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Liberals say they would commit Canada to net zero emissions by 2050

A dump truck works near the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the town of Fort McMurray, Alberta on June 1, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

A re-elected Liberal government would add Canada to a growing list of countries around the world that are committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in an effort to stop climate change, the party announced Tuesday.

The plan, announced by a trio of Liberal candidates, echoes a promise made by 65 other countries that pledged at this week’s UN Climate Summit to work to become carbon neutral by mid-century.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has also included the pledge in her platform.

The Liberal party did not immediately offer specifics on how its goal would be achieved, but said it would set legally binding five-year targets and appoint a group of scientists and economists to recommend what steps to take.

“The planet is burning and people are taking to the streets to demand stronger action to fight climate change,” Montreal-area Liberal candidate Steven Guilbeault said in a statement.

“The science is clear, the evidence is clear and Canadians are clear — we must step up and do even more to protect our environment. Our kids and grandkids are counting on us.”

The party is also promising to pass legislation to help businesses and workers make the transition to clean energy, and to exceed Canada’s current target of reducing emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Liberals did not provide a cost estimate for their program. Guilbeault and Ottawa-area Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna, who served as Trudeau’s environment minister, are expected to discuss the plan Tuesday morning.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will hold a media availability in Burnaby, B.C. — in the riding currently held by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Scientists say that while achieving net zero emissions requires significant changes to nations’ economies and the almost total end to burning fossil fuels, it’s the only way to stop global warming going beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius this century.

A number of other countries including the U.K., France and Germany have already pledged themselves to achieving the goal.

The Liberal party said net zero would mean some sectors would still produce carbon pollution, but would have to offset those emissions by other actions, such as planting trees.

The announcement comes as cities around the world are preparing for the latest wave of massive, youth-led mobilizations demanding environmental action.

Sixteen-year old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who delivered a scathing rebuke to world leaders at the UN Summit on Monday, will be in Montreal later this week to take part in a climate march.

With files from The Associated Press