Opposition MPs support stronger climate action

Blog - April 15, 2010 - By Matthew Bramley

While the Harper government continues to stall on creating a credible plan to meet its national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target, opposition parties are moving forward with a motion and legislation calling for serious federal action on climate change.

Motion calls for immediate national action

On Wednesday, the House of Commons debated and passed a motion introduced by Liberal MP David McGuinty. The motion challenges the Conservative government's lack of  "commitment to principled environmental policy backed by action," and stresses the urgent need for such leadership to address climate change.  The motion calls on the government to:

  • Immediately implement a national climate change plan with economy-wide regulations on GHG emissions and investments in renewable energy, clean technology and energy efficiency
  • Take leadership to address climate change, instead of waiting for the U.S.
  • Set a legally-binding, national GHG reduction target of 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Provide annual reports to Parliament on action taken to move toward that target
  • Create a non-partisan group of experts to set intermediate targets to ensure Canada does its part to limit global warming to below 2oC, as the science requires
  • Restore funding for the ecoENERGY home retrofit program
  • Follow through on Canada's commitment to provide our fair share of funding to help poor countries deal with climate change
  • Follow through on Canada's commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies
  • Look to the provinces, municipalities and private sector for examples of effective action on climate change.

Why it matters

This motion is the strongest statement of climate policy to date from the Ignatieff-led Liberals.  While the government is not bound by motions like this, support from the majority of MPs sends a strong message to the government and Canadians about the need for urgent action on climate change.

Bill C-311: Climate Change Accountability Act

The Liberal motion echoes some of the key elements of the NDP-led Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act. On Wednesday night, opposition MPs voted in support of the bill, allowing it to proceed to a final vote in the House of Commons within the next few weeks.

What is C-311?

Bill C-311 requires the government to create plans for reducing Canada's GHG emissions between now and 2050, and demonstrate that it is following through on its promises. It is a private member's bill tabled by NDP MP Bruce Hyer. A virtually identical bill (C-377) won the support of all three opposition parties in June 2008, but it didn't make it through the Senate before the fall 2008 election.

Key elements of C-311

  • National emissions reductions - The bill would set Canada's 2050 GHG emissions target at 80% below the 1990 level, a science-based target that is supported by the Obama Administration. C-311 would require the government to lay out intermediate targets for 2015, 2020, 2025 etc., create credible plans to reach those targets, and implement the necessary regulations.
  • Accountability - The bill would require regular, independent reviews of the government's targets and plans to reduce GHG emissions. Similar measures that exist now as part of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act are set to expire in 2012.

What's at stake?

Passing this bill would require Canada to take a responsible and constructive role in the global fight against climate change. It would also help create market certainty for industry leaders and investors in the clean energy technologies needed to cut GHG emissions.


  • Read Pembina's reaction to the two Opposition climate initiatives.
  • Read Matthew Bramley's testimony to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on Bill C-311.  
  • Read Matthew Bramley's previous testimony on Bill C-377.

Matthew Bramley
Matthew Bramley

Matthew Bramley was with the Pembina Institute from 2000 to 2011, serving as director of the climate change program and director of research.


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