What we can learn from our geography of environmental failure

A new analysis by Environment New Brunswick reveals that once again, our province’s environmental reputation has taken a hit. The report marks the fifth consecutive time in a row the government has fallen short on climate change goals in its own assessments, undercutting its leadership on the issue and undercutting Premier Brian Gallant’s claims that they are living up to their environmental reputation.

The report is based on the work of two organizations: the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Environment New Brunswick. The review found that from 2007 to 2016, New Brunswick fell behind the rest of Canada in the percentage of carbon emission reductions pledged under the Canadian climate-change policy program, known as the European Climate Action Initiative.

Starting in 2012, all provinces made targets under the ECAP: They are required to either reduce emissions by 20 per cent from 2005 levels or to come closer to the targets. New Brunswick’s emissions have gone up, not down.

By 2020, the province must cut emissions by 30 per cent. Yet, as the report points out, they are a long way off from reaching this target: Their most recent report estimated a deficit of nearly four percent in the carbon-reduction goal from 2017 to 2025. The same scenario is predicted for 2050: a deficit of 10.3 per cent.

(Premier Gallant’s office has insisted that the report is not helpful. “This report is woefully inaccurate,” Nicola Bourgeois, communications director for the premier, told Environment New Brunswick and the CBC. “The 2017-2025 emissions reductions are slated and well within reach,” and “the 2020 and 2050 targets are simply too ambitious,” she added. The document, which was released on Feb. 7, should have been in French.)

By failing to take a strong and true stand on climate change, this report highlights yet again how often New Brunswick officials are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. The reality is that they must show the rest of Canada they can live up to their own environmental promises and they should reduce emissions as quickly as possible.

The premier knows this — so why is he publicly denying this reality? Gallant has repeatedly taken on the role of Big Oil CEO, and failed to lead on issues such as the pipeline that would transport oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the Canadian Maritime provinces and Atlantic Canada. Instead, he’s appeased foreign billionaires with backroom deals, and urged Canadians to be “empathetic” to international climate change demands.

This is what Gallant told TransCanada CEO Russ Girling, during a congratulatory conference call: “We welcome the Prime Minister’s agreement to share information with Canada’s energy industry regarding the domestic climate and energy policies governing your oil sands operations.”

It’s a sad and awful business practice for anyone in charge of public policy to try to curry favour with companies they are supposed to be cracking down on.

And it’s just not relevant to an environmental crisis like climate change, when relying on every industry to reduce emissions would be bad. Environmental sectors should prioritize reducing emissions in their products and services.

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