Reactions to Canada's Climate Change Framework: Government leadership
By Melissa Harris, December 22, 2016
In December 2016, Canada's First Ministers released their Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. In this series of blog posts we break down the Framework for you, explaining what is proposed, what the strengths are, and what challenges may lie ahead.
In this blog post, we focus on government leadership.
WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from government operations account for a fraction of Canada’s emissions.
Government acquisitions, energy efficiency measures, and infrastructure investments can have an important role in driving the transition to the clean economy future. The significant amount of money that is spent on government procurements can play an important role in driving demand, supporting early stages of technology deployment, improving market acceptance, and reducing costs. It is important for governments to lead by example by applying climate policies to government operations but also by embedding climate action as an integral part of policy and program decisions.
HOW DOES THE PAN-CANADIAN FRAMEWORK PLAN TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM?
The Framework provides three principles for government leadership on climate:
- Emission reduction targets for federal, provincial and territorial government operations;
- Scaling up of efforts for highly efficient buildings and zero-emission fleets; and
- Clean procurement.
WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS OF THE PROPOSED SOLUTIONS?
The Government of Canada’s target to reduce emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 – similar to Canada’s international climate targets but applied specifically to government operations – is a bold but achievable target. British Columbia has already achieved a carbon neutral government – the first in the continent.
For the first time, governments across the country have agreed to set targets to reduce emissions resulting from operations. These targets can demonstrate that governments are serious about delivering on Canada’s international climate commitments and are ready to lead by example.
There are also other benefits. Investment in energy efficiency measures across government assets can reduce emissions but also reduce energy waste, resulting in costs saving for tax payers. Deployment of energy efficiency measures can generate clean technology jobs, and lead to development of skills which can then be applied across other sectors of the economy.
The shift away from fossil fuels to zero-emission fleets can also support accelerated deployment of clean energy infrastructure and support emission reduction efforts in the transportation sector. A switch to electrical and cleaner fuels could save governments money over the life of the vehicle.
Government leadership on climate is an important step forward with benefits for the environment and the economy.
WHAT ARE SOME KEY ELEMENTS TO CONSIDER IN IMPLEMENTING A ROBUST POLICY?
While the Framework sent high-level signals about government objectives, it is light on specific details. An important next step is to maintain momentum and set bold and consistent targets across the country. At minimum, provincial and territorial governments should adopt the federal target and set the goal of reducing emissions from government operations by 30 per cent by 2030 while aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050, at the latest. Provincial and territorial governments should work with municipal governments to develop similar targets and supporting policies across all levels of government. Governments should also work with industry to encourage similar voluntary standards across the economy.
In terms of energy efficiency and vehicle fleets, a clear schedule for the transition will important. At a minimum, governments should no longer purchase any new fossil fuel based vehicles, should develop guidelines for lower carbon fuel purchases, and require highest energy efficiency building and equipment purchases and lease requirements. An immediate directive from finance and treasury departments across governments on this will be necessary.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, governments need to incorporate climate in policy and program decisions. That means, any future policy and programing decision should ask, as a foundational principle, whether the policy or program is aligned with, and supportive of, climate objectives. Continued investments in policies which inadvertently increase emissions will undermine government leadership on climate. Governments should also make sound procurement decisions that take into consideration adaptation needs.