Federal environment minister says Canada will hit Paris emissions target even after ‘setback’ in Ontario


OTTAWA—Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says Canada will meet its climate commitment under the Paris Agreement, even though new government projections show the country will have to make up for a greater shortfall in emissions reductions than previously expected, thanks in large part to Ontario’s decision to scrap its cap-and-trade program.

The new projections were part of a year-end report from McKenna and senior government officials on Canada’s plan to fight climate change. Officials also unveiled new details on how the federal carbon price will apply to heavy emitters, and laid out proposed regulations to make fuels like gasoline cleaner.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is reflected in a television display as she speaks during a press conference on Canada's climate plan, in the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Dec. 20, 2018. The federal government’s carbon plan has two parts: a fuel tax that will begin in April, and a separate pricing system for heavy industrial emitters.
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is reflected in a television display as she speaks during a press conference on Canada’s climate plan, in the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Dec. 20, 2018. The federal government’s carbon plan has two parts: a fuel tax that will begin in April, and a separate pricing system for heavy industrial emitters.  (Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Despite the latest projections, McKenna insisted Canada will hit its target to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — a target that federal and provincial environment commissioners, as well as an estimate from the United Nations, say Canada is on track to miss.

The government’s new projections say Canada will reap 223 megatonnes of emissions reductions in 2030 based on measures to fight climate change in the oil and gas, electricity, transportation, agriculture and other sectors. But it leaves a gap of 79 megatonnes that still need to be cut to hit the Paris target that year — a gap that is 13 megatonnes larger than the government projected last year.

McKenna attributed “setbacks” to Ontario’s decision to scrap the provinces cap-and-trade system and implement a new plan based on a $400-million fund to encourage clean-tech investment, which the minister characterized as a “backtrack.”

But she said the larger shortfall will still be covered by the impacts of government investments in new public transit and clean technology, more robust provincial plans like the one recently set forth in British Columbia, as well as future improvements in carbon capture and other technologies that can be expected in the coming years.

To illustrate the point, she held up her smart phone.

“This iPhone didn’t exist 10 years ago. We’re talking about 2030. That’s 12 years,” she said. “We’re going to figure out the way forward in a cost-effective manner, but we’re committed to meeting our target.”

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said the federal targets, which were set by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, are too weak. She pointed to the bombshell report issued this fall that said global emissions will need to drop by 45 per cent below 2005 levels in 2030 and hit net zero by mid-century if the world is to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.

“We’re pretending that we’re climate leaders,” she said. “If we’re going to maintain a livable world, we have to do much more and we literally are out of time.”

The government’s plan to reduce emissions is based on a slew of measures, including the implementation of a carbon price in each province and territory that meets a minimum set of federal standards. In October, Ottawa announced it would impose its carbon price in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick, where provincial governments argue a carbon price will hurt their economies and that they can cut emissions in other ways.

The federal carbon plan has two prongs: a fuel tax that will begin in April, and a separate pricing system for heavy industrial emitters.

On Thursday, officials provided more details on the industrial system, which kicks in Jan. 1 and will apply to 74 sectors. The government will set an emissions threshold for each sector; companies that emit less than that threshold will receive credits, and those that emit more will have to buy credits from others or pay the carbon price to Ottawa.

Most sectors will have their threshold set at 80 per cent of average emissions in their industry, but some — including petrochemicals, nitrogen fertilizers, iron and steel — will have a 90 per cent threshold. The cement and lime sectors will have a 95 per cent threshold, officials said Thursday.

Conservatives have criticized this part of the carbon price as an unfair break for big business, McKenna denied the government was letting emitters off the hook. She said the idea is to make sure the carbon price doesn’t put these companies at a disadvantage with international peers.

“How do you make sure they’re competitive, and keep these companies here in Canada, innovating, creating solutions? And that’s how we arrived at these numbers,” she said.

Officials also outlined proposed regulations to make fuel cleaner — a key part of Canada’s climate plan that mainly affects the transportation sector, which is currently responsible for 25 per cent of Canada’s emissions. The plan aims to ensure the carbon intensity — emissions per unit burned — of liquid fuels is reduced by 11 per cent over the next 12 years. The idea is that regulations will encourage producers to find ways to make cleaner fuel and increase the use of lower-emission fuels like ethanol and renewable diesel.

McKenna didn’t say how much this would increase gas prices, but that the proposed measures would lead to “very minimal costs to consumers” while spurring innovation that could create up to 31,000 new jobs in the coming years.

