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NDP Reveals ‘Ambitious’ Climate Change Plan

Environmental groups are praising Jagmeet Singh’s new plan, which promises to save Canadians $900 per year on home energy costs through upgrades.

by Hilary Beaumont
May 31 2019, 5:40pm

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh presents the party's plan for climate change as deputy leader Alexandre Boulerice looks on in Montreal on Friday, May 31, 2019. Photo via The Canadian Press 

The NDP’s newly revealed climate change plan that promises 300,000 new jobs is drawing praise from environmental advocates who hope it will pressure the Liberals to announce higher emissions reduction targets ahead of the fall election.

But climate advocates also point out that the NDP plan does not commit to shelving all proposed fossil fuel projects, a move they see as necessary to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The NDP plan doesn’t make an emissions reduction commitment that can be directly compared to the other parties.

The Liberals have committed to a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030—the same commitment as the previous Stephen Harper-led Conservative government. In their plan released earlier this month, the Greens committed to a 60 percent reduction below 2005 levels by 2030. The Conservatives have yet to release a climate change plan but say they will later in June.

The NDP does not make a commitment based on a percentage reduction. Specifically, the NDP promises they will “adopt science-based GHG emissions reduction targets for 2030 that are in line with stabilizing the global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius, and be accountable for meeting them.”

The NDP claims that all the measures in their plan will reduce emissions to 450 megatonnes by 2030, which amounts to a 37 percent reduction below 2005 levels. But NDP policy wonks emphasized to VICE that this is just a start; they are planning additional measures that will bump that percentage up. They said the important thing is to commit to keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with what the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recommended.

“The NDP would do almost as much harm to the economy as the Conservatives want to do to the planet,” Environment and Climate Change minister Catherine McKenna said in a statement emailed to VICE. “The NDP want to do some of the things we are already doing to fight climate change, but their approach would threaten jobs and hurt workers.”

The NDP plan makes promises that environmental advocates from 350.org and Environmental Defense called “exciting” and “ambitious.”

The plan aims to create 300,000 jobs over four years in sectors connected to the clean energy transition, including energy efficiency retrofits, and renewable energy. It promises to save households $900 per year on home energy costs through upgrades. Those energy efficient retrofits would be completed on all homes by 2050. The NDP also says they will work with municipalities to make public transit more affordable, with the goal of making transit free. And they want to make it easier to buy and charge zero-emission vehicles. All public transit fleets would become electric by 2030.

The NDP says it will continue pricing carbon, a policy first implemented by the Liberals. They said they would roll back “breaks the Liberals have given to big polluters,” but would not increase the carbon tax.

There are also clear commitments like immediately ending fossil fuel subsidies to producers, and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh had also previously committed to cancelling the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion if elected.

“It seems like a pretty strong plan,” said Dale Marshall, National Climate Program Manager for Environmental Defense, a climate advocacy organization. “It basically covers the vast majority of the bases that are needed.”

But he said there’s still a question mark hanging over proposed projects that would increase fossil fuel production, including pipelines that would transport liquefied natural gas to an export facility in Prince Rupert, BC. Singh has not been clear on whether he supports various LNG production and transportation projects in BC. While some First Nations support the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline, others say it threatens their land and rights. Implementing UNDRIP, as the new NDP plan promises, may not be in line with building the pipeline.

“Every fossil fuel project that’s proposed should be shelved,” Marshall said. “We need to be retiring fossil fuel projects, not adding them.”

Marshall said the NDP plan promises big benefits, even for Canadians who don’t take climate change seriously. “They talk about the job creation potential, which is in line with what the research shows, that we will create more jobs by moving toward a low-carbon economy,” he said.

“From an economic standpoint this makes sense,” he continued. “The cost of not acting is greater than the cost of acting. We’re going to pay a lot more if we don’t take action along with the rest of the world.”

Cam Fenton, spokesperson for Canada’s 350.org, an organization working to end the climate crisis, said the NDP plan is “really exciting.”

“There are areas it can be pushed and be bolder, but it looks like the pathway we need to be on.”

350.org is calling for a Green New Deal in Canada, similar to what New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed in the U.S.

Fenton says the NDP plan is in line with their proposed Green New Deal, but less ambitious.

“When we talk about the Green New Deal, we talk about this idea of a World War II scale economic mobilization to tackle the climate crisis. In WWII the government of Canada created 28 new Crown corporations to direct our economy to rise to that crisis. So I think there’s an opportunity for that kind of big thinking. And this doesn’t quite get all the way to that really big, transformative thinking.”

Now that the Greens and NDP have released ambitious platforms, “the big question mark now is what the Liberals will do,” said Fenton.

“Given last fall’s IPCC report, given the flooding in eastern Canada, the fires that are already starting in the west this summer, I don’t think [the Liberals] can get up and say, ‘We’re doing enough’.”

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