Federal report says Canadians ‘doubtful’ on hitting emissions targets

OTTAWA — The federal government was told just before the fall election campaign that many Canadians didn’t believe the country will meet targets for reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions.

Public-opinion research conducted on behalf of the Privy Council Office showed that most participants in the spring survey were “doubtful” Canada would reach its targets, with the rest “uncertain, or hopeful but not optimistic.”

Among the reasons people gave for believing Canada would fall short were the cost to the economy to do so, including job losses in sectors like oil and gas, and “political will.”

Under the Paris climate-change agreement, the Trudeau Liberals agreed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to a level 30 per cent below what they were in 2005 and to do it by 2030.

The polling report delivered in mid-August and made public in recent days suggested that participants wanted the government to at least try to meet the 2030 target even if efforts were doomed.

Last week, the Liberals said Canada’s emissions are forecast to be 227 million tonnes below what was projected in 2015, which would be 77 million tonnes short of the target Canada committed to under the Paris pact.

During the federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to boost efforts so Canada would exceed its 2030 goal and then achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Among the measures the Liberals proposed was funding the planting of two billion trees, cutting energy waste and supporting zero-emissions clean tech companies — none of which were included in the updated forecasts released on the Friday before Christmas.

A key measure the Liberals have touted in their plan is the federal carbon price. Participants in the survey said they believed that the Liberals’ carbon tax had increased the cost of gas, food and home heating, and will eventually drive up costs for travel, public transit and consumer goods transported over long distances.

The Liberals say the carbon tax is designed to change habits so individuals reduce their own carbon footprints, and the report suggests this is happening to an extent.

Some participants told interviews they have opted to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, be more strategic in running errands to limit car use, opt for public transit more or work more often from home. Others told interviewers they expect to drive less eventually, while the remainder said “they have no option but to drive as much as they do.”

Any funding collected through the carbon tax is returned through rebates at tax time, but most participants in the research believed they would receive less than what they paid.

That belief didn’t change when interviewers presented them with a parliamentary budget office report saying 80 per cent of tax filers will receive more in rebates than they pay in carbon fees.

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