Contributed by Friends of Science © 2020, referencing several reports by Robert Lyman. Lyman’s bio can be read here.
Recently, five Canadian Environmental Non-governmental Organizations (ENGOs), most of which are federally registered charities, came together to publish a demand for a Climate Accountability Law in Canada which would set legally enforceable targets for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reductions. The ENGOs are: Ecojustice, CANRAC (an organization of more than 100 ENGOs), West Coast Environmental Law, Equiterre, Environmental Defence, and Pembina Institute. To appreciate the power and influence of such a collaboration, one should read Robert Lyman’s series of reports reviewing the financial power and new political freedoms of the top 40 ENGOs in Canada.
Subsequently, the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, (formerly Ecofiscal Commission/Pan-Canadian Collaboration), issued a report on a similar theme entitled “Marking the Way: How Legislating Climate Milestones Clarifies Pathways to Long-Term Goals.”
The objective of these groups’ demands for a climate accountability law would be to force Canadian industry (and Canadians) to meet the purely voluntary and aspirational targets that are based on the non-scientific claims of the COP21, 2015 Paris Agreement.
It should be noted that environmental non-governmental organizations and environmental charities are unelected, unaccountable, and some – like WWF and Greenpeace – are transnational bodies that operate for their own objectives, not those of Canadian taxpayers and citizens.
This paper will argue that under existing Competition Bureau and Canada Revenue Agency laws and guidelines, these organizations are greenwashing the public on the obligations of the Paris Agreement, using distorted claims about climate change and the misrepresenting the effectiveness of proposed climate mitigations like renewables. It is our view that these groups are acting against the interests of Canadians.
The Premise – Meeting Paris Targets
Both reports premise their argument for a “Climate Accountability Act” by focusing on an apparent need to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets laid out in the Paris Agreement.
According to Ottawa energy policy consultant, Robert Lyman, former public servant of 27 years and diplomat for 10 years, the Paris Agreement is entirely voluntary, aspirational, and Canada has no formal obligations to meet targets.
As he writes in his report “Litigating Climate in Canada”:
Canada ratified the Paris Agreement on October 5, 2016. Canada’s treaty obligations under that Agreement do not include any requirement that Canada:
• meet any specific GHG emissions reduction target;
• pay any penalty if it fails to meet its voluntary emissions reductions targets;
• pay any specific amount or share of the collective financing for developing countries;
• use any specific set of policy instruments (e.g. taxes, regulations, subsidies, etc.) in pursuing its voluntary emissions reductions goals.
Consequently, other than creating another burdensome layer of government, populated with more public servants who will be counting carbon dioxide molecules, it is difficult to see why a Climate Accountability Law is required. Canada already has more than 600 different greenhouse gas reduction/’clean’ incentive regulations in place today, and Canada’s fuel tax is already more than $192/t carbon tax equivalent.
A Questionable Purpose
Canadians should challenge the fundamental rationale for legislating emissions reduction requirements. It is clear that no such obligation arises from the Canada’s political commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Very few other countries that are signatory to the Paris Agreement have imposed upon their citizens such legal obligations – certainly, none of the countries where the most rapid emissions growth is occurring, such as China and India.
So, what would be the real purpose of the law?
Canada does not need a law to establish a target. We already have done that. We do not need a law to establish a pan-Canadian Policy Framework; we already have that. We do not need a law to establish hundreds of programs; we already have those. We do not need a law to authorize a Canada-wide carbon dioxide pricing regime; we already have that. We do not need another law to imbed climate considerations into the regulatory framework that governs the review of new energy infrastructure projects; we already have that. We do not need a law to allow us to maintain records of the progress being made in reducing emissions; we already do that without a law.
So, what is this really all about? What it means is that the proponents of such a law want to take decisions on climate policy and measures out of the hands of democratically elected governments and place them under the purview of the courts. They want to give environmental lobby groups and their foreign funders an additional weapon to use against energy producers and users – the ability to challenge in court new projects of any kind that increase emissions, and thus to add enormously to the costs and risks of all new resource developments or new emissions-intensive industrial plants in Canada. In other words, inspired by their ideological commitment to place emissions reduction above all other public policy objectives, they want a way to impose a legal strangle-hold on the Canadian economy.
This represents is a fundamental attack on Canadians’ economic freedoms and Canadians’ best economic avenue and hope for recovery from the present economic recession. Canada needs to use our natural resources as powerful levers to grow our income and employment. Canada does not need another weapon that radical environmentalist with deep pockets and crafty lawyers can use against taxpaying workers and the Canadian economy.
As Phillip Cross wrote of economist Robert Schiller, beware of powerful narratives that contradict the facts, noting that “Climate change is another powerful narrative fused with celebrity to brow-beat the public into accepting poor policies that are harmful to the economy and do little to change the climate.”
This report will lay out the facts for your consideration.