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CUPE’s National Environment Committee says the Harper government’s new environmental legislation is not tough enough on greenhouse gas emitters and does not set strict enough targets for reductions. While the proposed act is more focused on air quality, the committee says it fails to tackle climate change head-on. Government cutbacks on the environment - for example cutting the government-financed website on climate change - also signals Harper’s lack of leadership and commitment to the issue.

The government wants its citizens to believe the importance of climate change by putting forward this new act,” said Environment co-chair Rh’ena Oake summarizing the committee’s position. “But this act does not contain any firm commitment to regulations and enforcement.”

The federal conservatives new proposed legislation abandons the Kyoto Protocol, sending a message to Canadians that climate change is not at the top of the government’s agenda.

The CUPE committee is disappointed that the proposed act looks too deep into the future with target dates for emissions reduction. As well, the committee condemned the legislation for putting too much emphasis on individuals, while industry is only stuck with “compliance options.”

Milo Murray, committee co-chair, said, “It’s one thing for the government to regulate snowmobile, ATV and two-stroke engine emissions, but they have to apply at least similar strict measures to industry. Industry emits greenhouse gases on a scale much greater than the individual. The government must regulate across the board.”

The committee says that the government must also incorporate financial measures to any new regulations on household items and equipment so that the cost of new, cleaner technologies are not solely borne by, or downloaded to, consumers. As well, there are worries about the enforcement of any new measures, and whether the government has the will and resources to make sure any changes are acted upon.

The environment committee’s verdict: Harper’s government fails on climate change with this new proposed legislation. Rather than trying to roll climate change initiatives under the umbrella of clean air, the committee says a separate piece of legislation on climate change that incorporates strict targets and action now is what is needed. Canadians need leadership on climate change now.