Canada bids to toughen its stance on climate change, some critics unmoved

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, which has never met any of its climate change targets, on Thursday unveiled measures to toughen Ottawa’s stance on global warming and ensure the country hit a goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

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Some critics were unmoved, with Green Party leader Annamie Paul dismissing the approach as “more smoke and mirrors”.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made the environment a priority since taking power in 2015 and introduced a first ever national price on carbon. Canada, a major oil exporter, is one of the world’s largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases.

“We don’t have to choose between clean air and good jobs,” Trudeau told reporters, saying Canada need to keep up with competitors that were taking more aggressive steps.

Under draft legislation presented on Thursday, governments will - from 2030 - have to present rolling five-year targets for cutting emissions rather than setting a goal many decades away that could be ignored by subsequent administrations.

If a government of any stripe fails to hit a goal, it must explain why, but there are no penalties involved.

“(Climate) should not be a partisan issue,” said Trudeau, repeating his insistence that Canada would meet or exceed its 2030 goals for cutting emissions. Official data strongly suggest this will be impossible.

Major environmental groups welcomed the announcement but said the legislation needed more teeth.

“That would include a target for 2025, a more ambitious target for 2030 and clear direction for ministers to achieve climate targets rather than simply explain why they failed,” said Greenpeace Canada energy campaigner Keith Stewart.

The official opposition Conservative Party said Canadians feared Trudeau planned to dramatically increase carbon taxes.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce welcomed the move but noted it came at a time when measures to combat COVID-19 were already battering businesses.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by David Evans