In My Opinion: Steps being taken on climate plan, but work still to be done

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the Liberal MP for Beaches-East York.


Our planet needs “deep, rapid, and sustained” climate action. That’s the clear message from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its recent report authored by 700 top scientists from 92 countries.

As it stands, there’s a substantial ‘emissions gap’ between a credible net zero pathway and the climate targets that countries have collectively set.

There’s also an ‘implementation gap’ between the policies in place and the targets we’ve set.

Both gaps need to be addressed, with greater ambition and action.

In Canada, we’ve come a long way since 2015 and we need to keep moving forward.

The rising price on pollution is helping to shift demand and spur innovation, with the revenue rebated directly to ensure low and middle-income Canadians aren’t worse off.

There’s now a clean fuel standard, rules to phase out coal-fired electricity, and increasingly stringent measures to slash methane emissions.

Work is also well underway to establish a clean electricity regulation and to cap emissions from the oil and gas sector. We’ve also put a climate accountability law in place that sets strong targets, requires the government to table a comprehensive climate plan, and ensures regular progress reports to keep all future governments honest.

In past budgets, our federal government invested billions in retrofits, zero emission vehicles, public transit, nature protection, clean technologies, critical minerals, and more.

We’ve also encouraged recent and multibillion dollar private sector investments in the clean economy, from auto assembly plants for hybrids and EVs, to the production of critical minerals, to battery manufacturing.

The 2023 federal budget builds on this work, with new initiatives to protect our freshwater and to deliver clean electricity, clean technology manufacturing, and clean hydrogen.

The Canadian Climate Institute called the budget measures “decisive steps to ensure Canada won’t fall behind in the global race to net zero.”

The Pembina Institute said the budget “sends a clear message that Canada is committed to building a cleaner future.”

The International Institute for Sustainable Development called the funding for clean electricity and freshwater “unprecedented” and the David Suzuki Foundation called it “historic” and “an important turning point.”

Challenges remain, of course. The TMX (Trans Mountain pipeline expansion) project is a waste of tax dollars in the wrong direction. It’s past time to put an end to any fossil fuel subsidy. And some programs need to be strengthened, especially for home and business retrofits. We also need to increase international climate financing, just as we need all provinces to step up and do their part.

We lack a serious and credible climate plan here in Ontario, for example, and that undercuts our overall ability to meet and exceed existing national targets. Despite the significant federal action to date, we aren’t yet where we need to be. But as IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) lead scientist Dr. Friederike Otte noted, while the recent report highlights “the urgency of the problem and the gravity of it,” there are “also lots of reasons for hope – because we still have the time to act and we have everything we need.”

Optimism is also warranted in the wake of a federal budget that delivers, with an increasing recognition that serious climate action will leave a cleaner planet for our kids, create jobs today, and lower bills to make life more affordable.

– Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the Liberal MP for Beaches-East York.
– Danielle LaBrash is a Green PAC (Political Action Commitee) intern in the office of Erskine-Smith.

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