Politics

Federal leaders invoke Greta Thunberg to sell their own climate change plans

A day after an emotional Greta Thunberg lashed out at world leaders for their inaction on climate change, Canada's federal candidates couldn't help but capitalize on the climate activist's emotional address to sell their own strategies.

Liberals pledge net-zero emissions by 2050

A day after an emotional Greta Thunberg lashed out at world leaders for their inaction on climate change, Canada's federal candidates couldn't help but capitalize on the climate activist's emotional address to sell their own strategies to tackle the issue. (Jason DeCrow/Associated Press)

A day after an emotional Greta Thunberg lashed out at world leaders for their inaction on climate change, Canada's federal party candidates couldn't help but capitalize on the climate activist's emotional address to sell their own strategies.

Thunberg created quite a buzz following her appearance on Monday at the UN climate summit in New York. The 16-year-old Swede admonished heads of state, accusing them of having "stolen my dreams and my childhood" with empty words about climate change.

With Thunberg's impassioned speech generating headlines across the globe, her name was invoked Tuesday by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May while talking about their climate plans.

Trudeau, in Burnaby, B.C. to talk about the Liberals "ambitious" plan to push Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050, said young people, led by the likes of Thunberg, are driving the conversation about climate change.

Spoke to the world

And in Winnipeg, Singh, who spoke about some of his party's climate change plans, seized on her words, noting how Thunberg spoke to the world, "to leaders around the world, very powerfully."

Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May, said she was 'moved to tears' by Thunberg's speech. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

But it was May, during a campaign stop in Sackville, N.B., who was most effusive in her praise of Thunberg, saying she was "moved to tears" by her speech. May is set to join Thunberg on Friday for the climate strike rally in Montreal, one of several cities across the country that will be holding such protests.

"And [I] realized the inadequacy of anything anyone is doing. And as far as I'm concerned, there's only one climate leader on the planet right now whose voice should be heeded and it's Greta Thunberg," May said.

Perhaps not surprisingly, May suggested there's only one voice in Canada that should be heeded when it comes to climate change strategy: hers.

"And if you want green policies, don't be misled by greenwashing. You have to vote Green if you want a Green policy."

Her party has already released its plan, which includes legislating a 60 per cent cut in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, doubling the government's current 30 per cent target. Her plan would also end all fossil fuel subsidies and move Canada to a zero-carbon economy by 2050.

She was dismissive of the Liberals' proposals, unveiled on Tuesday in two steps — through an announcement in the morning by Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna, who has been serving as federal environment minister, and the Liberal leader himself in B.C.

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau is pledging to push Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau said they would set legally binding targets, based on the advice of experts, but he offered few details as to how these targets would be met. 

'Make it impossible'

May argued that the Liberals can't set a 2050 goal of carbon neutrality if their plan is to be 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

"I want to be very clear about this, the current target that the Liberals are holding to, makes it impossible to keep this new promise," May said, her voice raising to stress the words "makes it impossible."

She did, however, offer the plan some backhanded praise.

"Is it preferable to [the plan of] Maxime Bernier? Oh yes. Is it preferable to what Andrew Scheer has offered? You bet. But it's not anywhere near what is required."

The NDP released their climate change strategy months ago, which includes eliminating fossil fuel subsidies immediately and getting Canada powered by net carbon-free electricity by 2030.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh accused Trudeau of making 'pretty promises.' (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

On Tuesday, Singh dove into some of the details, saying that if elected, the NDP would  build an east-west corridor to carry clean energy across the country and create a  publicly funded, $15-billion "climate bank" to support businesses fighting climate change.

As well, his government would make a "massive" investment to ensure all public transit across Canada is electrified by 2030 —  but he would not share the estimated cost when pressed for details.

And he couldn't help but take a swipe at Trudeau, saying he was offering "nice words" and "pretty promises" that are not backed up by action.

Top priority

Climate change is considered a major issue for many Canadians. According to a poll commissioned by CBC News and released in June, nearly two-thirds of Canadians see fighting climate change as a top priority.

The problem for politicians, however, is that half of those surveyed wouldn't be willing to spend more than $100 per year in extra taxes to prevent climate change, making it challenging for elected officials to come up with an effective plan that won't doom them in the polls.

Which is why many of the party leaders may be somewhat fuzzy on details of their policies, and the costs involved. 

About the Author

Mark Gollom

Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

With files from Kathleen Harris and The Canadian Press

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