The federal Green Party today unveiled an ambitious climate action plan it intends to take into the fall election campaign — one that promises to double Canada’s current greenhouse gas reduction targets.
The plan commits the Greens to campaigning on cutting greenhouse gas levels 60 per cent below 2005 levels, twice the current goal of a 30 per cent reduction by 2030. Previously, the party had committed to a 40 per cent reduction.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said Canada needs to heed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is warning that the world’s average temperature cannot rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius without dire consequences.
And an increase of two degrees, May said, would be catastrophic.
“Somewhere below two degrees is the tipping point to where we run into something (that) scientists call runaway global warming,” she said. “A self-accelerating irreversible global warming that could lead to temperatures that call into question the survival of this biosphere.”
To achieve May’s ambitious cuts, her party will campaign during the 2019 election on sweeping changes to the oil and gas industry, a carbon tax and zero-emission buildings.
May’s plan has not yet been fully costed — the party intends to submit it to the independent Federal Parliamentary Budget Officer for review — but May promised it will be fiscally responsible and help reduce budget deficits.
Phasing out fossil fuels
Restricting — and, in some cases, eliminating — fossil fuel production and consumption is key to the Greens’ plan, May said.
The party proposes nixing any new fossil fuel projects — including in Alberta’s oilsands — and an outright ban on fracking.
“It means no new fossil fuel wells. No fracking,” May said. “Some might say it is impossible. We would say that this is possible”
May also said she would “turn off the taps” on imported oil, and look to energy efficiencies, renewables and current Canadian production to fill the demand.
May said she would support the building of new pipelines to transport Alberta’s oil, although the province’s production levels would remain stagnant under May’s current policies.
However, May said, pipelines would need to transport refined product (gasoline, propane, diesel) instead of diluted bitumen.
The Greens’ plan claims that within a decade, all of Canada’s electricity could be produced from hydroelectricity, wind, solar, geothermal or other renewable sources.
And May said she would revamp the east-west electricity grid to ensure renewable electricity can be sent from province to province.
May said the Greens would maintain the carbon tax instituted by the federal Liberals but the party would go further and abolish subsidies for oil and gas.
Climate change war room
During the 30-minute press conference, May repeatedly compared climate change to a national security crisis.
A Green government, she said, would create a bipartisan ‘war cabinet’, modelled after Winston Churchill’s during the Second World War, to tackle the threat of climate change.
“Partisan politics is getting in the way,” May said. “We’ve been delivered sobering news (on climate change) and politicians need to sober up.”
May said the Green Party’s plan sets “the bar” for climate policy and invited the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP to borrow the Greens’ ideas.
But the other parties who’ve released their own climate change plans were critical of the Green plan.
The NDP’s Nathan Cullen said the plan was “lacking in detail.”
And Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said many Canadians depend on the well-paying jobs the energy sector provides.
Sohi said the Liberals don’t believe protecting the environment needs to come at the cost of the economy.
Conservative spokesperson Kelsie Chiasson said the party would need to review the Greens’ plan before commenting.
Flanked by newly-elected Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly, May also answered questions about her party’s recent rise in popularity after wins in P.E.I’s provincial election and this month’s by-election in B.C.
The Greens are heading into the October federal election with two seats in the House of Commons, the largest ever for the environment-centred party that has struggled for national attention in the past.
May said the Greens would be open to forming a coalition with another party that supports its positions.
“We would never prop up any government in Parliament that is not committed to climate action,” May said.