Budget includes historic investments in clean economy and commitments to including climate and quality of life impacts in decision-making
OTTAWA — While today’s tabling of Budget 2021 by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland focused on the ongoing pandemic response, it also included critical, historic investments in addressing the climate and nature crises.
Of $101.4 billion in new spending, $17.6 billion is designed to support a green pandemic recovery.
“As we grapple with an ever-worsening third wave of COVID-19, we’re grateful for government’s ongoing efforts to address this massive public health emergency,” David Suzuki Foundation acting executive director Ian Bruce said. “Today’s investments in addressing the dual climate and nature crises are also absolutely critical. We must seize this unique opportunity to ensure these investments set us up for a green and just pandemic recovery.”
The David Suzuki Foundation is pleased to see these investments:
- Almost $4 billion over five years for land and oceans protection, a commitment to Pacific salmon restoration and a $200-million natural infrastructure fund
- Support for nature-based solutions, including $1.4-billion to replenish the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, which has financed natural infrastructure projects
- $4.4 billion over five years to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 so homeowners can complete deep home retrofits that will help improve efficiency and reduce emissions
- $491 million over six years for VIA Rail Canada to take steps toward high-frequency rail to help shift to less polluting modes of transportation in the Toronto to Quebec City corridor
- $27.5 million over five years, and $6.1 million ongoing, to create a census to help monitor environmental trends and support evidence-based decision-making
“This budget includes post-pandemic investments compatible with much-needed strengthened climate targets,” Foundation director general for Quebec and Atlantic Canada and climate program lead Sabaa Khan said. “We’re anxiously awaiting Canada’s updated climate target later this week. While we still need to ensure it’s ambitious enough, it’s good to know the funding is there to support it.”
Budget 2021 also includes important investments to build Canada’s long-term capacity to align government decision-making with environmental objectives. It funds implementation of a “climate lens” to assess emission impacts of decisions, and outlines a new quality of life framework to assess “economic success” on the basis of prosperity, health, environment, social cohesion and good governance — rather than gross domestic product alone. It also provides new resources for Environment and Climate Change Canada to deliver on key regulatory and policy initiatives announced in the December 2020 climate plan.
“The pandemic has shone a light on so many social inequalities — re-imagining the purpose of the Canadian economy and how we choose to define and measure its success is a unique opportunity to show global leadership,” Foundation director general for Ontario and Northern Canada, and senior economist Yannick Beaudoin said. “This government is committing to ‘measuring what matters,’ and moving toward a ‘beyond GDP’ economy that ensures the well-being of people and planet.”
Other Budget 2021 environmental highlights include:
- $14.9 million over four years to power federal buildings with clean electricity as of 2022, including provisions for Indigenous participation
- Funding to strengthen greenhouse gas regulations for light and heavy duty vehicles — a key measure given Canada’s notoriously polluting vehicle fleet
- A groundbreaking $20 million over two years to remove open net-pen salmon farms from essential wild salmon habitats
“This budget represents historic investments in nature and strong commitments to protected areas, species at risk and Indigenous-led conservation,” Foundation director general for Western Canada and nature program lead Jay Ritchlin said. “Polls show that more and more people in Canada see that linking nature and climate is key to our long-term safety and resilience.”
Unfortunately, Budget 2021 also allocates $319 million over seven years to Natural Resources Canada to support expensive carbon capture utilization and storage technology — potentially delaying the transition off fossil fuels. That money would have been better allocated to measures that reduce fossil fuel consumption.
“These are record-breaking investments in climate and nature toward our long-term resilience and safety as a nation, but what comes next will be key,” Bruce said. “We need stronger, nearer-term climate targets, with accountability legislation to ensure we meet them. We need to continue investing in nature and Indigenous leadership in its protection and restoration. Budget 2021 sets Canada on the path toward a green and just pandemic recovery, toward more resilient communities able to withstand future crises. Now we need to follow through.”
The David Suzuki Foundation is a member of the Green Budget Coalition. For more information, visit the GBC’s Recommendations for Recovery and Budget Actions in 2020-2021.
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