The House

No new national emissions targets for now, premiers say

Premiers from two of the country's largest provinces -- BC's Christy Clark and Ontario's Kathleen Wynne -- say the federal government should reconsider its promise to enact more ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, centre, and Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, right, listen to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the during a First Ministers Meeting in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, March. 3, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Premiers from two of the country's largest provinces say the federal government should reconsider its promise to enact more ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets.

"At this point we have to be realistic and we have to recognize that we're not on track to meet the targets that are in place. We better figure that out and then we can talk about how we can do more, even more than that," Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told CBC Radio's The House.

Her comments were echoed by B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who says her province is already struggling to meet its ambitious targets despite having dramatically curtailed fossil fuel consumption.

"We've learned here in British Columbia with the highest and broadest and most transparent — and only revenue-neutral — carbon tax in North America we're still not meeting our targets today," Clark said in a separate interview with The House.

"I don't want to disappoint Canadians. I just recognize from British Columbia's perspective — where we have dropped fossil fuel use while the rest of the country has grown — we still are having a real struggle trying to meeting the targets."

Federal, provincial and territorial officials will work over the next six months to draft a national climate plan that the leaders hope to endorse at another summit in October. Canada's environment minister, Catherine McKenna, said there will be new targets to announce at that time.

"We will have a target at the end of the six month process," McKenna told The House.

The Harper government set a target of a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2030. The Trudeau government has said its reduction targets will be much more ambitious, something McKenna reaffirmed in her interview with Hall.

"We know there are a lot of emissions coming from transportation — how do we reduce emissions there? Buildings, how do we make those more energy efficient? So, we're going to go through that exercise and then we will know where we can be with our target, which I've said is a floor … not a ceiling."

Could that goal be replaced by a more ambitious one when first ministers reconvene in the fall? "I can't tell you that," Wynne said.

"What we have said is that we understand that we're going to have to increase our level of ambition, and ultimately, that may be setting new targets."

Clark said McKenna should dial back her enthusiasm for boosting targets in the face of slow progress. "I think we should try and contain our enthusiasm for reaching ever further before we even know how we're going to get to what we've already said," Clark said.