Bill C-12 – Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act

Yesterday, the House of Commons passed Bill C-12, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act.

Bill C-12 will require the Federal government to set and meet 5-year targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, with the objectives of meeting Canada’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. A progress report will be published for each target, including proposed remedial measures if a target is missed, and an Advisory Panel will oversee the whole process.

Bill C-12 is supported by many environmental groups, though a recent letter by some of those groups to members of the House of Commons Environment Committee described the legislation as a “foundation” and said that it falls short of the “gold standard” set by comparable legislation in the United Kingdom.

For the Liberal Party, Bill C-12 is key to demonstrating the seriousness of its climate targets and emissions reduction policies to stakeholders and voters. But, as recently as two weeks ago, the minority government lacked the needed support to pass the Bill.

Ultimately, Minister Wilkinson secured the support of the NDP. The key concessions brokered by the NDP, which the Party highlighted prominently in its communications, were that Bill C-12 will include a 2026 target and progress reports in 2023 and 2025. The Bloc Quebecois also proposed amendments to the Bill that were accepted by the Government.

The Conservative Party claimed not to oppose Bill C-12 in principle, but argued that it lacks substance and cited the membership of the Advisory Body that was appointed pursuant to the legislation as reason for voting against it. The Green Party also opposes Bill C-12, arguing that the accountability mechanisms and emissions reduction targets in the legislation are not strong enough.

The Senate Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee already studied Bill C-12, in order to speed debate of the legislation. However, in recent comments to media, the leaders of the Senate Caucuses were all non-committal about expediting passage of the legislation prior to the adjournment of the Senate for the Summer on Friday. And if Bill C-12 is amended by the Senate, the Government would have to recall the House of Commons in order to pass the legislation prior to the Fall.

A Federal election in the Fall is increasingly likely, and debate about the strength of Canada’s climate policies is sure to figure prominently in the campaign. If Bill C-12 does not become law in the coming days, the re-introduction of similar legislation after a Fall election may depend on who wins that contest.

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