The Manitoba Government has announced a new climate target: 5.6 megatonnes (MT) greenhouse gas emissions reduction over the next five years compared to projected emissions for that period.

A climate target is more than just a number. It is about vision, leadership, and planning, and the government’s target reveals a lack of all three.

The rest of the world is thinking more than five years ahead. Almost every other province has a 2030 and 2050 target that follows the federal targets of 40-45% emissions reduction by 2030 and net-zero by 2050, which in turn is in line with the recommendations of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Road to Resilience is based on these shared 2030 and 2050 targets and lays out a complete pathway showing how we could get there. But the Manitoba government has declined to even set a 2030 or 2050 target.

If Manitoba’s targets were in line with the rest of the world, we would be aiming for a 45% reduction by 2030 relative to 2010 levels, which means emitting only 8.5 MT CO2e in the year 2030 (based on 19 MT in 2010). Manitoba’s emissions currently hover around 20 MT every year. A cumulative reduction of 5.6 MT over 5 years is not going to “bend the curve” anywhere near 8.5 MT by 2030.

And there is an additional trick built in: this reduction is not mandated. Any shortfall in their already unambitious 5.6 MT target can simply be tacked on to the next five year period.

All this may seem somewhat abstract, but the provincial government’s lack of long-term thinking and meaningful commitment to climate action could have harmful economic and practical consequences for Manitobans.

For example, reaching our targets at a national level will require a drastic reduction in transportation emissions. To that end, the federal government has signalled that sales of gas-powered vehicles will be phased out by 2035, and more and more Manitobans are already choosing electric vehicles (EVs) because of the lower gas and maintenance costs. But the expansion of EV ownership requires a simultaneous expansion of the charging network, especially along provincial highways in our largely rural province. Manitoba drivers need the province to have a long term plan for how it will be investing in and coordinating the construction and maintenance of this new critical infrastructure. 

More broadly, setting meaningful climate targets also signals to investors, industry, educational and research institutions, municipal governments, and other actors that the province is serious about growing the green economy and ready to collaborate. We need the province to have a long-term vision for how Manitoba’s workers and economy can benefit from the energy transition, or we risk getting left behind. 

While the provincial government celebrates its new target, the truth is that it is much lower and shorter-term than the 2030 and net-zero by 2050 targets set by other provinces, the federal government, and the international world. And if Manitoba is aiming low, that is where we will end up.