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Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, seen here on Nov. 20, 2019, said in an interview with The Globe that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tasked him with figuring out how Canada could surpass its 2030 targets.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Ottawa is looking at increasing its 2030 emissions reduction targets as it charts a path for Canada to virtually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tasked him with figuring out how Canada could surpass its 2030 targets.

“That is part of what I am being charged to do over the next number of months is to look at what can we do from an exceeds perspective and what might that new number look like,” Mr. Wilkinson said Wednesday at his office in Gatineau.

As the government looks to set the bar higher though, it still hasn’t explained how it will meet the current targets. And the Trudeau Liberals are already facing intense political battles and regional divisions over the policies they’ve already implemented, including the federal carbon tax and rebate system.

Canada’s current target for 2030 is to cut emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels. The goal was first set by former prime minister Stephen Harper and is widely criticized by the Green Party, the NDP and environmentalists because it falls short of what’s needed for Canada to do its part in limiting the rise in global temperatures.

According to the government’s own numbers, the policies in place leave a 79-megatonne shortfall in the 30-per-cent reduction target. Mr. Trudeau repeatedly maintained during the fall election campaign that his government would “meet and surpass” the target, without giving detail on how it would get there, and Mr. Wilkinson said that’s what he’s now tasked with figuring out.

“We’re going to need to go further. We’re going to need additional measures to ensure that we actually not only fill that 80-megatonne space, but that we go beyond,” Mr. Wilkinson said.

Under the Paris Agreement, countries around the world agreed to limit the rise in temperatures to below two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, with the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. However, the latest United Nations reports show the world is on track to blow past those benchmarks. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its 2018 report that to correct course, the world needs to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 – a target that the Liberals also agreed to during the election campaign.

If the world doesn’t change course, the panel said the current warming trend will result in catastrophic effects on human society and the broader environment.

Mr. Wilkinson said the more ambitious 2030 goal will be crafted to ensure Canada is well positioned to meet the 2050 target.

Two weeks into his new job, Mr. Wilkinson said he can’t yet say how the government will meet the targets.

So far the Liberals have implemented 50 different policies toward its climate change goals, including incentives for electric vehicle sales, regulations for the carbon content in fuels and investments in public transit and clean technology.

Mr. Wilkinson said he will work with experts and industry to identify more ways to reduce emissions.

Asked about the costs of more aggressive climate policies to the economy, he said the government will find creative pathways that are affordable “without significant economic cost to Canadians.”

He noted there is also an “enormous economic opportunity” for countries who lead the way on the transition to a cleaner economy because the new technologies developed will be in demand around the world.

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