Climate change in Election 2021

The World Health Organization identifies climate change as the greatest risk to human health in the 21st century. Climate change features in the platforms of all parties in the federal election, though the breadth and depth of their commitments vary.

So how do you know if the actions to which parties are committing will really move us towards the goal of holding climate change to 1.5 degree Celsius, as agreed to by Canada in the Paris Agreement?

Gen Squeeze can help!

Our Voter’s Guide makes meaning of party promises by assessing the degree to which each platform advances the evidence-based actions needed to address climate change. Then we share the results of these analyses with you, in summary scorecards, and in detailed commentary. Gen Squeeze doesn’t tell you who to vote for – but we do want to give you the information you need to vote informed.

No party goes far enough

Gen Squeeze’s climate change gameplan points to 24 clusters of actions that Canada needs to take in order to give our citizens the greatest chance to benefit from a climate that does not warm (much) above 1.5 degrees Celsius. These actions are based on current evidence from the research community in Canada and around the world.

Since we’re already experiencing the effects of climate change – from extreme weather events to floods and fires – we need our political parties to take action now on each of these 24 areas. We must fight climate change as aggressively as possible, as there is no time to lose.

Unfortunately, none of the parties meets this mark. No party proposes policies or investments that address all of the required areas for action.

Gen Squeeze’s non-partisan, evidence-based analysis of commitments made in each platform to date concludes that:

  • Liberal proposals will advance 73% of the action items
  • NDP proposals will advance 65% of the action items
  • Green proposals will advance 63% of the action items
  • Conservatives proposals will advance 29% of the action items

Although the Conservatives have made progress on climate change – and we’re pleased to see it included as a key plank in their 2021 platform – they still lag behind the other parties. The Liberals have the most ambitious and broad package of policies to fight climate change, including some more detailed implementation and budgeting planning. But all parties still have some distance to travel.

The results of Gen Squeeze’s analysis does not mean that we endorse the Liberals, or that we recommend that you vote for them. What it means is that – among the 4 major parties campaigning for your vote – Liberal proposals align most closely with what the evidence tells us we need to do. Success for Gen Squeeze is that all parties have equally strong platforms on climate change.  

How do the parties compared on key commitments?

Setting targets

The Greens, NDP and Liberals all commit to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.  The Conservative party does not. The Greens have the most ambitious short-term goal for emissions, promising a 60% reduction below 2005 levels, compared to 50% for the NDP, and 40-45% for the Liberals.  By comparison with the other parties, the Liberal platform offers the most detailed plan for how Canada can achieve net-zero by 2050.

Pricing pollution

The Greens, Liberals and NDP all promise to price pollution at levels that will incentivize our economy to shift away from reliance on fossil fuels at a pace quick enough to achieve net-zero by 2050. Compared to the other parties, the Liberals are more explicit about their commitment to recycle revenue from pollution pricing to reduce other taxes paid by Canadians.  

Conservatives continues to resist using the market to price pollution at adequate levels to ensure our economy reaches net-zero quickly enough, despite strong evidence of the effectiveness of market approaches.

Carbon budgeting

The Greens and NDP explicitly commit to provide regular carbon budgets, so that we can document our national plan to ‘spend’ our atmosphere’s remaining scarce capacity to absorb carbon as carefully as we spend our money. The Liberals allude to this idea, but don’t yet make a clear commitment. The Conservatives are silent.  

Helping Canadians via a carbon makeover

There is a lot of convergence between the parties on commitments to upgrade our lives via a carbon makeover. This includes advancing clean and renewable electricity; developing or transitioning to more clean industry; supporting zero emission homes and buildings; promoting smart land-use; and investing in carbon ‘draw down’ approaches (e.g. carbon sequestration in soils, oceans, and via new technologies).

Help Canadians become climate leaders

The Conservative platform stands out for its strong support for Research & Development and the exporting of Canadian technology and expertise. But by comparison with the other parties, the Conservatives do not emphasize the principle that the transition to a green economy should not leave anyone behind.  This is surprising, given that the Conservatives party has strong political roots in regions of Canada that will need the most support to upgrade their economies to align with the requirements of net-zero by 2050.

Making the financial system value sustainability

Compared to the other parties, the Liberal platform aligns more with the evidence about what is required to bake sustainability into the financial system; excite investors to invest in the green transition that our economy requires; and support businesses to adopt green technologies. 

Weathering the storm

All of the parties could do better in proposing adaptation strategies now to help Canadians fend off the harm imposed by extreme weather and other climate related events. 

Vote informed!

Check out the Voter’s Guide for more details on how the parties stack up on all 24 of the climate change actions Gen Squeeze and other experts have identified.

Gen Squeeze’s analysis of climate change commitments in party platforms was led by Dave Sawyer, an Environmental Economist with over 25 years of national and international experience.

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