisory panel of up to 15 experts from across Canada.
“Somebody from oil and gas needs to be included on that advisory panel. Oil and gas is the major contributor to GDP in the country,” explained Ken Kobly, president and CEO of Alberta’s Chamber of Commerce.
He said it will be very important that industry has a clear understanding of how these targets could impact potential projects and pipelines, some of which are already years in the making.
To that end, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) says it is committed to helping Ottawa.
“Any pathway to net-zero includes the efficient use of oil and natural gas,” CAPP president Tim McMillan said.
“Considerable investment in technology and innovation at scale will be needed, including negative emissions technologies such as carbon capture, use and storage.
“There are important opportunities for industry to contribute, given our expertise in these areas.”
Alberta’s environment minister, Jason Nixon, reacted to the bill Thursday afternoon.
“We are going to continue, inside this province, to meet our environmental obligations, but we’re going to do it Alberta’s way, which is focused on technology and innovation, focused on making sure there’s a future for hydrocarbons.”
When asked about whether there should be penalties if targets are not met, Nixon said no.
“I do not think there should be penalties. I think the federal government should not be focusing on targets or pie-in-the-sky numbers.
“I think, instead, they should be taking a page out of Alberta’s book.”
Alberta EcoTrust disagreed, applauding Ottawa for laying out a framework to reduce emissions.
Mike Mellross is the program director for the group’s Climate Innovation Fund, which supports green projects in Edmonton and Calgary. He said it’s not just industry that will need to evolve, but people’s lifestyles as well.
Mellross explained urban centres also contribute a lot of emissions – in particular, old buildings. He said Alberta can help reach the net-zero targets.
“Renovations and retrofitting those buildings so that they are more efficient, and introducing on-site renewable energy.”
Transportation is another big contributor to pollution and Mellross pointed out a number of ways that industry can also go green.
“Active transportation and mass transit become viable options within our cities. We also can support the introduction of low and no emission vehicles.”
But Mellross noted it’s critical the federal targets are turned into tangible actions at the local level.
“For instance, if there is a change being contemplated to the national building code, there needs to be a system or strong mechanism to make sure the province accepts that code and that local authorities implement that code.”
If Bill C-12 is proclaimed, Wilkinson will have six months to develop a target and plan for 2030.