Ottawa, Ont. – Today’s federal budget follows a year of promises from the federal government to make significant investments towards putting Canada on a path to a genuinely healthier, more resilient and more inclusive future through a just and green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping communities safe and supported must be the priority, and many of the policies announced today aim to do just that.
Budget 2021 contains unprecedented investments to tackle climate change and a range of measures targeting other environmental priorities, including a nearly $500 million reinvestment in the Chemicals Management Plan that will provide an opportunity for improvements to the ongoing evaluation and management of toxic chemicals.
However, though historic for Canada – $17.6 billion allocated over 7 seven years for a green recovery – the scale of investments falls short of the ambition we see internationally, especially from the United States. A similar level of investment here would translate into $500-$600 billion over the same period. The modest level of investment in climate action, coupled with an ongoing weak regulatory approach, explains why the federal government is only committing to 36 per cent reductions in carbon emissions by 2030, very far from Canada’s fair share of 60 per cent reductions. The budget would also benefit from some more focused commitments around helping Canadian freshwater bodies under threat, and for addressing climate change impacts in the Great Lakes and other freshwater bodies.
Hiding in the details are some concerning elements, including a new commitment of more than $6 billion in financial support and new tax credits for high-emitting sectors. Without robust conditions, this money could support technologies, including plastic waste-to-fuel projects, carbon capture and fossil fuel-derived hydrogen, that will delay a transition away from fossil fuels and single-use plastics and lock us into decades of increased carbon pollution. These unproven and expensive technologies also obfuscate the reality that the energy transition is happening, and if we fail to prepare, it will be workers and communities who pay the price. These financial supports could provide government handouts to the very companies and activities polluting our air and water and threatening our collective future.
The budget does also include investments to tackle the social injustices people in Canada endure everyday, such as a $15 federal minimum wage and increased affordable housing. The introduction of an affordable national child-care plan is crucial to ensure that women can fairly participate in and benefit from green and just recovery efforts. Though some measures were included to help ensure wealthy Canadians and corporations pay their fair share, these fall short of the investments needed to create a green and just transition to a low carbon future.
As we respond to one health crisis, we must not forget that the climate crisis is also a health crisis. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels kills nearly 9 million people a year globally, and over 30,000 in Canada. Investments in the green economy cannot tackle the climate crisis alone. We also need a plan to rapidly wind down production of fossil fuels in order to limit catastrophic levels of warming. This will require courage and leadership from our elected leaders.
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE CANADA: Environmental Defence Canada is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.
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Barbara Hayes, Environmental Defence, firstname.lastname@example.org