The Auditor General of Canada, and of Newfoundland & Labrador, have one thing in common: it’s their job to keep governments accountable for all their commitments. Federal and provincial climate change commitments included.
For this reason, our nation’s Auditor General recently collaborated with all provincial and territorial Auditors General on a new report, “Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada: A Collaborative Report from Auditors General.”
The report provides an independent assessment of the state of climate change action in Canada. It’s not good. “Most Canadian governments have not assessed and, therefore, do not fully understand what risks they face and what actions they should take to adapt to a changing climate,” the report states.
The first lines in the report identify climate change as “one of the defining challenges of our time,” that is “already being felt in Canada” in the form of increased wildfires and flooding, storms and challenges to food production. It is commonplace to hear of storms wreaking havoc on cities these days; cities that were unprepared for weather damage.
“It is important for governments to systematically assess their risks in order to adapt to the changes to come, and to allocate resources to the most pressing concerns,” the report reads.
Despite this warning, the second paragraph of the report reads, “Canada has missed two separate emission reduction targets (the 1992 Rio target and the 2005 Kyoto target) and is likely to miss the 2020 Copenhagen target as well. In fact, emissions in 2020 are expected to be nearly 20 percent above the target.”
More than half of our provincial governments do not have overall targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and of those that did, only Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are on track to meet their targets.
It’s no surprise our province is part of the problem: the same month New Zealand made international headlines for banning any further oil and gas exploration to combat climate change, our province was boasting its efforts to double oil production by 2030. A backwards statement at a time so many countries worldwide are building new economies and energy sources around solar, wind, and hydro sources.
Julia Mullaley, Auditor General of Newfoundland and Labrador, says that our province is not on track to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 10% below 1990 levels.
“Government developed the 2011 Climate Change Action Plan to guide the Province towards reduced greenhouse gas emissions; however, Government did not implement sufficient measures to achieve its target.”
Julie Gelfand is the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. She says, the findings from the federal, provincial, and territorial climate change audits confirm that Canada’s efforts and work on climate change, “is far from being done.”
Meeting Canada’s 2030 target will require substantial effort and actions beyond those currently planned or in place. There is not one, but a number of failures on behalf of our provincial governments preventing us from addressing and adapting to climate change, which, as the report warns, will “prevent Canadians from preparing themselves to deal with current and future climate impacts.”
The collaborative report also sets out a number of questions for elected officials and Canadians to consider asking of governments, to keep them committed to combating climate change before, or rather, as matters get worse.