Is Canada’s Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act a Parliamentary Placebo?

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Is Canada’s Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act a Parliamentary Placebo?


  • People given placebos in drug tests often feel better because they expect they will. Legislation can have a similar placebo effect. Canada’s Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act is an example: it makes people feel better despite being ineffective, unnecessary, and potentially harmful.
  • The minister responsible has described the Act as setting “legally-binding targets.” That is incorrect. It legislates a target but doesn’t bind anyone to meet it.
  • Both the previous government and this one have set emissions targets without using legislation to do so, so this Act is unnecessary for that purpose.
  • The Act will encourage lawsuits that will seek to enforce compliance with the target, which the government might not defend vigorously.
  • A government media release says the Act provides transparency and accountability but that is also unnecessary because Canada’s commitment to file such reports under the Paris Agreement already does that.
  • Despite the promised transparency the Act is opaque on the single most important issue: the cost to Canadians of the rapid transition to net-zero emissions. Predictably, the rapid transition is inflationary and will make food, home heating, electricity, and transportation much costlier.
  • Contrary to popular misconception, the Paris Agreement does not require any specific emissions reductions but allows each country to determine its own targets.
  • China, India, and others (representing two thirds of the global population) have decided to increase their total emissions. Canada, prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns, was actually increasing its greenhouse gas emissions, making it unlikely that the country will meet the net-zero target.

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