Canada passes climate bill with goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050


Environmental action groups are describing the passage of Bill C-12 as providing a climate accountability framework for Canada’s leaders to meet the country’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, including net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Environmental law group Ecojustice is calling the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act (Bill C-12) “a critical step forward for action on climate change,” and one that also provides a level of transparency. The bill’s primary objective is to reach targets set by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change for 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045.

The bill was tabled before the House of Commons in November 2020, but had its fair share of critics within environmentalist circles, particularly as it appeared under the cloud of a snap election. When it eventually reached the House Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for a critical review and important amendments, Ecojustice representatives said that MPs were once again urged to use the opportunity to improve Bill C-12.

Of particular concern was the bill’s lack of a 2030 climate target.

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“The legislation has now been amended to make Canada’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution — obligated under the Paris Agreement — our 2030 target,” Ecojustice announced in a statement. “This comes into force as soon as Bill C-12 becomes law,” the group added.

Bill C-12 also mandates a climate objective for 2026, albeit not an ambitious one, said Ecojustice.

Under the new law, carbon targets will now be set 10 years in advance — instead of five as originally proposed in the legislation.

“This provides greater certainty to everyone as to the direction of federal climate policy and encourages the innovation and investment necessary to accelerate a just and green economic transition,” stated Ecojustice.

Climate plans will now include more detail, charting a clearer and more credible course for achieving pollution targets. The bill significantly improves the detail required in plans, and the detail and frequency of reports. This includes more frequent reports before 2030, meaning the Minister of Environment and Climate Change must now produce three reports on Canada’s climate action before that milestone.

Some environmental groups remain concerned about the independence of the advisory body providing advice to Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. Others still have questions swirling around exactly how the term “net-zero” will be defined.

The bill also requires the Minister of Finance to prepare an annual report respecting key measures that the federal public administration has taken to manage its financial risks and opportunities related to climate change.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada hailed the passage of the new, improved bill. Officials from the organization released a statement to note the timing of the bill’s passage with the backdrop of British Columbia setting new records for the hottest days ever recorded in Canada. The group called the scorching days clear markers of a “climate emergency”.

“It is an undeniable fact that we are in a climate emergency,” announced Cathy Orlando, national director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada, in a statement. “We have been in a state of climate confusion as a country since the early 2000s, instigated by a heinous climate denial machine,” added Orlando. “The next generation needs us to shift the paradigm fast. We will do this by listening to the experts and cooperating using C-12 as the framework.”

The new legislation must also undergo a comprehensive review of its effectiveness five years after it comes into force.

“If the federal government is failing in its climate action, we will have a chance to strengthen the law,” stated Ecojustice.


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