Canada’s 2015 budget spurns climate change

Harper Government omits any reference to global warming or carbon dioxide emissions, while oil gets 108

Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper (Flickr / creative commons)

Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper (Flickr / creative commons)

By Alex Pashley

Canada has been slammed for failing to mention climate change in its 518-page Economic Action Plan, as countries ready carbon-cutting pledges to be finalised later this year.

Opposition MPs criticised the world’s ninth CO2 emitter for snubbing the environment, after finance minister Joe Oliver unveiled its budget for 2015 on Tuedsay.

“It is remarkable that in a budget tabled seven months before the negotiation deadline for a comprehensive climate treaty, the words ‘climate change’ are nowhere even mentioned,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

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On track to miss its pollution reduction targets, Canada’s green credentials have long come under scrutiny.

The Harper government took Canada out of the world’s only legally-binding treaty in 2011. Meanwhile tar sands extraction has climbed, and greenhouse gas emissions with it. This month Sweden quizzed its sincerity in meeting CO2 commitments.

Canada is set to miss its vow to slash emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020, the Climate Action Tracker Group estimates.

Release of heat-trapping gases rose for the fourth straight year in 2013, increasing 1.5% to 726 megatonnes, according to Environment Canada.

The Harper administration said in a government report in January it expected emissions of 815 million tonnes of CO2 in 2030, up from 590Mt in 1990. Emissions from the rising tar sands industry are set to grow four-fold between 2005 and 2030 to reach 137Mt a year, the report showed.

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Though environment minister Leona Aglukkaq claimed on Wednesday that “no federal budget has done more for the environment.”

According to the document which mentions ‘oil’ 108 times, the government had taken “significant action” on the environment since coming to power in 2006.

“Substantial investments have been made in clean energy and energy efficiency, protecting Canadians from toxic substances, cleaning up federal contaminated sites and the Great Lakes, and improving Canada’s weather services,” it read.

More than CA$20 billion has been spent on “conservation of landscapes, seascapes and species”. While CA$4.5 billion has been allocated to clean transport, and CA$2.5 billion towards initiatives targeting renewables and energy efficiency.

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But that will do little to quiet critics. Green groups see the government as in hock to investment and exploration in the hydrocarbons sector.

Canada has completed a dramatic U-turn on domestic climate change spending since 2007, when the federal budget allocated $1.5 billion of new funding for clean energy and new technology in the provinces of the country.

In the 2012 budget, an advisory body called the ‘National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy’ was completely abolished as part of $19.5 million cutback on Canada’s Environment Ministry.

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