“This is a huge economic opportunity. This is where the world is going,” she said.

With files from Susan Delacourt

Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga


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Supreme Court decision on Vice Media a major ‘setback’ for investigative reporting in Canada: experts – New Brunswick


The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to compel a Vice Media reporter to hand over material about an accused terrorist will have a damaging effect on investigative reporting across the country and weaken Canadian democracy, say experts and press freedom advocates.

On Friday, Canada’s highest court ruled in a 9-0 decision that Vice reporter Ben Makuch will have to turn over any communications with Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a Calgary man who left Canada to join the so-called Islamic State.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, director of the journalism program at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said the decision is a major “setback for journalists in Canada” as it could leave them open to being perceived as operating as “police agents.”

“Anytime a journalist says to a confidential source, ‘I promise keep your name out of the story,’ now journalists can’t give that guarantee,” Dvorkin said. “We are going to see more intimidation from organizations that are going to prevent journalists from doing their jobs.”

READ MORE: Canadian jihadi Farah Mohamed Shirdon killed in Iraq airstrike in 2015

Dvorkin said that confidential sources, like whistleblowers, might think twice about speaking with a journalist if security agencies can compel journalists to reveal information.

“This is going to be the detriment of journalism and our democracy in general,” he said.

The Supreme Court decision centers on several articles written by Makuch in 2014 based on interviews he had with Shirdon, an outspoken Canadian ISIS member who was infamously featured in a propaganda video that showed him ripping up his Canadian passport and throwing it in a fire.

Shirdon was charged by RCMP with six terror-related offences and investigators obtained a production order in 2015 for Makuch to hand over any communications with the suspected terrorist in order to build their case.

Global News first reported in September 2017 that U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq, found that Farah Mohamed Shirdon was killed in the city of Mosul on July 13, 2015.

VICE Media and Makuch had fought to have that production order overturned in three lower courts, but the decision was upheld by the Supreme Court on Friday. Several civil liberties groups and media outlets, including Global News, acted as intervenors in the case.

READ MORE: Vice Media challenges RCMP demand for reporter materials in top Ontario court

Writing on behalf of the majority, Justice Michael Moldaver said the production order for Makuch’s materials should stand because disclosure of the materials would not reveal a confidential source as Shirdon used the media to publicize extremist views.

“Mr. Makuch’s own conduct shows that the relationship was not confidential in any way,” Moldaver wrote. “It was Mr. Makuch, not the police, who identified Mr. Shirdon to the public, by publishing the articles that linked Abu Usamah to Farah Shirdon and the YouTube video.”

“The production order strikes a proportionate balance between the rights and interests at stake,” the court ruled. “The order is narrowly tailored, targeting only the journalist’s communications with the source, and those communications are not available from any other source.”

Vice media said the court’s decision “has failed to recognize the importance of a free, and independent press.”

“Today’s decision will no doubt have a chilling effect on both sources, who may be reluctant to talk to reporters, and on journalists themselves, who could be less inclined to report on sensitive issues,” Vice said in a statement. “We strongly believe that the journalism — which is already under attack across the globe — needs to be free from state intervention.”

Karyn Pugliese, with the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, said the ruling is a “dark day” for Canada and reporters will now have to reevaluate when to offer sources anonymity.

“It’s not just about media rights, it’s about the public interest,” she said. “If people are afraid to come forward because they see us as agents of the police — that’s concerning — people won’t come forward.”

WATCH: Canadian terrorism researcher comments on death of Canadian foreign fighter

In its ruling, the Court avoided the Journalistic Sources Protection Act that the Trudeau government enacted in 2017, which aims to shield sources from police investigation.

“Going forward, this new regime will govern production orders relating to ‘journalists,’ even where no confidential source is involved, the facts in this case arose before the JSPA was brought into force,” the court said

Dvorkin said the JSPA is still “very murky” and has yet to be tested in court and it does not put journalists’ sources entirely beyond the reach of a court orders.

A spokesperson for Public Safety Canada said in an email that the ministry is reviewing the decision, which they said attempted to “strike a balance between” the priorities of security agencies and the rights of a free press.

“The intersection between the two is crucial to our democracy. That’s why a unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada is ‎so significant,” said Scott Bardsley in an email. “We all need to examine and understand the Court’s analysis.”

*With a file from Mike Armstrong

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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