This article was written by Mitchell Beer and originally published to The Energy Mix on December 17, 2021.
A cap on oil and gas emissions, a 75% methane reduction this decade, a net-zero electricity grid by 2035, a mandated 50% target for electric vehicle sales by 2030, and a renewed commitment to international climate finance are among the elements of the mandate letter issued to Environment and Climate Minister Steven Guilbeault Thursday afternoon by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Guilbeault will have his hands full for the foreseeable future, with a total of 39 items—not including sub-bullets—and 27 mentions of “climate” in his mandate letter.
“The science is clear,” Trudeau wrote, in a boilerplate paragraph that shows up in his letters to each of the 38 Cabinet ministers. “Canadians have been clear. We must not only continue taking real climate action, we must also move faster and go further. As Canadians are increasingly experiencing across the country, climate change is an existential threat. Building a cleaner, greener future will require a sustained and collaborative effort from all of us. As Minister, I expect you to seek opportunities within your portfolio to support our whole-of-government effort to reduce emissions, create clean jobs, and address the climate-related challenges communities are already facing.”
The PM instructs Guilbeault to:
• Deliver a plan by the end of March to reduce Canada’s greenhouse emissions 40 to 45% from 2005 levels by 2030;
• Work with Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to cap oil and gas sector emissions at current levels and set five-year reduction targets “at a pace and on a scale needed to align with the achievement of net-zero emissions by 2050”;
• Set regulations to achieve a 75% reduction in methane emissions from oil and gas by 2030;
• Continue the government’s efforts on a 2030 coal phaseout;
• Work with International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan to mobilize financing for climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience in developing countries, particularly vulnerable small island states;
• Develop a “regulated sales mandate that at least 50% of all new light duty vehicle sales be zero emissions vehicles in 2030”, en route to 100% by 2035;
• Work with Wilkinson on a Clean Electricity Standard to deliver a 100% net-zero power grid by 2035, including an Atlantic Loop initiative to connect surplus clean power in the country’s eastern provinces with areas that are trying to move off coal;
• Introduce Canada’s first national climate adaptation strategy in 2022;
• Speed up the country’s deadline for phasing out fossil fuel subsidies from 2025 to 2023;
• Work with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on climate-related financial disclosures, alongside provincial/territorial governments;
• Modernize the Canada Water Act to factor in climate change and Indigenous rights;
• Deliver on a zero plastic waste strategy by 2030, while working toward a new global agreement on plastics;
• Introduce environmental justice legislation and drive recognition of the right to a healthy environment in federal law.
(And there’s more…find Guilbeault’s full mandate letter here.)
Wilkinson’s mandate letter includes more detailed responsibilities on the net-zero electricity grid, including formation of a Pan-Canadian Grid Council and working with Indigenous communities to replace diesel generators with “clean, renewable, and reliable energy” by 2030. He also takes on duties related to the oil and gas emissions cap, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and driving a just transition for fossil fuel workers and communities alongside his predecessor in the natural resources portfolio, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan.
Wilkinson also receives mandates on:
• A national electric vehicle charging network;
• A Net Zero Accelerator initiative for Canadian industry;
• Full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
• Strategies on critical minerals and battery innovation;
• A Buy Clean Strategy for Canadian infrastructure investment;
• A net-zero buildings strategy, including energy retrofit incentives and model building codes;
• The government’s continuing effort to make good on Trudeau’s 2019 promise to plant two billion trees, along with a commitment on old growth forest protection in British Columbia;
• A national flood mapping strategy to protect homes and communities threatened by climate change;
• A wildfire resilience strategy that includes training for 1,000 community-based firefighters.
The words “carbon capture” do not show up in Wilkinson’s mandate letter, despite concern over the last couple of weeks that Ottawa was poised to approve new subsidies for the controversial technology. Similarly, small modular nuclear reactors did not make the rhetorical cut in Wilkinson’s stated duties.
While the mandate letters put Guilbeault and Wilkinson at the centre of the government’s emerging climate plan, a number of other ministers and departments have roles to play. Some of those include:
• Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland working with Trudeau to “champion the adoption of a global minimum standard on carbon pricing” and drive consultations on border carbon adjustments, while ensuring that “budgetary measures are consistent with the Government’s climate goals and the legislated requirement to achieve net-zero emissions by no later than 2050”;
• Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair with responsibility for climate resilience and response, including planning and preparedness in Indigenous communities, climate-resilient infrastructure, a climate data strategy, and an expanded focus on climate as a national security issue;
• Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly positioning climate change as one of the issues at the heart of the country’s foreign policy, with formation of a Canadian-based NATO Centre of Excellence on Climate and Security;
• Treasury Board President Mona Fortier carrying on the federal Greening Government Strategy and working with Guilbeault to attach a climate lens to all government decisions.
Among the notable omissions, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau’s mandate letter makes no mention of the government’s previous promise to cut farm producers’ nitrous oxide emissions 30% by 2030, to the consternation of the country’s fertilizer lobby. Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra receive no climate mandates at all, apart from the boilerplate paragraph sent to all ministers.