Recent and ongoing extreme weather events are putting the need for urgent climate action into focus. And new legislation promises to address the situation in a more accountable way.

In its last sitting before adjournment for the summer, the Senate of Canada adopted Bill C-12, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, without amendment, making it Canada’s first government-initiated climate accountability law.

Climate accountability legislation is crucial to achieve Canada’s international commitments under the Paris Agreement and finally addressing the climate emergency by joining the global race to net-zero. Since Canada has consistently failed to set rigorous targets and failed to achieve said targets, this bill is the first step in correcting our trajectory and finally embarking on a path to climate action founded in science and Indigenous knowledge.

The bill, composed of 29 sections, was significantly strengthened by more than 30 amendments adopted by the House of Commons. Meanwhile, the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources had undertaken a pre-study of the bill in anticipation that the bill would be received at the Senate at the 11th hour.

As the Senate sponsor of the bill, Rosa Galvez (independent Senator for Québec) celebrates the passage of this historic piece of legislation while also recognizing the need to improve accountability measures, the administrative independence of its staple Net-Zero Advisory Body, and the inclusion scientific expertise at every opportunity.

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Rosa Galvez, independent Senator for Québec, and sponsor of Bill C-12.

“Finally, Canada adopts a comprehensive climate accountability framework joining 14 other countries which have followed the lead of the tried and tested UK Climate Change Act that has guided the UK through record greenhouse gas emissions reductions since 2008,” said Galvez. “We are late to the race and given our history of failures to meet unambitious targets, we need this methodically planned framework to hold this and all consecutive governments accountable for demonstrating how they will achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Governments will no longer be able to set climate targets without being accountable to Canadians on their plan to achieve our objectives.”

Galvez is an environmental engineer, a professor at Laval University in Québec, an independent senator for Québec and president of the Parliamentary Network on Climate Change of ParlAmericas.

A comprehensive parliamentary review will give parliamentarians an opportunity to assess implementation efforts and identify improvements to the law five years after its coming into force.

“Canada’s new net-zero law provides the long-term confidence and certainty required to attract investment and ensure that Canadians are delivering products and services that will be in high demand the world over, now and well into the future,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Climate change is the biggest long-term threat of our generation, but it is also the greatest economic opportunity.”

According to a statement from the David Suzuki Foundation, “We give a shout-out to the political representatives and senators who put partisan politics aside to pass this bill into law.” However, the foundation advises that “the true test of this legislation will be in its implementation,” so it will continue to advocate for strong implementation and for ever-increasing ambitious climate action.

For further resources on Bill C-12, click here.

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