Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre won’t say if he will commit Canada to achieving its promised emissions targets under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Poilievre held a news conference Monday with reporters after the defeat of his motion on the carbon tax, which called on the government to extend a carbon tax exemption to all forms of home heating.
Reporters asked him to clarify his party’s climate policy and state whether a government led by him would commit to meeting Canada’s international obligations under the landmark United Nations climate agreement signed in Paris in 2015.
While Poilievre did not say directly whether he would stick with Canada’s targets in the Paris Agreement, he spoke about his plan to fight climate change — which he said would use technology and not “carbon taxes” to reduce emissions.
“We’ve already said we will green-light green projects like small modular nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, tidal wave power and other emissions-free energy that will lead to a massive boom in the clean energy that goes on to our grids and powers our future,” Poilievre told reporters.
Poilievre said he would speed up approval of mines for the critical minerals needed for electric vehicles.
“That is only possible if you get the government out of the way and speed up approvals to green-light green projects. That’s a common-sense plan.” Poilievre.
Poilievre was unclear on where he stands on the Paris targets. He said he would not commit to achieving Canada’s 2030 target under the Paris agreement until he has a better picture of Canada’s emissions accounting.
“Let’s see how far off Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax disaster is from meeting those targets,” he told reporters. “So far, he hasn’t met a single solitary target when it comes to greenhouse gas reduction.”
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The 2016 Paris Agreement, which Canada signed, commits countries to working toward limiting warming to the critical threshold of 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.
The planet is inching closer to surpassing that target; the United Nations says the world already has warmed by at least 1.1 C. According to the UN, global climate pledges have placed the world on track for a temperature rise of between 2.4 C and 2.6 C by 2100.
Surpassing 1.5 C could have catastrophic consequences for the planet, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Depending on how high global average temperatures reach, Canada and the world could see an ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer and some island states swallowed by rising sea levels.
Canadians also would see more heat waves and heat domes with the potential to kill the most vulnerable. Surpassing the 1.5 C threshold could also mean more frequent and intense wildfires and floods.
Poilievre’s comments seem to mark a departure from his party’s previous position on the Paris Agreement. During the 2021 election campaign, then-Conservative leader Erin O’Toole committed to meeting the Paris Agreement by achieving former prime minister Steven Harper’s emission targets.
When Canada signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, it adopted the Harper government’s target of reducing emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
In 2021, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau adopted a more aggressive Paris target — a reduction of between 40 and 45 per cent by 2030.
In a statement, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Poilievre is “afraid to answer questions on his bumper-sticker slogans.”
“It’s bad enough that Poilievre has no plan for the environment. What’s worse is he doesn’t even seem to understand what he proposes to destroy,” Guilbeault said.
The Climate Action Network Canada also responded to Poilievre’s comments on the Paris Agreement.
“Imagine being faced with one of the gravest crises of all times, with accelerating impacts on the population you are running to serve, and saying: I’m going to do less. That is the gist of Mr. Poilievre’s climate proposition,” wrote Caroline Brouillette, the executive director of Climate Action Network Canada.