Third Times the Charm? Analyzing the NDP’s third crack at the Climate Change Accountability Act

By Shawn Khan

The NDP has re-introduced the Climate Change Accountability Act to the House of Commons for the third time. It was first introduced in 2006, but was lost in the shuffle of the 2008 election. It was then re-introduced in 2009, and was then infamously shut down by the Senate without debate in 2010. This bill sets green house gas emission targets – it mandates a 25% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020, and an 80% reduction by 2050.

The Climate Change Accountability Act (now Bill C-224) was presented this week in exactly the same form as it was in 2006. Although the idea that such a bill exists is a great step in the right direction, are the targets that this bill mandates enough? In light of recent updates to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, which indicate that sea level rise will occur faster than anyone had previously predicted, it is clear that this bill needs to be updated to reflect the recent findings of climate scientists worldwide. Not only should this bill curb Canada’s ever-increasing emissions, it should echo the demands of Canadians. The vast majority of Canadians are worried about climate change and think the government should act to stop it, and so it seems that the time has come for Canadians to stand united in their demand for a strong and effective Climate Change Accountability Act.

The goals of this bill contradict many party values, adding a strong element of party politics to this bill. The strategy of the NDP in this case is ‘go big or go home’ – they’re pushing for big, rapid changes to the way we think about energy. The Liberals tend to take small steps in the right direction that could add up to a big change over time. The Harper Government, however, tends to ignore international emission target trends and agreements, and chooses a sector-by-sector approach to emissions reductions. Even with a succession of small improvements, it is unlikely that strong emissions regulations will exist before 2050 in the absence of one comprehensive climate bill that covers all sectors and sources of pollution.

With all the politics of the bill, there is also politics between the political parties on where they stand on climate change. This bill that the NDP is bring forward is a step in the right direction but will not get the support of every single member of the House of Commons. We see that the Liberals are always putting bills forward to take the environment one small step forward which in the Senate try to get the Government to do more on climate change, which is good but doesn’t address the big bold climate change issues. Last everyone should look at what the 5 independent members (who will support this bill) bring forward as motions and debates around this bill. On the other side, the Canadian Government is giving speeches at the United Nations meetings saying that Canada will not commit to the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. For most of the members of the governing party they will follow the party line and not support strong targets that are fast enough. The Government only approach to Climate Change is a sector by sector regulations that will take until 2050 to get everything where they want them.

Where does this put the NDP Climate Change Bill?

There are two approaches that the NDP can take to tackle Climate Change.

  1. They can take baby steps like the Liberals did in the past and take a longer approach to helping solve Climate Change here in Canada and abroad.

  2. Try and get this symbolic, progressive bill through the Canadian Parliament which will be an uphill battle.

The first approach would let the NDP run business as usual, which is slow and steady. This approach is simply not effective for dealing with climate change – without real declines in emissions in the next few years, global temperature increases could exceed 6˚C. The silver lining to the ‘slow and steady’ tactic is that the NDP can work with the Harper Government, which appears to be blind to the multiple thousands of deaths that are already occurring as a result of climate change, and make some small changes that will help Canada down the road. However, with the active support of Canadians for the adoption of a strong Climate Change Accountability Act, we could see the majority of MPs supporting this bill in the House of Commons.

To this end, we need to create a massive movement in Canada where we demand policies that we want enacted, and refuse ease up when the going gets tough. We need to have strong groups forming across Canada to lobby their Members of Parliament to vote in favour of climate action in Canada, regardless of party lines. The more individuals of all races and genders that speak out and refuse to allow climate change to ravage the citizens of this planet, the more change we will see.

Will the NDP Climate Change Bill pass? And what will it matter if it does? Only time will tell, but pressure from a grassroots movement for climate justice will certainly push the odds in favour of fair, ambitious and legally binding climate legislation. This summer we’re building that movement, join in.

Shawn is the Toronto Regional Organizer with the CYCC.


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