Politics

Still no release date for federal report on climate-change costs

The federal government still hasn’t said when Finance Canada will release its report on what climate change could cost Ottawa.

The Finance Canada report is required by the Canadian Net-Zer0 Emissions Accountability Act, which passed in June 2020. Under the same law, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault must release a plan for how Canada will reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels.

Canada is on track to slash GHGs by about 36 per cent, according to a June 2020 analysis by the parliamentary budget officer. Other think tanks’ analyses are more or less optimistic. One says Canada can reduce GHGs by just 16 per cent by 2030. Others say existing policies, plus those promised in the Liberal election platform, give Canada a “reasonable” chance of meeting its goal.

While the emissions-reduction plan gets most of the spotlight, the law also requires that two departments, Finance Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada, report annually on “key measures that the federal public administration has taken to manage its financial risks and opportunities related to climate change.”

The plan’s exact release date is spelled out in the law. It was first required on Dec. 29, 2021, six months after the law passed, but the government availed itself of a 90-day extension to March 28 of this year. Ottawa has to release a new plan every five years afterward that corresponds with updated targets.

But it’s up to cabinet to decide when to release the Finance Canada report, which “comes into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council,” according to the law.

No date has been set, said Gabriel Brunet, Guilbeault’s press secretary.

“More details will be available in due course,” Brunet said in an email on Dec. 7, and confirmed that no more information was available on Dec. 28.

The fact that there’s no release date doesn’t concern Caroline Brouillette, national policy adviser at Climate Action Network Canada.

“As long as it’s annual” and complies with the legislation, that would be fine, she said.

“The end of the fiscal year would make sense,” she said, meaning by March 31.

“Because this will be the first report tabled under (the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act), it would have a bigger impact for them to table something meaningful and detailed, because it will set a precedent,” she added.

Releasing it before fiscal year’s end would be even better, so as to take into account Guilbeault’s emissions-reduction plan on March 29.

Brouillette hopes the report’s calculations include the risk posed by some of Export Development Canada’s investments in fossil fuels.

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