The federal Liberals are vowing to get Canada to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 if re-elected on Oct. 21.
And they plan to introduce “legally binding” targets to get them there.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced the pledge during a press conference on Tuesday in which he faced repeated questions from reporters about why he was not providing Canadians with the details of how that plan would work if his party is re-elected.
Trudeau offered few details and pushed back when asked about the fact that the Parliamentary Budget Officer has warned Ottawa will not be able to hit its emissions-reduction targets unless it increases the carbon tax and that Canada currently falls short of hitting those targets.
Instead, he took aim at Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and provincial conservative leaders, who he accused of denying the threat of climate change because of their opposition to the carbon tax and other measures taken by the federal government over the last four years.
WATCH: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau commits Canada to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050
“The major policy discussions ahead of us will be centred around mitigating climate change. This is a fact. This is our great global challenge,” Trudeau said.
“Politicians, academics, scientists, entrepreneurs, Canadians, we will all be seized by it. So here’s the question: do you want to be represented by a team that has a plan and is ready to do more? Or do you want a team of climate deniers?”
The plan to get Canada to net-zero emissions was announced via press release earlier in the day and pledged to set out five-year milestones based on advice from scientists and introduce more support for workers who will be impacted by the transition to clean energy.
But the details on exactly how the Liberals plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 are scarce.
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The plan contains no information on what specific measures a re-elected Liberal government would take to achieve net-zero emissions or what the legally binding targets it would introduce would be, other than pledging they would “exceed Canada’s 2030 emissions goal.”
That goal, to which Canada agreed under the Paris Agreement, is to reduce emissions by 2030 to 30 per cent of 2005 levels.
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Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna faced repeated questions about the lack of detail from reporters at a press conference on Tuesday — particularly, how the milestone targets would work and whether there would be any penalties imposed under the plan for falling short.
“The point is right now, we need to get elected, we need to get through this election because the choice is really clear,” she said.
“If we are re-elected we will look at how best to do this.”
Ken Kobly, president and CEO of the Alberta Chamber of Commerce, said the lack of detail in the plan is concerning for businesses.
“To be honest, it’s somewhat irresponsible to announce this — middle election — without any details or any type of strategy to get to net-zero by 2050,” he told Global News. “I think this will create a lot of uncertainty among a great number of businesses right across Canada who have to plan further out that they’re going to be doing major investments.”
The promise comes as countries gather in New York for the United Nations Climate Action Summit and as millions take part in protests and rallies around the world demanding action on climate change.
One of the agreements from that summit was a Climate Ambition Alliance that brings together some 65 countries, 10 regions, 102 cities and dozens of other businesses and investors who agree to work toward zero net carbon emissions by the middle of the century.
WATCH: Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna says the Liberals will aim for “net-zero” emissions by 2050
It was one of the key pledges sought by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, whose strongly worded remarks at the opening of the summit called on world leaders to do more.
“Earth is issuing a chilling cry: stop,” he said.
“Nature is angry. And we fool ourselves if we think we can fool nature because nature always strikes back, and around the world, nature is striking back with fury.”
Climate change is a major issue of concern for Canadian voters in the federal campaign.
Scheer has vowed to repeal the carbon tax introduced by the Liberals while the NDP would keep it in place.
The Greens want to see the price per tonne of emissions continue to increase beyond what the Liberals have promised so far and continue increasing until there are no more carbon emissions.
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