What's the deal with setting more climate targets?

Big news! The federal government has proposed new climate change legislation that’s supposed to help Canada (on balance) ditch carbon emissions by 2050, also called achieving net-zero, by requiring a bunch of smaller targets along the way.

You’re forgiven if you saw the headlines, or didn’t, but struggled to make sense of what this means or whether it’s helpful. Sometimes it feels like climate targets were actually designed to be confusing. Or even worse, ignored (RIP Kyoto). That’s why we’ve scripted a quick primer.

The legislation itself: 

When you strip away the details, the legislation would force the government to set targets along the path to achieving its 2050 net-zero goal. Here’s an analog: you want to become a yoga teacher by next summer (when we’ll all be vaccinated for Covid-19 and can speak moistly to each other in a crowded studio again 🤞), but have to clock 200 hours of training to be legit. That means you need goals for checking off those hours over the next several months. 

That’s pretty much how this proposed legislation works. It would require the government to set emission reduction targets every five years beginning in 2030, that act as milestones towards our big 2050 goal. Those targets would guide plans for reaching them and provide a way of letting us know if we’re actually on track. (Other parts of the legislation include pulling together a group of smart people, or advisory board, to help lay out the plans.)

So what do we think?

A law that forces the government to set short-term climate goals and tell the country whether it met them or not is super important. Why? Because solving climate change will never be something that happens overnight. Setting milestones backed by strong plans, and then transparently tracking progress towards them has got to be part of our journey to tackling this beast. Other countries like New Zealand, Germany and the UK all have climate accountability laws. That’s why Gen Squeeze called for legally binding climate targets as part of our 2020 budget campaign, among many other groups that have been actively campaigning on this issue

We agree with the Climate Action Network Canada's Cat Abreu when she said: "This is a big step in the right direction."

So what's not quite on with the proposed law? Well, observers and opposition parties are rightfully not stoked that targets don’t start getting set until 2030 (instead of in 2025), and that there isn’t a clearer plan for achieving them. 

It turns out there's no hard enforcement mechanism for meeting the targets either. The government only has to admit that it failed publicly and face the wrath of angry voters. Having targets is also no guarantee that future governments will take action, especially if there’s no consequence for missing them. So there are ways this legislation should be strengthened, and more action is needed to make sure governments raise the bar on climate action, fast.

The (almost) Tweet-length synopsis

This is the first time our federal government has introduced climate accountability legislation and that’s good, cause we need it. The upcoming debate in the House of Commons will hopefully address some of the ways it can be better. 

The team at Gen Squeeze, like many other organizations, will continue to do its part to make sure this law plays a meaningful role in helping Canada confront the climate emergency and reach its net-zero goal.

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