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O’Toole doubles down on promise to return Canada to old emissions target — despite experts’ warnings

Click to play video: 'Canada election: Where do political parties stand on reducing gas emissions?' Canada election: Where do political parties stand on reducing gas emissions?
WATCH: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Monday he supports building the cancelled Northern Gateway oil pipeline largely because it would provide Indigenous communities in favour of the project with economic opportunities. Eric Sorensen reports on where political parties stand on reducing gas emissions to tackle the climate change crisis – Aug 30, 2021

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is doubling down on his pledge to take Canada back to the greenhouse gas emissions target first set by former prime minister Stephen Harper.

During a campaign stop on Monday, O’Toole said that Canadians deserve a “real plan” for addressing climate change and that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau makes big promises about greenhouse gas emissions but never keeps them.

“Mr. Trudeau says nice things and then doesn’t deliver,” O’Toole said.

Read more: O’Toole rejects Liberals’ higher emission reduction goal, vows to still meet Paris target

O’Toole’s remarks about Trudeau refer to the fact that, under Liberal leadership, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have gone up each year since 2015, according to government statistics.

But O’Toole’s promise, if kept, would force Canada to backtrack on its recently-made commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond what was originally agreed to at the 2015 Paris climate change summit.

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Canada’s new target, announced in April and then formalized with the United Nations in July, commits Canada to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 45 per cent compared to 2005 levels by 2030.

This is up from the original target set by Harper — and adopted by Trudeau in 2015 — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. This is the target O’Toole says a Conservative government would meet.

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Scientists have warned that if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t drastically reduced soon, the most catastrophic and debilitating effects of climate change may become unavoidable.

A recent report published by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the world must take decisive action to end emissions from fossil fuels.

“For (Trudeau) to just make up new targets without a plan or with just, I guess, quadrupling the carbon tax again, that’s not a real plan,” O’Toole said Monday.

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“It’s why we went out in April, after months of consultation, to deliver a plan to meet our commitment. And then we can work on ambitions past that.”

Read more: Conservatives reveal climate plan with a carbon tax ‘personal savings account’

The main parts of the Conservative’s climate change plan were announced by O’Toole in April. Many of these details were then included in the party’s 2021 election platform.

The Conservative plan includes a commitment to meet the Paris Agreement target for greenhouse gas emissions, but doesn’t specify an exact percentage amount for what that means.

On Sunday, during a French-language interview with Radio Canada, O’Toole confirmed the party’s target is the 30 per cent reduction target first set by Harper.

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O’Toole also faced renewed questions Monday about comments made by a Conservative candidates that appear out-of-step with the party’s climate change promises.

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This comes after Cheryl Gallant, the incumbent Conservative MP for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, was told by the party to take down videos from her YouTube channel that warned voters the Liberals are preparing for a “climate lockdown.”

O’Toole said all candidates running for the Conservatives support the party’s climate change policies. He also said all members of his caucus and any future Conservative cabinet would have to be aligned with these views.

Conservative plan won’t meet Paris target

Caroline Brouillette, domestic policy manager at the Climate Action Network, said the Conservative plan for greenhouse gas emissions would result in Canada missing its Paris Agreement targets, which, she said, would make it less likely that global temperature increases remain low.

That’s because the target isn’t a 30 per cent reduction in emissions — despite what O’Toole insists — but is instead the 40 to 45 per cent target proposed by the duly-elected Liberal government in April and accepted by the United Nations in July.

Read more: Tories tell candidate who raised concern over ‘climate lockdown’ to take down videos

Any policy that promises to do less than that would be backtracking, Brouillette said, and would need to be explained to international partners who are promising to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not less.

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The Conservative promise to reduce emissions by 30 per cent is the least ambitious of all the parties. The Liberals are pledging 40 to 45 per cent, the NDP are promising 50 per cent, and the Green Party has promised 60 per cent.

“The Conservatives are proposing to weaken our current commitment. The Liberals are proposing a 40 to 45 per cent range in emissions reductions. That’s higher, but still below our fair share of the global efforts to limit warming by 1.5 degrees (Celsius),” Brouillette said.

“What we’d really like to see is a race to the top when it comes to climate ambition between Canadian political parties rather than the race to the bottom that we’re seeing now.”

Limits on oil and gas

The Liberals, meanwhile, are pledging even tougher standards for the oil and gas sector aimed at helping Canada meet its net-zero emissions target by 2050.

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On Sunday, Trudeau said the Liberals plan to make oil and gas companies meet five-year targets for carbon emission reductions beginning in 2025. The increasingly strict targets would ensure fossil fuel producers gradually reduce their emissions over time on a path toward net-zero.

Brouillette said this commitment is good because it means companies will need to implement serious climate change policies and “caps” on emissions now, rather than waiting for legislated targets to kick in the future.

Read more: Trudeau vows to regulate oil and gas emissions, electric car sales

But, she said, any promises about reducing emissions must be accompanied by detailed plans for exactly how they’ll be accomplished. So far, the Liberals haven’t done that, she said.

“While it’s really good to see the Liberals name that elephant in the Canadian climate policy room, how that’s implemented and the details about how these caps are defined, through which mechanism they’re regulated, will be really important,” she said. “Because we’ve heard big talk from this party before.”

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The Liberals also said Sunday that they’ll ensure half of all new vehicles sold in Canada by 2030 are zero-emission. They’ve also set a target of reaching 100 per cent zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

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Trudeau also pledged $2 billion to create a fund for workers who live in areas of the country where oil and gas have traditionally been big employers. This fund would help workers transition to a green economy as Canada implements stricter and stricter emissions targets and limits the use of fossil fuels.

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