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Youth march for climate action at the Global Climate Strike in Duncan on September 20, 2019. Jacqueline Ronson/The Discourse Cowichan

What do federal parties actually commit to doing about climate change?

We review the evidence for how the platforms stack up.

In recent weeks, I’ve been asking you what questions you have that you would like federal election candidates to answer. Here’s something I’ve heard a few times. You care less about what the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford candidates say about climate change, and more about real climate change action. 

Lots of people in the Cowichan Valley are very concerned about climate change. Summer droughts and winter storms hit close to home, literally. And, we’ve moved into a world where the four major national political parties finally all agree that climate change is real and requires action. Beyond the talk, though, will federal candidates actually commit to climate change action?

Rather than asking them, I’ve reviewed the evidence, including party platforms and analysis from media companies that have looked into it. I’ll post a list of references for further reading at the bottom.

Conservative Party plan for climate change action could increase emissions

  • The Conservative’s plan to protect the environment promises to repeal the Liberal carbon tax and instead focus on taxing big polluters and investing in green technology.
  • The Conservative plan fails to commit to specific targets, and according to one analyst, would most likely cause emissions to rise, not fall.
  • Analysis by CBC News shows falling emissions as a result of the Conservative plan. But the fall is less than projections for the other parties. It also falls well short of the target of 30 per cent reductions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
  • A climate scientist and an economist, writing for Chatelainegave the plan a D grade for ambition and an F for feasibility.

Existing Liberal promises not enough to meet the target

NDP plan is more ambitious than Liberal plan, and more costly

  • The NDP climate plan calls itself “a new deal for climate action and good jobs.” It builds on the existing Liberal government’s plan, promising additional measures, including eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.
  • The NDP plan is more ambitious than the Liberal plan. But how those targets will be achieved isn’t clear. Chatelaine gives the plan an A grade for ambition but a D for feasibility
  • Based on current promises, the plan would still fall well short of the 2030 target, CBC News found. And the plan relies heavily on government intervention, rather than incentives, to reduce emissions. That’s less efficient and more costly.

Green proposes radical climate change action, but is it feasible?

  • The Green Party wants to take wartime-like measures to aggressively confront climate change. It says it will cut emissions by 60 per cent (relative to 2005) by 2030. 
  • Analysis by CBC News finds that the Green Party plan outperforms the other parties’ plans by a long shot, greatly exceeding Canada’s official 2030 target. It also finds that, although there are more economic costs to this aggressive climate change action, it would still allow for continued economic growth through the coming decades.
  • Chatelaine gives the plan an A+ grade for ambition, but a C- for feasibility, noting the logistical and legislative challenges that could make implementation difficult.
Youth march for climate action at the Global Climate Strike in Duncan on September 20, 2019. <b>Jacqueline Ronson/The Discourse Cowichan</b>
Youth march for climate action at the Global Climate Strike in Duncan on September 20, 2019.
Jacqueline Ronson/The Discourse Cowichan

Further reading

  • CBC News analysed the four major parties’ climate change platforms for their impact on emissions and cost to the economy.
  • A climate scientist and an economist graded the platforms on ambition and feasibility for Chatelaine.
  • Here’s analysis from The Narwhal comparing the major parties’ commitments on climate change and other environmental issues.
  • The Tyee asked two experts to review and comment on the parties’ climate change platforms. 
  • Here’s a summary of commitments by the parties on climate change, compiled by Global News.

I’ve limited my analysis here to the four major parties vying for the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford seat. As my colleague David Minkow showed in an article last week, each of these parties has a shot at winning the riding. (In case you missed it, you might also be interested in this article David wrote, on how much you can trust the polls and projections.)

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford also has candidates running from the People’s Party of Canada and the Christian Heritage Party. Both the PPC and the CHP deny that climate change is a serious threat facing Canada and the world. 

The Discourse Cowichan has sent questions, inspired by you, to all the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford candidates, including one question about climate change action. We’ll publish the responses later this week.