On February 25th, the Government of Canada announced its new Net Zero Advisory Body. Our very own Executive Director, Catherine Abreu, was appointed to the body, along with Yukon Regional Chief to the Assembly of First Nations Kluane Adamek, President of the Canadian Labour Congress Hassan Yussuf, Executive Director of the Pembina Institute Linda Coady, Impact and Benefit Agreement Coordinator at the Nunatsiavut Government Theresa Baikie, and IPCC scientist Simon Donner, among others.
Here’s what Cat said at the Advisory body’s launch:
“Change is underway and we have a once-in-a-generation chance to actively plan and build the equitable, climate-safe economy we know we need – our communities’ health and prosperity, and our collective future, depend on it. Getting to zero is going to take a lot of big ideas, local solutions, and elbow grease; I look forward to working with fellow advisors and the Minister on this important piece of the larger effort.”
As part of our advocacy for robust climate accountability legislation in Canada, Climate Action Network Canada, with our members and allies, have been asking for an arms-length, expert-based committee to advise the government on its climate objectives, its plans to achieve those objectives and its progress in implementing those plans.
How does the new Net Zero Advisory Body compare with what we had in mind?
First, what is Canada’s new Net Zero Advisory Body?
Establishing a Net Zero Advisory Body was a platform promise made by the Liberals during the 2019 election. If passed, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, aka Bill C-12, would legislate the existence of such a body and enshrine its mandate as a key element of Canada’s climate planning process.
The Advisory Body is composed of up to 15 experts, selected based on expertise and credibility in at least one of the following areas: climate change or environmental policy; the energy, industrial and finance sectors; a scientific background; innovation and entrepreneurship; economics, jobs, or labour policy. The existing 14 members bring a range of experiences and were selected to represent the diversity of the Canadian population, including representation from British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and the North. You can find the full list of members here.
The primary role of the advisory body will be to provide advice on the most promising pathways to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The terms of reference for the body, which can be found here, outline that it will :
- Draw on existing and emerging research, analysis, and technical expertise, as well as consult experts and Canadians from coast to coast to coast;
- Provide advice on the most likely pathways for Canada to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, on emissions reductions milestones (or what is referred to in Bill C-12 as milestone targets, set every 5 years starting in 2030) leading up to 2050, and identify near-term actions and key building blocks that support this long-term target;
- Provide advice, as part of its initial mandate, on actions Canada can take now to ensure a strong economic recovery while laying the foundation for net-zero emissions by 2050.
A robust climate accountability framework for Canada
The net zero advisory body is an important addition to the range of expert advice governments will need to guide Canada’s social and economic transition to zero emissions by 2050. Given its make-up, this body will be well positioned to collect input from rightsholders and stakeholders, and provide interest-based recommendations on how Canada can transition to clean, renewable energy while building the equitable, climate-safe economy we know we need.
Canada’s Net Zero Advisory Body is composed of representatives of diverse communities – Indigenous communities, government, labour, ENGOs, business and industry, and academia. While including these perspectives is important, international best practice, with the UK Climate Change Act leading the way, has shown us that independent expertise is invaluable to the development of more ambitious climate policies. The UK Climate Change Committee is indeed mostly made up of academia and researchers. Research has shown that such independent expertise provides clear structure for debate and analytical rigour that helps to improve the quality of political decision-making among all parties.
We still need clarity on who the government of Canada will turn to for essential advice on pathways that will get Canada to zero emissions and adhere to international best practices that use carbon budgets as a tool to ensure steady, certain and equitable progress toward milestones on the path to long-term goals. It is also unclear how or whether this body, or another agency, will monitor and assess governments’ progress in getting us there – one notable absence in the Advisory Body’s terms of reference is the role of accountability. Currently, it does not have the mandate nor the resources to assess whether the government’s actions are on track with its ambition.
In the past few months, we have been working relentlessly, shoulder to virtual shoulder with many of you, to strengthen Bill C-12. While we welcome the new Advisory Body, there is still work to be done to make C-12 the rigorous framework Canada needs for its climate action to match its rhetoric. The legislative process, particularly in the context of the current minority Parliament, offers us important opportunities to amend the Bill. Yesterday’s announcement does not weaken our resolve in this regard, and with clarity on the Advisory Body’s Terms of Reference, we can now advocate for a stronger accountability role to be added to its mandate.
With our members and allies, Climate action network Canada will keep working to make sure the pieces add up, and Canada enshrines the robust climate accountability framework it needs to ensure we never miss a climate target again.