GOLDSTEIN: Wilkinson’s climate change math does not add up

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Today, let’s consider the bafflegab Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has been spouting recently about the Liberal record on climate change versus the Conservative one.

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It’s an appropriate time to do so as a huge, 12-day United Nations conference on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland will begin Nov. 1, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Wilkinson will be talking about the issue endlessly.

In a recent interview with Mercedes Stephenson on Global News’ The West Block, Wilkinson lauded the Trudeau government’s record on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, saying Stephen Harper and the Conservatives did “zero on climate” for a decade leading up to their defeat by the Liberals in 2015.

By contrast, Wilkinson said, the Liberals have reduced Canada’s emissions to “1% below where we were in 2005.”

Except Harper and the Conservatives weren’t in power in 2005.

Paul Martin and the Liberals were.

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Canada’s emissions in 2005, the last year the Liberals were in power prior to being defeated by the Conservatives on Jan. 23, 2006, were 739 million tonnes.

In 2019, the latest figures available for the Trudeau government, emissions were 730 million tonnes.

So Wilkinson should have said that Canada’s emissions in 2019 under the Trudeau Liberals were down by 1% from the Martin Liberals in 2005.

When the Harper Conservatives came to power at the start of 2006, they inherited the Martin/Liberal record for 2005 of 739 million tonnes of emissions.

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When they were defeated by the Trudeau Liberals late in 2015, Canada’s emissions were 723 million tonnes.

So the Harper Conservative record was to reduce the emission levels they inherited from the Martin Liberals by 16 million tonnes, from 739 to 723, or 2.2%.

Given that Canada’s emissions under the Trudeau government for 2019 (the latest figure available) were 730 megatonnes, the Trudeau Liberals have increased Canada’s emissions by seven million tonnes, from 723 to 730, or almost 1%, compared to the Harper Conservatives when they lost power in 2015.

So in the real world, emissions went down in the Harper era and went up during Trudeau’s first term of office.

But the larger and more significant issue is that no Canadian government, Conservative or Liberal, has ever hit a single greenhouse gas emissions reduction target it has set in 33 years.

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Not the Brian Mulroney Progressive Conservatives, the Jean Chretien Liberals, the Martin Liberals, the Harper Conservatives or the Trudeau Liberals.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

The only dramatic reductions in Canada’s emissions in the modern era have occurred not because of government policies, but because of global recessions when the demand for fossil fuel energy is reduced.

That includes the 2008-09 global recession that started with the subprime mortgage derivative scandal in the U.S., when the Harper Conservatives were in power, and the COVID-19 pandemic recession beginning in 2020 with the Trudeau Liberals in power.

It means when the Trudeau government announces its 2020 emissions in 2022 — again, always reported two years after the fact — emissions compared to 2019 will be down.

But emissions are already rising as the pandemic recession begins to fade, just as emissions rose in the wake of the 2008-09 recession.

Wilkinson can say Trudeau is the first Canadian PM to impose a carbon tax/price on Canadians and to commit over $100 billion of their money to fight climate change.

But in their first term of office from 2015-19 under Trudeau, the reality is that Canada’s emissions went up, whatever bafflegab Wilkinson is spouting now.

lgoldstein@postmedia.com

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