Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Bill

Third Report of Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources on Subject Matter--Debate Concluded

June 23, 2021

Hon. Paul J. Massicotte

Honourable senators, your committee has completed its pre-study of Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, in obedience to the order of reference of Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

Canada is in urgent need of a national climate accountability framework. Canada’s contribution is necessary to achieving the Paris Agreement target of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century.

Canada and the whole world must achieve those greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. The consequences of failure would be dire. An accountability framework would enable Canada to achieve that target.

Your committee feels that delaying Bill C-12’s passage into law risks further delaying federal government action and accountability. The climate accountability framework proposed under Bill C-12 can increase long-term certainty about Canada’s climate policy direction. It will require the Government of Canada to set progressively stronger GHG emission reduction targets for Canada in advance of milestone years.

The government will have to consult and develop detailed plans for achieving these objectives and these targets. On a regular basis, the government will report on its progress on those plans and a commissioner for the environment and sustainable development will evaluate the government’s actions.

This national climate accountability framework is long overdue, but still essential. Despite this, and as our report points out, Bill C-12 has many flaws. I will outline the committee members’ key concerns.

As an accountability mechanism, Bill C-12 is weak because it does not force the government to meet its objectives.

The bill has the potential to bring greater transparency and improve reporting, but the committee is not convinced that this will translate into accountability at the political level.

The Net-Zero Advisory Body established under Bill C-12 does not yet have the institutional independence and authority needed to provide credible, evidence-based advice to the government and to Canadians.

In addition, while Bill C-12 represents a means to support Canada-wide collaboration, it does not go far enough in requiring consultation and harmonization among various levels of government and with Indigenous peoples.

Bill C-12 includes no obligation to consult with Indigenous peoples or to properly incorporate Indigenous perspectives.

With regards to the opportunities and challenges transitioning to net zero, Bill C-12 does not require economic and social measures to be considered in the development of plans and reports.

Despite these deficiencies, your committee recommends that the Senate pass Bill C-12. Canada needs to break the cycle of setting and missing its GHG reduction targets, and Bill C-12 may help in that regard.

Achieving the objective of net-zero emissions is, of course, of enormous importance for all Canadians. In this light, your committee requests that the Government of Canada address these observations as soon as possible and not wait for the five-year statutory review required under the bill. Thank you.