‘Magical thinking’: Environment groups say Canada’s new emissions plan will fall short of UN goals

A new United Nations climate change report warns emissions need to peak by 2025, and be slashed nearly in half by 2030 to keep global warming from reaching limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. Environmental groups in Canada say the Liberals’ latest emissions plan will fall short of those goals.

“Our pledge is weaker than most major European pledges, and weaker than that of the U.S.,” Environmental Defence programs director Keith Brooks told from Toronto. “Canada’s Emissions Reduction Plan is the most detailed climate plan this country has ever had, and yet it indulges in magical thinking in proposing that oil production can increase by almost a million barrels per day while emissions come down.”

Released Monday by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the massive new report says without further action, the planet will be between 2.4°C and 3.5°C hotter at the end of the century, which could expose much of the world to severe impacts like drought and wildfire. The Paris goal is to keep global warming well below 2°C, and ideally at 1.5°C.

The IPCC says reaching that target is still possible, if the world steps up efforts and reduces global greenhouse gas emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, and reaches net zero carbon dioxide emissions in the early 2050s.

“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C,” said Jim Skea, who co-chaired the group that produced the UN report. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”


The 3,675-page report was produced by 278 authors from 65 countries, and was approved by the IPCC’s 195 member governments, which includes Canada. In a statement released Monday, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault thanked Canadians who contributed.

“The science shows that it is vital that countries do more to address climate change and keep the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C within reach, and on a faster timeline,” Guilbeault said. “We must increase our ambition to avoid catastrophic climate change and fully seize the economic opportunities that ambitious action presents.”

Last week, the federal government unveiled a new emissions-reduction plan, which aims to cut emissions to at least 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, with the ultimate goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The plan also calls for 100 per cent of all new vehicles to be electric by 2035.

“Canada is warming at twice the global rate and up to three times the global average in the North,” Guilbeault said. “It’s critical to Canada’s economic and social well-being that we take rapid action to fight climate change.”


Brooks from Environmental Defence says Canada’s emissions plan relies too heavily on future technology, and instead should be focused on phasing out the production and use of fossil fuels.

“The most troubling part is that Canada is projecting a significant increase in the amount of oil produced in this country, though at the same time, emissions are projected to drop significantly thanks largely to carbon capture and storage — an expensive measure that isn’t being done at scale anywhere in the world,” Brooks explained. “Relying on unproven and speculative techno-fixes would be gambling with our lives.”

Eddy Perez is Climate Action Network Canada’s international climate diplomacy manager.

“Avoiding short-term action by relying on long-term plans that assume that somehow, somewhere, somebody will remove our emissions from the atmosphere in large amounts sometime in the future is dangerous,” Perez told from Montreal.

Like Brooks, Perez says Canada’s climate plans need to focus on the country’s largest greenhouse gas emitter: the fossil fuel industry.

“We can’t forget that Canada is the only G7 country whose emissions have increased since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015,” said Perez, who previously worked at the IPCC. “We can’t be a climate leader if we are not able to tackle the sector that is destroying every possibility we have to build a safe future.”

With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press

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