Climate Change Issue
The change in the planet’s climate has been a subject of heated debates for decades. During the middle of the twentieth century, human activity has started to change rapidly, as more and more resources were extracted from the earth and used for heating, manufacturing, and energy production. In the last two centuries, the planet’s average temperature has increased by 2.0°F or 1.14°C (NASA, 2020). At the same time, carbon dioxide levels have risen greatly, and more than 13% of Arctic ice has been shrinking each decade (NASA, 2020). While a number such as 2 degrees Fahrenheit may not appear significant, it has a strong effect on the global and local environment – precipitation patterns are changing, drought and hurricanes become more common, and the sea level is rising to the point of endangering several island populations (Freedman, 2018; Mufson & Dennis, 2020).
As the cause of climate change has been connected to carbon emissions, the idea to control and discourage carbon-intensive industries has been developed. In 2015, this proposition was officially formulated into the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit the future warming of the planet to much below the 2°C mark by 2030 and reduce the risks of climate change to pre-industrial levels (Falkner, 2016). Many countries of the world, including Canada, have pledged to achieve this goal. However, with the tensions towards carbon tax, and the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Canada must review its passive policies and take bold action in order to reach and surpass the agreement’s targets.
The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is the central plan of the country to address the issue of rising temperatures and emissions. Canada’s government hopes to grow the economy and reduce emissions simultaneously, mostly using carbon pricing and policy to improve energy efficiency standards and prevent climate risks. The program, introduced in 2016, has met many objections from provincial governments. At first, provinces were encouraged to create their own plans for carbon emissions control; however, those territories that failed to design a program in time would be forced to participate in the governmental initiative. In 2019, four major provinces objected to both carbon tax and cap and trade, seeing them as “intrusion” into the local government’s operations (Harrison, 2019). Nevertheless, the country has enforced carbon tax in areas that do not have their own plans (such as Quebec and British Columbia), and some of the provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba currently try to challenge the federal decision (Government of Canada, 2020; Harrison, 2019).
Canada’s Challenges: Analysis
At the moment, several challenges make Canada’s current plan against climate change ineffective. First, as Canada’s provinces have significant autonomy over establishing their own taxation or cap and trade policies, there has been visible pushback against restrictions on emissions. Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are among the provinces that refused to conform to the ideas proposed by Canada in the international agreement. Therefore, it continues to be challenging for the country to make all its territories agree and contribute to climate preservation with the same level of commitment. Moreover, such an autonomous structure also does not incentivize provinces to increase their use of renewable or low-carbon energy.
Thus, different areas of the country have drastically varying levels of preparedness to address the climate change issue. For instance, Quebec has its own cap and trade system, and the province targets large polluters rather than individual users of gas (Harrison, 2019). At the same time, the province also has a developed hydroelectric industry, which does not produce as much pollution while serving the population. In contrast, Alberta declared the federal tax unconstitutional, and its appeal to the court is being delayed until 2021, which further prolongs the possibility of the province creating a sustainable plan for climate change. The province also does not have a similar hydroelectric industry, relying on fossil fuel instead (Harrison, 2019; Hughes, 2016). This discrepancy explains the hesitation of the local governments to support the pan-Canadian plan – many provinces are simply not equipped to impose taxes without losing businesses and people’s approval.
The second major problem is based on two recent events – the COVID-19 pandemic and the US’ recent withdrawal from the Paris agreement. On the one hand, the pandemic has changed people’s ability to participate in the workforce and the country’s economy. People’s and businesses’ spending also evolved to adapt to the lockdown and harsher laws surrounding health protection. The pandemic also negatively affected the country’s economy, as the healthcare sector needed sufficient funds to respond to the pandemic (Government of Canada, 2020). At the same time, many people lost their jobs, thus also destabilizing the country’s economy. While this situation lowered carbon emissions, the level of change is minimal, and it put a strain on the country’s financial prosperity and slowed or halted any plans for innovation.
At the same time, the US exited out of the Paris agreement, thus absolving itself from any promises made to lower temperature increases and pollution rates. The US is one of the largest pollutants in the world, and its global role in climate change, as well as its neighboring position to Canada, put additional pressure on the country (Mufson & Dennis, 2020). On the one hand, Canada is now the biggest country on the continent that makes steps towards climate protection. On the other hand, the local tensions against carbon tax can be exacerbated following the example of the US withdrawing from the agreement. Provincially, federally, and internationally, Canada is facing increasing challenges to its ability to enforce change based on economic policy.
Considering the issues surrounding Canada’s current participation in the Paris agreement, I believe that Canada should aim to change the energy industry mark-up in order to incentivize provinces to contrite to climate change reversal. It is apparent that Canada is not fulfilling its promises with internal and external pressure. It is possible that such provinces as Alberta and Saskatchewan cannot agree to carbon tax due to their great reliance on fossil fuels and the lack of renewable energy organizations. I would recommend the federal government to focus on programs that develop the renewable energy industry in these areas, thus providing people with jobs and ensuring that compliance to the Paris agreement will be easier with manufacturers who do not face high taxation.
It is vital not only to impose taxes and fuel these funds into sustainable industries but also to put limitations on emission-heavy industries to disincentivize their growth.
According to Wei et al. (2020), upfront investment into sustainable industries is vital for reaching and improving temperature-limiting targets. Such countries as Canada should expect to invest more than other G20 countries. However, this step is also projected to lead to great economic success and increase the long-term effects of environmental preservation.
Falkner, R. (2016). The Paris Agreement and the new logic of international climate politics. International Affairs, 92(5), 1107-1125.
Freedman, B. (2018). Environmental science [eBook edition]. Dalhousie University Libraries Digital Editions. Web.
Government of Canada. (2020). Progress towards Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. Web/
Harrison, K. (2019). The almost-consensual pan-Canadian climate plan has unravelled in just two years. Why is meaningful action on carbon pricing so hard in Canada? Policy Options. Web.
Hughes, J. D. (2016). Can Canada expand oil and gas production, build pipelines and keep its climate change commitments? Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives. Web.
Mufson, S., & Dennis, B. (2020). The U.S. will leave the Paris climate accord on Nov. 4. But voters will decide for how long. The Washington Post. Web.
NASA. (2020). Effects | Facts – Climate change: Vital signs of the planet. Web.
Wei, Y. M., Han, R., Wang, C., Yu, B., Liang, Q. M., Yuan, X. C., Chang, J., Zhao, Q., Liao, H., Tang, B., Yan, J., Cheng, L., & Yang, Z. (2020). Self-preservation strategy for approaching global warming targets in the post-Paris Agreement era. Nature Communications, 11(1), 1-13.