I am a great fan for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for he represents new and young Canada. His offbeat approach leaves behind archaic diplomacy of 20th century and adopts ‘disruptive diplomacy’ for minorities, migration and middle class. His government’s budget of 2019, presented by Finance Minister Bill Morneau on March 19, 2019 is called ‘Investment in the Middle Class’.
Though there are usual as well as unique issues like Housing affordability, Health care, reconciliation with indigenous community and even high speed internet access as well as skill-training, I would like to critically focus on the issues related to science, climate change.
As a Coordinating Lead Author of 2007 report of IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), I am convinced that 2019 federal budget of Canada has shown serious commitment to address its pledges under Paris Climate Agreement. Sadly, the pledges under the Paris agreement have found to be inadequate as per ‘Gao Report of United Nations Environment. IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 deg C stated that net global CO2 emissions need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach “net zero” by around 2050 if the temperature rise has to be limited to 1.5 deg C’. That would need sky-rocketing ambition, bold policies and daring implementation. What we see in the budget is docile middle path chosen by Trudeau’s government en-route to reach the targets stated by IPCC.
Canada’s ardent, unequivocal and lasting support for the single most successful global agreement, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the ozone layer has been hailed as critical element in the global success in protecting the stratospheric Ozone Layer. Canada staunchly stood behind the treaty and even hosted the Secretariat of the Multilateral Fund to assist the developing countries to move away from the ozone depleting substances. Multilateral Fund under the Montreal Protocol that has contributed by all the developed countries, to this date continues to be uniquely successful example of financial and technology cooperation between developing and developed countries.
That environmental legacy of Canada went through continental breach in 2011, when Canada became the first country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol of United Nation Framework on Climate Change, after 14 years of its engagement.
Prime Minister Justine Trudeau, son of a Liberal Prime Minster has been, since 2015, making gallant efforts to wash that tarnished image of Canada and to seal the trust gap created by the earlier PM Stephen Harper, son of oil-Executive.
What I found as the most honest attempt by the Federal Budget is to end the era of coal. Coal power plants produce 9 percent of Canada’s electricity. Closing down all the coal plants by 2030, has been bold decision. There are smart provision for workers currently in coal plants to enable them to go through a smooth transition away from coal industry. There is also allocation for protecting their wages. pensions and skill development in non-coal area through a special fund. Indeed, there is lesson for President Trump on such transition strategy away from coal, rather than winning the election by protecting the coal-power plants and the workers.
Another high point is that the budget proposed to address the issue of the reduction in fossil fuel subsidies, though in very passive way. First it proposed to add transparency in reporting the subsidies and also appoint the international panel to review the report of self-review. This is the lesson in transparency for all other G7 countries.
Canada, on the basis of size of the economy, however, remains the largest provider of fiscal support to oil and gas production among the G7 countries. The government is clearly supporting the fossil fuel industry through huge subsidies, amounting to USD 2.5 billion. Just to understand how big is this amount, that amount would provide free education to 260,000 Canadian students. Step towards transparency is good but accelerated reduction in subsidies as promised would have been better for the carbon-neutral world that IPCC recommends.
One year from now is the ‘2020 deadline’ for developed countries like Canada to fulfill their promise to mobilize $100 billion USD per year of international climate finance in support of the Paris Agreement of 2015.
Unfortunately, 2019 federal budget does not indicate how Canada is contributing its just share to this Green Climate Fund (GCF) to enable the transition of the developing countries away from fossil fuel.
100 per cent zero-emission vehicles by 2040, investing $1.01 billion in 2018–19 to increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-unit buildings and financial assistance to community led climate initiatives are some of the helpful but not bold steps as demanded by Special Report of IPCC.
In Mumbai, I asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau why his climate change actions are not as bold as what Canada took at the time of the Montreal Protocol? He said Canada is now bolder. That may be true but budget shows that IPCC’s Special Report requires not just bold steps but aggressive and accelerated steps to deal with brutal climate change. Federal Budget 2019, fails to take that opportunity.