“Emissions accountability” bill a cheap attempt at greenwashing government inaction

Remember about five years ago, when Justin Trudeau demonstrated one of his “party tricks” that involved throwing himself down a flight of stairs? Videos capturing him plunging down an escalator or headfirst into a basement went viral. Lately, though, he it seems like he’s lost the knack to bounce back up from these tumbles – Trudeau’s latest publicity stunt, the recently tabled Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, has landed him flat on his arse and given a black eye to his entire caucus.

Bill C-12, which was introduced by Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, was widely anticipated as a way to compel politicians and governments to work toward and achieve concrete targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the proposed legislation is so stunningly flawed that it can only be described as an attempt by the Liberals to greenwash their wretched inaction on the climate crisis.

For starters, the bill speaks of achieving “net-zero,” which is a scheme that is supported by a wide range of corporations, liberal environmental groups and policy wonks. It’s also supported by nearly all political parties in this country, from conservatives to greens to social democrats.

But socialists and radicals take a different attitude – this space critiqued “net-zero” schemes earlier this year. As we said then, these policies “allow a polluting corporation to offset its emissions at Point A by a reduction at Point B. Some proposed plans allow the polluter to purchase offsets from another entity – even one located halfway around the world – under the pretense that this could possibly make a difference to the local community that is poisoned by toxins and emissions.” We compared this absurd approach to promoting food security by providing additional meals to already well-fed people, to offset the hunger experienced by others.

What is needed – and urgently – is a real commitment, discussion a real plan for achieving absolute reductions in emissions, not some ridiculous deal that allows polluters to “buy” an absence of pollution.

During last year’s federal election, this publication produced a comprehensive plan for achieving a real 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. In terms of numbers, we oriented on how to bring down emissions, wherever they are produced, by a total of 358 megatonnes in the next decade. Our conclusion was that this could be done, but it required decisive government intervention into a wide range of economic sectors – from shutting down the tar sands and aggressively phasing out fossil fuels, to shifting to organic agriculture, to a massive expansion in mass transit and electrified transit, to green construction and retrofitting.

As governments delay, of course, the crisis becomes worse and the degree and breadth of required intervention become far greater.

For Trudeau and company, however, the urgency is clearly just not there.

The Emissions Accountability Act won’t even begin to affect policy until 2030, the first year that the minister is required to formulate an emissions target. So, there is absolutely no legislative accountability for another 10 years – at least two-and-a-half governments away. Even when the government is compelled to produce targets – in 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045 – there is no mechanism for achieving it. Failure to reach a target simply requires an explanation.

Bill C-12 is an embarrassing waste of time. It should be withdrawn immediately and completely replaced by a real plan, with real targets and real accountability.

Because it will surely be no parlour trick if environmental disaster sends this planet tumbling down the stairs.

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