In 1978, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau lost a bruising Supreme Court case in which it was found that he had arbitrarily rushed the introduction of a new type of hydrocarbons refinery — which is a large processing and purification plant that produces diesel fuel. (It sounds like a “top secret” operation where the fracking wells are torn up, and then the government has to repurpose them into diesel storage tanks.) The Trudeau government’s last five years were about preventing those delays, and attempting to reduce Alberta’s toxic carbon dioxide emissions — an initiative called Climate Change Action Plan or CCAP.
CCAP, by the way, has been a holy grail of pipelines lovers in the country. The PM called it the “most important legislation to be passed under our government’s jurisdiction”. The bill was slated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2025. It would also cap oilsands emissions, and force Alberta to complete what is known as the “economy-wide” climate change plan. Each province was supposed to set its own emissions target, but the provincial premiers all voted together and the Conservatives passed it. It did require Alberta to comply, and conform to the plan within five years.
Sixteen years later, it would seem the Liberals are finding it harder than Trudeau did to make that deadline.
The 2015 parliamentary briefing documents presented to the Conservative government say: “Currently, the government has asked for advice on the feasibility of achieving the nationally agreed emissions reductions, given the delay in setting provincial targets and lack of federal consultation on provincial targets.”
The government still hasn’t signed a climate deal. Whether the PM’s alleged inability to act has anything to do with people not listening to him or just the bad luck of a difficult act to put off, is up for debate. While he has been able to quietly adopt some of the principles of carbon pricing, like requiring the sales of heavy carbon intensive energy products to include a minimum price, he hasn’t signed the original Canada Climate Accord. The CCAP is inadequate.
It doesn’t specify that global emissions must be substantially reduced by 2050. It doesn’t set emissions targets beyond 2030. And it doesn’t include a plan for carbon pricing — either a tax on carbon or a cap on emissions, which governments in other countries have implemented.
The early version of CCAP was called Carbon Pollution Reduction Programme or CPRP. It would have the federal government impose a tax on CO2 emissions — because emissions had to be brought down — with the revenues going to provincial governments for certain purposes. For example, it could have been used for transit projects, or to pay down the national debt. The fact that the CPPP was going to be better didn’t sit well with many Albertans, and Premier Rachel Notley quickly scrapped it.