The 2015 election campaign: where do the parties stand on climate issues?


The struggle against climate change is at the heart of Development and Peace’s new campaign Create a Climate of Change, and is one of the main issues put forward in its 2015 Electoral Guide . In 2015, a number of events highlighted the importance of climate issues. The first of these was the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si (Be Praised) in June 2015, in which he joins scientists and environmentalists in stressing the need for urgent action on climate issues. He calls on us to engage in an honest and open dialogue with a variety of actors on how to live together in our common home, in a fair and sustainable way. Between November 30th and December 11th, 2015, the 21st United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) will be held in Paris. During COP21, world leaders will need to work together and from a global perspectiveto reach a new binding international agreement on climate change. According to Development and Peace, this agreement should limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and provide the Global South with the necessary resources to address the impacts of climate change.

The current election campaign is a unique opportunity to engage in dialogue on the climate issues that Pope Francis addresses in his encyclical. Climate change should be front and centre in the current federal election campaign because Canada’s role in these negotiations and its efforts in reducing GHG emissions will be determined by the Canadian electors. The following is an overview of the positions of the five main federal political parties on climate issues that can help you make an informed choice on October 19, 2015.

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)

The CPC campaign website does not present a platform specific to climate change. The CPC has announced that at COP21, Canada will commit to reducing GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 (which corresponds to a 14% reduction measured on a 1990 baseline). In order to reach this objective and cut down on GHG emissions without impacting the economy, the CPC proposes to regulate GHG emitters by sector, such as energy and transportation sectors, rather than putting a price on carbon. In 2011, the Conservative government withdrew Canada’s from the Kyoto Protocol, which was a commitment to reduce carbon emissions. The CPC’s long-term strategic energy framework supports fossil fuel exploration and extraction. The party is in favour of both the Enbridge pipeline and the Trans Canada Energy East projects. The CPC has not committed any financial aid to countries of the Global South in order to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change, although in November 2014, the Canadian government did contribute $300 million to the Green Climate Fund.

New Democratic Party (NDP)

In 2014, the NDP introduced a private member’s bill entitled the Climate Change Accountability Act. More recently, the NDP stated its wish to restore Canada’s environmental credibility around the world. The party leader declared his intention to attend COP21, accompanied by an opposition spokesperson and members of civil society. The NDP also announced its GHG emissions reduction targets, i.e. a 34% reduction by 2025-2030, with a baseline measure of 1990, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. In order to attain these objectives, the NDP is in favour of pricing carbon by establishing a nationwide cap and trade system. Revenues from this would be returned to the provinces to be reinvested in efforts to combat climate change. Provinces that have already implemented measures on GHG emissions would be allowed to opt out of the national plan if their objectives match or exceed NDP targets. The NDP also supports the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and calls for the subsidizing of renewable energies instead.  The party has a plan for investing in public transit and electrically-powered transportation. On the other hand, the NDP’s position on oil transportation is unclear. It is in favour of the installation of a west-to-east pipeline across Canada, provided a thorough environmental assessment is performed prior to giving it the green light. The NDP has committed to financially supporting the Global South’s adaptation to climate change, particularly with enhancing energy security , the development of green technologies, and the protection of natural resources and ecosystems. 

Liberal Party of Canada (LPC)

Taking action on climate change and creating green jobs are the primary objectives of the LPC environment plan. The party hasn’t announced any specific target in view of COP21, but has stated that it will collaborate with provinces and territories in order to establish national targets on GHG emissions. The LPC leader has also pledged to invite provincial premiers to COP21 and to convene a meeting with them in order to draw up a climate change action plan within three months after COP21. The LPC would set standards and principles with which the provinces would have to comply, while ensuring that they have the necessary means and funding to do so. The party is in favour of carbon pricing in Canada and has promised to support the provinces with implementation. The LPC wishes to establish the Canada Green Investment Bond to support renewable energy projects as well as a new Low Carbon Economy Trust. The party leader proposes large-scale investment in public transit, as well as funding for the development of advanced technologies in the clean-energy, energy-efficiency, and clean-water sectors. The LPC also intends to follow in the footsteps of provinces in their efforts to develop a national energy strategy and wishes to gradually phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel sector in favour of new clean technologies. The party position is not clear with respect to oil transportation. The party leader asserts that oil must be moved to markets, but maintains that pipeline projects should obtain a substantial level of social acceptability before moving forward. He doesn’t specify whether the Energy East project would be subject to a new environmental assessment method. The LPC has not announced the part of its program that deals with financial aid to countries in the Global South that face the impacts of climate change, however, it criticizes the current government for its lack of commitment in this regard.

Green Party of Canada (GPC)

The GPC overtly speaks of “limits to growth” due to the limited resources of the planet. The party program puts forward proposals for reducing our oil dependence and limiting climate disruption. The party’s target is to reduce GHG emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2025 and by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, and to eliminate fossil fuels in Canada entirely by 2050. In order to reach these goals, the GPC would implement a climate and energy strategy by partnering with the provinces in the establishing of carbon pricing by implementing a Canadian fee-and-dividend system and rapidly eliminating carbon electricity generation and moving towards a clean and carbon-free economy. In addition, the GPC intends to rely on renewable energies, implement stricter environmental standards for buildings, support organic farming, and invest in public transit. Another goal of the party is to abolish subsidies to oil, carbon, and coal producing companies. The GPC is opposed to all new crude oil export projects, including the extension of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the Energy East project. Finally, the party has committed to contributing $500 million per year to the Green Climate Fund in an effort to help the Global South address the impacts of climate change. 

Bloc Québécois

The Bloc Québécois does not aspire to form a government and only has candidates running in Québec. It is instead dedicated to defending Quebec’s interests in Ottawa. In this context, the Bloc hasn’t put forward any targets in view of COP21, but intends nevertheless to demand that the federal government develop a concrete plan to combat climate change. In fact, it has been a staunch defender of the Kyoto Protocol. The Bloc’s proposal is to base this plan on a territorial approach rather than by industry sector so that past measures implemented by some provinces are taken into account and will not be adversely affected by the absence of such efforts in other provinces. In its party program, the Bloc adheres to the principles of sustainable development, supports the move to an oil-free economy and advocates for public transit and the electrification of transportation. The party also proposes, among other things, a federal rebate of up to $5,000 for the purchase of hybrid and electric cars. It strongly opposes the Energy East pipeline project and plans to introduce a bill recognizing Quebec’s jurisdiction on provincial environmental matters , including the right to veto oil transportation projects involving pipelines or trains. The Bloc promises to offer financial aid to countries of the Global South but has not committed a specific amount. 

Before casting your ballot on October 19th, make sure to ask yourself the following question: “Which candidate represents a party showing real ambition, a firm commitment and a robust plan for fair and effective action on climate issues?” Try answering this question not only from your perspective as an individual and a citizen, but also as someone who shares the Earth as a common home.