The First Hundred Days: Ottawa Must Move (Even) Faster on Climate

The country is still catching its breath today, after a federal election in which Justin Trudeau’s message of hope and change won his Liberal Party a majority in the House of Commons.

The new government will need a lot of help, dialogue, and science-based policy advocacy to address a large backlog of environmental challenges. And we know that Sierra Club Canada Foundation’s supporters are ready to step up.

But of all the topics the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will have to address, one urgent priority rises to the top. New governments like to talk about what they can achieve in the first 100 days after they take office, but in this case, 100 days will be too late.

Urgently Needed: One National Climate Target

Forty-one days from now, on November 30, the United Nations climate change summit convenes in Paris. It’s a make-or-break meeting where the world’s governments are widely expected to reach agreement on a plan to control the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Officially, this is the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This year, after 20 failed attempts, they’re expected to get it more or less right.

That’s great news for the climate, but challenging news for Prime Minister Trudeau. On the campaign trail, Trudeau refused to set a firm national greenhouse gas target until sometime after the summit. “What we need is not ambitious political targets,” he told CBC’s The House October 10.“What we need is an ambitious plan to reduce our emissions in the country.”

A Climate Plan in Five Steps

Which means that, instead of arriving in Paris with the unambitious carbon plan the Harper government had submitted to the UN climate secretariat, Canada is in danger of attending the conference with no plan at all.

Here are five steps the Trudeau government can take to prepare for Paris, while reinforcing the PM’s commitment to a more constructive Canadian presence on the world stage:

  • Call a First Ministers’ meeting on climate targets before the Paris summit. Trudeau has said he wants to consult the provinces and territories before finalizing a national carbon target. Consultation is a good thing. But a quick look at the calendar tells you that this consultation will have to take place at warp speed. 
  • Support a 100% renewable energy target by 2050 as a key component of the Paris agreement. It’s one of the surest steps to decarbonize the global energy system and support the development of clean energy industries. 
  • Set a carbon reduction target for 2025, rather than 2030. This is a bigger deal than it might seem: It would align Canada’s targets with the United States’ and support the urgent need for countries to review and strengthen their carbon targets every five years, rather than 10. 
  • Promise to enshrine Canada’s climate target in law. It’s the best way to set a clear goal and accept accountability for meeting it. 
  • Do more right away. Canada can get a lot more done by 2020 by moving forward on a national carbon price, cutting fossil fuel subsidies, and supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies with government investments and innovative finance and tax policy. 

It’s a new day, so take the time to celebrate. You’ve earned it! But don’t get too comfortable. The next round of hard work starts here and we could use your help.

In the next few weeks, Sierra will be hard at work ensuring Canada's new leadership comes up with a climate commitment for Paris, and beyond, that Canadians can be proud of. As you know, our Nation has a lot to address in a brief and precious time frame.

Join us in helping guide Canada into a role of leadership at the UN Climate Summit this December. Donate today.


Diane Beckett
Interim Executive Director • (613)241-4611