'Broken promises': Is Canada falling short on its climate change goals?

WATCH: Canada lagging behind climate support initiatives, Ipsos poll finds

With bold plans being laid out to tackle the ever-growing threat of climate change at COP27, an annual United Nations conference, experts say actions should speak louder than words and richer nations, like Canada, need to step up the fight.

As greenhouse gas emissions continue to go up, extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change, are becoming more frequent and destructive. 

But as world leaders and climate negotiators look for ways to implement global climate goals, observers are less optimistic about progress, saying countries are already falling short on their previous pledges.

“It’s not realistic to expect that this COP will … fix a lot of things because there are so many structural problems and so many … broken promises,” said Jessica Green, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

Green pointed to the 2015 Paris climate agreement that set the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 C (2.7 F) and the 2009 Copenhagen summit when an annual delivery of US$100 billion by 2020 was pledged for developing countries.

While the plans are in place, implementation is lagging behind, said Matthew Hoffman, co-director of the Environmental Governance Lab at the University of Toronto.

“I would like to see ratcheted-up ambitions, but given the current geopolitical environment, that’s been a tough ask,” he told Global News.

Last year, ahead of the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Canada pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The federal government has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In the latest fall economic update released last week, the Liberal government added new incentives for clean energy development in an effort to meet its zero-emissions target.

Speaking from the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Caroline Brouillette, national policy director at Climate Action Network Canada, said Ottawa needs to open its books and show the progress made on its pledges so far.

“We want to see a trajectory that is aligned with Canada’s fair share of the global effort to limit warming to 1.5 degrees,” she told Global News.

Experts say the big challenge for Canada in the next few years is how the government is going to interact with the oil and gas sector, which is the largest greenhouse gas emitter, accounting for 27 per cent of total emissions in the country.

“I’m waiting to see how serious they are about capping emissions from the fossil fuel sector,” said Hoffman.

He said Ottawa needs to work on policies that would make the medium- to long-term transition out of the fossil fuel sector less problematic and disruptive for the industry and the economy as a whole.

Brouillette wants to see the fossil fuel sector regulated. Green added that the country will have to reorganize its economy in order to meet its climate goals.

“We need to stop buying pipelines and subsidizing the fossil fuel industry in other ways,” she said.

Among the stated goals for this year’s UN climate summit is boosting financing for poor countries struggling with the impacts of climate change.

For the first time, the conference delegates are to discuss demands by developing nations that the richest, most polluting countries pay compensation for damage wreaked on them by climate change, which in climate negotiations is called “loss and damage.”

Hoffman said it’s a “contentious issue” but one that he would like to see progress made on.

Last year, Canada committed to giving developing countries $5.3 billion over the next five years as part of the international climate finance plan.

Green said it was ”crucial” for developed countries, including Canada, to “pony up the money”  and hold true to their promises.

— with files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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