Canada’s Environment Watchdog Calls Inaction on Climate Change ‘Disturbing’

A new report paints both the Liberals or the Conservatives as weak on climate change.

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Apr 2 2019, 6:48pm

Photo via Pixabay.

Canada’s environment commissioner has come down hard on the government for not doing enough to combat climate change.

Julie Gelfand’s Spring Report will be her last contribution as commissioner as her five-year term expires. In it Gelfand takes no prisoners in her assessment of the state Canada is in, stating that both the Liberals and Conservatives haven’t done enough to address an encroaching crisis.

“For decades, successive federal governments have failed to reach their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the government is not ready to adapt to a changing climate,” wrote Gelfand in the ”commissioner’s perspective” portion of her report.

“This must change.”

The report was the result of audits of four areas, including aquatic invasive species, protecting fish from mining effluent, and the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Finance Canada's assessment of fossil fuel subsidies. The recurring findings throughout the four audits was that agencies weren’t addressing climate change, and if they were, they weren’t doing so in an adequate manner.

The report and criticisms come as reports that climate change will hit Canada twice as hard as other countries recently came to light. Further to this it seems Canada will not meet its goal of cutting 2005 emissions by 70 percent set out by the Paris Accord.

In the first of the four audits, Gelfand writes that “Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Canada Border Services Agency had not taken the required steps to prevent invading species from becoming established in Canadian waters.” These invasive species include the zebra mussel, green crab, and tunicates—species that all became established. Gelfand wrote that the agencies “did not adequately enforce the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations, in part because they did not sufficiently support fishery and border services officers.”

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Photo via Government of Canada.

The commission audited how well the aforementioned agencies were able to protect aquatic habitats from mining effluent. Gelfand found that while the agencies did provide monitor protections from metal mines, “non-metal mines such as potash, coal and oil sands were inspected less frequently.”

The final two audits included in the report focus on subsidiaries offered to the fossil fuel industry and how the definition of a single word can mean in politics. Canada, alongside many other countries, have jumped on board with a G20 pledge to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. However, the report outlines how the ECCC and Finance Canada have a rather shoddy definition of “inefficient,” something that kneecaps their assessments because it was “so broad that it could not guide their assessments of whether subsidies were inefficient.” Gelfand said that Finance Canada did not “include adequate consideration of social and environmental issues” whereas the ECCC’s assessment was “incomplete” as it only looked at 23 of 200 federal organizations.

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Photo via Government of Canada.

In her commissioner’s perspective segment, Gelfand says that the report is meant to encourage “long-term development.” She wrote that it’s meant to spur the agencies criticized to action as “a bad report card” can “often lead to good outcomes as government organizations take action while audits are under way.”

“This historic audit brought together all of Canada’s provincial auditors general, along with the federal office, all auditing one topic at the same time. Never had this been done before in Canada,” she wrote. “This work provided Canadians and elected officials from coast to coast to coast with a clear picture of the nation’s status on what is one of the most significant challenges of our time.

“As important as this snapshot is, it’s the slow action on climate change that is disturbing.”

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