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NDP team up with Liberals, promising to get its net-zero climate bill into the Senate


OTTAWA — Federal New Democrats are ensuring the survival of a key piece of Liberal legislation aimed at keeping Canada accountable to its target of achieving net-zero carbon-related emissions by mid-century. 

Parliamentarians are currently discussing Bill C-12 at a committee voting on a series of changes to the proposed climate law tabled late last year.

If passed, it would see Canada set rolling five-year targets to slash emissions of heat-trapping, climate-change-causing greenhouse gases, stopping in 2050. 

That's when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged that any pollution the country does emit can be offset by initiatives like tree-planting or captured before being released into the atmosphere.

New Democrats have criticized the legislation as lacking short-term accountability from now until 2030. 

By working with the opposition party, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the government will accept changes to the bill, which the NDP says includes climate progress reports in 2023 and 2025, as well as an "interim emissions objective" for 2026. 

"This is too important to let this legislation have no accountability whatsoever, which is what we were faced with," said NDP environment and climate change critic Laurel Collins. 

"Either an empty bill, which what was initially put forward, or voting against it and having to wait for the next government to put forward something that would actually provide accountability."

"We were able to use our leverage and use the pressure that we were able to put, to ensure that we actually get a measure of climate accountability."

Among the agreed-upon changes is a 2025 review of Canada's 2030 emissions-reductions goal. Trudeau has pledged to have cut the country's carbon-related emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels, up from the 36 per cent track the government says the country can do under existing efforts. 

"If we find that the world moves more quickly than, I think, all countries right now anticipate with respect to reducing emissions, and we find that by 2025, it looks like we can actually go farther than we have presently committed to, of course we will reflect on that," said Wilkinson. 

"The reality is we've just gone through a target-setting exercise. We believe the target that we've established is a very ambitious target for Canada and our focus is going to be on achieving that target."

By accepting its proposals, the NDP has pledged to work with the Liberals to get it through the House of Commons, and into the Senate before the session concludes. 

Conservative environment critic Dan Albas said in a statement that the Liberals are "rushing" the bill through its committee stage. 

So far, the party voted against the bill, saying a government-created advisory body on the net-zero goal doesn't include representation from the oil and gas industry, which could be hurt by the influence of so-called "climate activists."

At least two of the advisory panellists have a background in oil and gas. 

“We entered the committee process in good faith with amendments suggested by witnesses that would make the bill better," Albas said. 

"Unfortunately the Liberal government and their NDP allies made a deal and are refusing to even debate or engage with any ideas from other opposition parties."

Wilkinson dismissed the Tories' critique and said its net-zero panel includes a diverse range of perspectives, including industry. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2021

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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