Politics·Fact Check

Why Andrew Scheer's climate plan won't hit Canada's Paris targets

Andrew Scheer says his climate plan is Canada's "best" chance of reaching its Paris Agreement goals. But it doesn't have any firm greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer unveils his climate change plan in Chelsea, Que., in June. His claim that it represents Canada's "best" chance of meeting its Paris Agreement targets doesn't pass muster. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

As part of our federal election coverage, CBC News is assessing the truthfulness and accuracy of statements made by politicians and their parties. 

The Claim: "A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment is Canada's best chance to meet the Paris targets."

-- Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer introducing his party's climate plan in June.

The Facts:

The Conservative Party's climate change-fighting blueprint, dubbed A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment, was more than a year in the making — and it promises many things. 

There's a pledge to create a Green Homes Tax Credit, which would allow Canadians to recoup 20 per cent of what they spend to make their homes more energy efficient, up to a maximum of $3,800. And a vow to tax made-in-Canada climate-friendly inventions at a lower rate in order to spur research and development. The Tories are also committing to improving conservation funding and coming up with better ways to manage wetlands and other habitats.

But Andrew Scheer's environmental plan has one big hole: It doesn't set any targets for greenhouse gas reductions, which is the very point of the 2015 Paris Agreement

And some of the other measures that the document envisions — like doing away with the carbon tax and new fuel standards, changing the threshold for large emitters, and promoting the export of more Canadian oil and gas — seem destined to increase GHG emissions.

A Suncor oilsands plant is shown in Fort McMurray, Alta., in June 2017. In 2017, the oil and gas sector was responsible for 27 per cent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Canada has committed to cutting its national emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030: 513 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq).

As of the latest federal update in December, the country is on track to reduce projected emissions by 199 megatonnes, but remains 79 megatonnes short of the goal under the best case scenario. (The gap could be smaller given that some announced carbon-reduction policies have yet to be included in the projections.)

The decrease to date has largely come from the electricity-generating sector, more specifically from the shuttering of coal-fired power plants. The oil and gas and transportation sectors remain our biggest carbon producers, collectively responsible for 52 per cent of total emissions in 2017. 

A recent analysis of the Conservative plan, prepared by an economist and an environmental engineer for Clean Prosperity, an organization that supports "market-based" responses to climate change, concluded that Scheer's approach would end up being more costly and less effective than current government policies. 

"Our analysis of the emissions reductions potential of the plan demonstrates that it does not have a reasonable chance of achieving Canada's 2030 target under the Paris Agreement," the authors wrote.

And while some of the Conservatives' proposed measures, like the home renovation tax credit, could have a positive effect, any emission reductions would be more than offset by other parts of Scheer's plan, they say.

"The plan would result in Canada missing the Paris target of 513 Mt in 2030 by 109 Mt, an increase of 30 Mt, or 38 per cent, from the current 2030 projection from Environment and Climate Change Canada," the analysis says. 

A Real Plan to Protect our Environment talks about taking "new approaches" to reducing global emissions, such as making Canadian oil and gas the cleanest in the world and using it to replace "dirtier products" in the international market, as well as exporting more Canadian aluminum to displace metals that have a "higher emissions profile." 

Jason Andriulaitis checks a connection under a new solar panel installation in Scugog, Ont., in this April 2016 file photo. Scheer's 60-page climate plan includes a Green Homes Tax Credit, aimed at incentivizing Canadians to renovate their homes with energy-saving technology. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The theory is that Canada might then claim the relative emission reductions as a way to meet its Paris goals. But that would require renegotiating international climate agreements, an idea that Canada tried — and failed — to advance during the Kyoto talks almost 20 years ago.

It's true, as the Tories note, that Canada was responsible for just 1.6 per cent of global GHG emissions in 2014. But that was still enough to rank the country ninth in the world; on a per capita basis, Canada's 37 million people produce more carbon than any other G20 nation.

So is the Scheer plan Canada's "best" shot at meeting its Paris commitments? Quite the opposite, say observers.

"What we're seeing in this proposal is a dismantling of two of our biggest measures under Canada's climate plan — putting a price on pollution and implementing a clean fuel standard," said Isabelle Turcotte, director of federal policy for the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank focused on clean energy. 

From Turcotte's perspective, the Conservative climate policy doesn't even meet the minimum requirement: an unambiguous commitment to meeting Canada's Paris pledge. 

"In 2019, we do not scrap existing climate plans," she said. "We can't afford to lose the momentum that we've gained in Canada. We have to keep going."

The Verdict: 

False, unless the plan changes.

Sources: The Conservative Party of Canada; An Emission and Cost Assessment of "A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment," Clean Prosperity; National greenhouse gas emissions, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Global greenhouse gas emissions, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Progress towards Canada's greenhouse gas emissions target, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Canada still pushing for green credits under Kyoto, Globe and Mail; The G20 transition to a low carbon economy, Climate Transparency.

Clarifications

  • This article has been updated to reflect that the verdict is based on current Conservative plans that could change in the future.
    Jul 30, 2019 10:23 AM ET

About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.

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