Federal Election Reshapes Climate Policy Landscape

History was made in Canada’s federal election on May 2. Conservative gets majority government while New Democrat serves as Opposition for the first time. How will this alter federal policies on energy, environment, and climate change? Let’s examine the parties’ environmental platforms, their gains and losses, followed by how Canada’s federal policies may change.

Conservative (won 167 of 308 seats, gained 24 seats, forms majority government):

  • Made clear in 2006 that they had no intention of fulfil our Kyoto commitments of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels during the period from 2008 to 2012
  • Stated in 2009 that Canada will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 2006 levels by 2020 and 60 to 70 per cent by 2050
  • Restated in 2010 that Canada will reduce emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 (with no plans or details on how this may be achieved)

New Democrat (won 102 of 308 seats, gained 65 seats, forms official opposition):

  • Election platform proposed to implement a cap-and-trade system to place hard limits on emissions from industrial polluters, with the revenue from the system used to fund other environmental programs
  • Proposed Climate Change Accountability Act, which would commit Canada to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a level 80% below that of 1990 by the year 2050, with interim targets to be established

Liberal (won 34 of 308 seats, lost 43 seats):

  • Proposed a long-term greenhouse gas reduction target of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 (no details or interim targets provided)
  • Proposed to develop technologies that would eliminate the additional environmental impacts of oil sands over conventional oil, but did not propose to reduce or eliminate oil sands

Bloc Québécois (won 4 of 308 seats, lost 43 seats):

  • Election platform planned to establish absolute targets for the short term (6% below 1990 levels by 2012), middle term (25% to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020) and long term (80% below 1990 levels by 2050)
  • Recommended adopting 1990 as a reference year for the development of an independently run carbon exchange (cap-and-trade system) in Montreal by 2012

Green (won 1 of 308 seats, gained 1 seat):

  • Election platform proposed to use taxation policies to penalize polluters and reward the energy-thrifty while being neutral for the average taxpayer
  • Proposed to reduce emissions to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020, and to 85% below 1990 levels by 2040, “regardless of what other countries do”