A Climate Accountability Act

A Climate Accountability Act
(What is it and why do we need it?)

A Climate Accountability Act would hold this and future federal governments to account for its commitments to reduce Canada’s emissions and achieve our climate targets. So far, Canada has missed every emissions target it has ever set. A new climate law that includes mechanisms “baked” into systems of governance would require a course correction if progress is falling behind. The IPCC has warned us we only have 10 years left.

Given that the window to prevent the worst effects of climate change is rapidly closing, a post COVID economic recovery must build on a foundation of environmentally sustainable growth. More than a decade ago the United Kingdom created a climate accountability framework under its Climate Change Act(2008). The UK CCA was the first of its kind, and remains highly regarded. It has served as a model for legislation in other jurisdictions, including Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain and New Zealand. A similar climate accountability Act is urgently needed for Canada.

Six major Canadian environmental organizations have recommended a Climate Accountability Act with the following five basic pillars:

1: Legislation of GHG Reduction Targets for 2030 and 2050

Such long-term GHG reduction targets would move Canada towards its fair contribution to a 1.5 C mitigation scenario and be set into law. These targets could be strengthened if the expert advisory body (see below) so advised.

2: The Establishment of Five Year Carbon Budgets

Interim statutory five-year carbon budgets are needed at both the national and sub-national (i.e. provincial/territorial) levels. These would cap total GHG emissions, be set in law, and fairly distribute emissions reductions across the country. Such carbon budgets would be recommended by the expert advisory body and provide the basis for mitigation planning.

3: Five Year Climate Change Impact Reports

These reports would assess the national risks of the current and predicted impacts of climate change based on the advice of an expert advisory body and be tabled before Parliament. Such impact reports would be the basis for adaptation planning.

4: Require the Government to Plan, Respond and Act

The Federal government would be statutorily mandated to make plans for achieving carbon budgets and plans for adapting to impacts. Both of these plans would be tabled before Parliament. The government would also be required to table its responses to the expert committee’s progress reports before Parliament. The response would set out how the government would act on the body’s recommendations.

5: An independent arm’s-length expert climate advisory committee drawn from all regions of the country would be established. The committee would:

(1) Advise on long-term targets;
(2) Advise on the five-year carbon budgets and climate impact reports;
(3) Monitor and report on governmental progress towards achieving the five-year carbon budgets, long-term targets, and adaptation plans; and
(4) Provide advice to the governments on climate-related policy

The expert committee would be central to the accountability framework and would have a key role in each of the preceding pillars. In the Canadian context, this committee must include Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge holders.

Submitted on behalf of Just Earth
by: Rose Dyson