Tories’ climate plan focused on green investment

Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on April 10, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie)

The federal Conservatives’ proposed replacement for the Liberal government’s framework on climate change offers several shout-outs to farmers, in a document focused on green investment rather than current consumption patterns.

The lead opposition party’s plan, launched Wednesday by leader Andrew Scheer, proposes to scrap the Trudeau government’s current carbon pricing plan, which imposes levies on fossil fuel consumption in a bid to improve energy efficiency.

Rather, the Tories said in Wednesday’s document, “we can encourage and support the development of green technology to make environmentally friendly alternatives available. We can do this without making the lives of Canadians harder and more expensive.”

The Conservatives’ document grants that while “natural events can account for some temperature change, research and data show that human activities are a major contributing factor. It is now considered extremely likely that more than half of the increase in global surface temperature between 1951 and 2010 has been caused by man-made greenhouse gas contributions.”

However, the party said, compared to larger greenhouse gas emitters such as China, “Canada is a small contributor to the global problem. By most measures, we account for about 1.6 per cent of total global emissions.”

The party instead proposes a Green Patent Credit and investment in a Green Technology and Innovation Fund, meant to produce more “emissions-reducing technologies” that would allow Canada to have “a global reach on emissions reduction.”

The Green Patent Credit would reduce the tax rate to five per cent on income generated from green technology developed and patented in Canada.

The Green Technology and Innovation Fund, meanwhile, proposes to leverage up to $1 billion in private investment in venture capital for Canadian green technology companies, starting with a $250 million federal contribution and requiring the private sector to invest $4 for each $1 from government.

As an example of the sort of carbon capture and sequestration technology that could be funded, the party said, “our farmers have developed technologies that facilitate no-till or low-till farming techniques, which increases the capacity of the land to sequester carbon. Plant science technologies have also allowed Canadian farmers to reduce their use of diesel.”

Farmers, the Tories noted, “are doing their part in the fight against climate change by improving land-use practices like zero tillage and the use of 4R Nutrient Stewardship. We recognize their contribution in sequestering carbon.”

A Conservative government “will look for ways to support (farmers’) continued development of technology and land-use practices that are good for our environment,” the party said.

“We will work with them to increase the efficiency of fertilizers and land-use methods, maximize the potential of agricultural land to sequester carbon, and ensure that best practices keep pace with the most recent advancements in technology and practice.”

The Tory climate plan’s plank on renewable fuels states that the party’s plan is to “encourage fuel producers to do their part, but we must make sure that we do not put an added burden on Canadians.”

Demand for fossil fuels “will continue for some time, so it makes sense to look at options for lowering their emissions intensity. But we must also consider the impacts on cost, land use, the current state of technology, regional differences in climate, and the ability of existing fleets to accommodate any changes to fuels.”

A Scheer government, the document said, would “work with provinces, territories and stakeholders to increase the availability and use of renewable fuels and to decrease the carbon intensity of Canada’s fuel mix.”

The Tories’ climate plan also pledges “to study the feasibility of an incentives-based program that restores, maintains and protects critical habitats” by identifying regions and ecosystems that provide “significant ecological goods and services” and assessing options for “maintaining or restoring critical habitats in these areas on private lands.”

Such a study, the Tories said, would allow a Tory government to “consider expanding on’ the work of “important programs” such as Ducks Unlimited’s FlexFarm program and Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS).

On a related note, the climate plan also commits Scheer to support the completion of the Canadian Wetland Inventory, at a cost of $15 million over three years.

The Tories’ climate plan also commits the party to maintain support for protection of “significant” watersheds such as the Great Lakes and Lake Winnipeg.

It further commits a Tory government to study “the contribution that Canada’s landscape makes to global emissions.”

Specifically, the party said, “to successfully reduce emissions at home we must understand the contributions of our forests, wetlands, tundra and managed lands as a carbon sink.”

For example, Canadian forests have been a net carbon sink, the party said, “but in recent years, wildfires and pest infestations may have tipped the scale in the other direction. It is vital that we identify not only where we are now, but also where the opportunities are so that we can make better land use decisions for the future.”

‘Expensive and inefficient’

Among the responses to Scheer’s plan, federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May said Thursday that “it can only be a good thing to have a set of proposals to review. And some of the Conservative ideas are worthwhile… But overall, the plan would make the climate crisis worse.”

Scheer’s plan, she said, “worsens the situation by asserting that Canada’s oil and gas sector must continue and expand. It relies on extremely expensive and inefficient technologies like carbon capture and storage, while claiming… that exporting fracked natural gas as LNG will reduce the climate threat.”

Catherine McKenna, the federal Liberals’ environment minister, contended in a party release Wednesday that Scheer “waited until the last hours of this Parliament” to propose a climate plan because “he wanted nobody around to debate ideas that will cost Canadians more while doing less to protect our environment and the future for our kids.”

“This is a plan only an oil lobbyist could love,” Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Keith Stewart said Wednesday of Scheer’s plan in a separate release. “It checks all the key boxes on the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ wish list and if it ever became federal policy it would deepen the climate crisis.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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