Prime Minister Trudeau and provincial premiers emerged from the First Ministers meeting held in Vancouver last week announcing an agreement to work towards a national climate change plan. On March 3, 2016, Canada’s First Ministers issued a joint communiqué and released the Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change (the Declaration), which outlines the consensus reached at the meeting.
The Declaration recognizes that the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy is both “necessary to ensure the future prosperity of Canada and Canadians” and “an opportunity to create good-paying and long-term jobs”. A strong economic focus is threaded throughout the agreement. The Declaration is one of the first national policy documents that goes beyond the common focus on greenhouse gas (GGH) emissions reductions and acknowledges the need for climate adaptation and resiliency measures. It establishes working groups focused on the key areas of clean technology, innovation and jobs; carbon-pricing mechanisms; specific mitigation opportunities; and adaptation and resilience. Working groups will report back in fall of 2016 and First Ministers will use their findings to create a pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change, to be implemented in early 2017.
As part of the Declaration, First Ministers agreed to five areas of action:
- Increasing ambition on climate action. Ministers will implement GHG mitigation policies in support of meeting or exceeding Canada’s 2030 emissions reduction target, including by setting their own provincial and territorial targets. They will strengthen their environmental policies to achieve further emissions reductions and better coordinate GHG emissions reporting systems to accurately and transparently assess progress towards targets.
- Promoting clean economic growth to create jobs. Ministers committed to ensuring deep emissions reductions while maintaining competitiveness and providing predictability to businesses. They will also encourage investment in clean technology solutions and implement measures grounded in the view that clean growth and climate change policies are of net economic, environmental and social benefit to Canadians.
- Delivering mitigation actions. Ministers agreed to transition to a low-carbon economy using a broad range of measures, including carbon-pricing mechanisms, adapted to province- and territory-specific circumstances. They will also work together to enhance carbon sinks and toward the establishment of a pan‑Canadian offset protocols framework and verified carbon credits that can be traded internationally.
- Increasing action on adaptation and climate resilience. Ministers agreed to implement strong adaptation policies to complement mitigation measures and to support green, climate-resilient infrastructure. They will seek to enhance collaboration between governments and Indigenous peoples to support local adaptation efforts.
- Enhancing cooperation. Finally, Ministers pledged to improve cooperation between provincial and territorial ministers and governments, Indigenous peoples, the public and other nations on energy and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The federal government also agreed to take early action in the following areas.
- Supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation through investments in green infrastructure, public transit infrastructure and energy efficient social infrastructure
- Investing in GHG emission reductions by working together on how best to lever federal investments in the Low Carbon Economy Fund to realize incremental reductions
- Fulfilling Canada’s commitment to Mission Innovation, made in Paris in December 2015, by doubling government investment in clean energy research and development over the next five years, and spurring private sector investment in clean technology
- Advancing the electrification of vehicle transportation, in collaboration with provinces and territories
- Fostering dialogue and development of regional plans for clean electricity transmission
- Investing in clean energy solutions to help get Indigenous, remote and northern communities off diesel
Building on these commitments and the measures provinces and territories have already taken, First Ministers agree to work together to develop a pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change to be implemented in early 2017. Working groups focused on the following four key subject areas were established to this end: clean technology, innovation and jobs; carbon-pricing mechanisms; specific mitigation opportunities; and adaptation and resilience. Ministers of Innovation and Economic Development, Ministers of Finance and the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment will oversee and review the findings coming out of this work.
Each working group will assess impacts on economic and environmental outcomes and report back in September 2016. Working group reports will be used to create a pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change. First Ministers will meet again in fall 2016 to finalize framework, which will ensure broad engagement with Indigenous peoples, be based in science and inform Canada’s next Nationally Determined Contribution to help meet the country’s international climate commitments.
Much work is still needed in designing and implementing specific mitigation and adaptation measures, but this pan-Canadian, cross-ministerial effort is a big step forward. It continues the momentum from Paris, gets key players to the table and lays the groundwork for a national climate change action plan.