Proposals for new mines, power plants, pipelines or railways in Canada will have to include plans to hit “net zero” emissions by 2050 if they have any hope of getting approved.
But the new rules, contained in the government’s final strategic assessment on climate change released Thursday, are not the all-encompassing climate test environment groups had been hoping to see.
Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the plan will ensure Canada’s goal to exceed its Paris climate agreement targets by 2030 and then hit net zero by 2050.
“Net zero” means any greenhouse gases emitted are absorbed by natural or mechanical means, rather than left to amass in the atmosphere where they contribute to global warming.
“We made a commitment in 2015, and implemented in the last mandate, of better rules for assessing large projects,” Wilkinson said. “Today what we’re doing is providing clarity to project proponents.”
The Impact Assessment Act was passed before the last election to overhaul how federal environmental assessments are done. A long list of projects, from mines and power lines to wind farms, airports, and pipelines, automatically require those assessments. The environment minister can also insist a federal assessment be done even on some projects not on that list.
In addition to putting time constraints on the review periods, including Indigenous expertise and consultation in the process, and adding a pre-review consultation process, the Impact Assessment Act for the first time will include a project’s effect on climate change as one of the considerations.
The report released last Thursday outlines how that will happen. It requires project proposals to include the greenhouse-gas emissions to be produced from construction and operations and what efforts are being made to minimize emissions.
For any project that will still be operating in 2050, a plan to get to net zero is also required.
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