Canada Policy Recommendations

Spotlight Activity: Canada Policy Recommendations

Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Paris Agreement (2015). The Canada Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (PCF) was adopted December 9, 2016, a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) and meet its Paris Agreement targets to reduce GGE by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 or to 523 Megatonnes (Mt). 2030 projections now take into account carbon contributions of the land use, land-use change and forestry sector. 

In signing the UN Secretary-General’s June 2018 Declaration of Ambition and in December 2018, prior to COP 24, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change (ECC) acknowledged a need to step up Canada’s ambition by 2020. In the meantime, the federal government remains focused on Canada’s current target through policy measures in the PCF. 

The global issue though is the target. Canada’s pledge to reduce emissions is currently not in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C. 

The World Resources Institute indicates global emissions need to drop by 40-50%. Canada’s carbon emissions in 2010 were 692 Mt, meaning a reduction to about 380 Mt by 2030. Climate Action Tracker’s analysis, says Canada’s current plans are “insufficient”, even with the PCF. They calculate 2030 projections need to be 327 Mt, not 523 Mt. 

A November 2018 study in Nature Communications found that if the rest of the world followed Canada’s current climate policies, there would be an increase of more than 5°C by 2100. The author, Dr. Yann Robiou du Pont, said the report will help encourage the UN’s process of re-assessing global climate commitments by 2020, which numerous studies have now found falls far short of 1.5. Canada should be decreasing their emissions by nearly 70%, he says. 

Climate Action Now states there is just over four years’ worth of current emissions left before it becomes unlikely we’ll meet 1.5C without overshooting or relying on unproven new technologies. This all is a substantial push to say Canada needs to do more. 

In 2017, Canada’s GGEs were 716 Mt, a net decrease of 15MT or 2% from 2005 emissions. The Energy sector was 583 Mt, or 81%, Agriculture and IPPU sectors (8% each), and Waste (3%). 

At the end of December 2018, the Minister of ECC outlined actions to date, including a price on pollution, work to phase-out coal power, investment in green infrastructure such as light rail and an electric-vehicle charging network, doubling the amount of protected nature by 2020, reducing plastic pollution, overhauling the federal environmental assessment regime, working to make buildings more efficient and creating a new clean fuel standard to lower fuel carbon intensity used in transport, buildings, and industry. We are heading in the right direction but need to move so much faster. Over the last five years, Canada’s average reduction nationally has been only one Mt per year.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Continue and Strengthen Carbon Pricing

Provinces and territories were given the flexibility to implement either a price-based system or cap-and-trade system with a minimum price of $10/tonne in place by 2018, rising to $50/tonne by 2022. The federal system began April 1, 2019 in provinces or territories requesting it or not having a system in place already. The goal is to regulate and reduce fossil fuel use, and establish a performance-based system for large industry. David Suzuki calls it a monetary price on carbon-based fuels and other sources of pollution. A national shift by households, businesses and industry to cleaner technologies increases the demand for energy-efficient products shifting the damage from GGEs back to those responsible to create greener practices. Results are predictable and cost-effective.

Sweden’s tax is roughly $189 per tonne, France’s $83. The October IPCC report says global prices may need to be several thousand dollars per tonne in 2030 to keep warming below 1.5°C. Revenue remains in the jurisdiction of origin. Canada’s ECC Ministry oversees the policy.

  1. Scale Up Efforts to Reduce Energy Sector Emissions

The largest contributor to Canada’s GGEs, is the energy sector. It is recognized, there are measures in the PCF meant to be scalable. It notes the use of clean electricity and low-carbon fuels as foundational to reduce emissions. Underway are an accelerated coal phase-out, methane regulations for oil and gas production, and a national clean fuel standard. Canada has a 90% renewable energy target committed to by 2030, already supported by a power supply mix which is quite low-carbon. 

  1. Eliminate Fossil Fuel Subsidies

 Not having this works against other actions to fight climate change. The ECC is asked to strengthen Canada’s Ambition by adding the elimination of subsidies to the PCF recognizing a public consultation process now underway until June 30, 2019, related to Ottawa’s pledge to eliminate “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” by 2025. 

  1. Consider IPCC Guidelines for Any New Policies Adopted by the Ministry of ECC

The IPCC advises most scientific literature specific to 1.5°C is only just emerging thus impact studies are limited in comparison to climate-change projections. There are currently also insufficient studies focusing on regional changes, impacts and consequences at 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming.

The IPCC notes adaptation is expected to be more challenging for ecosystems, food and health systems at 2°C than at 1.5°C. Many transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale and imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upscaling of Pathways with no or limited overshoot show system changes that are more rapid and pronounced over the next two decades. 

The IPCC states feasibility and sustainability of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) can be enhanced by a portfolio of options deployed at substantial, but lesser scales, rather than a single option.

The IPCC sees strengthened multilevel governance, institutional capacity, policy instruments, technological innovation and transfer and mobilization of finance, and changes in human behaviour and lifestyles are enabling conditions that enhance the feasibility of mitigation and adaptation options for 1.5°C-consistent systems transitions. Thus the questioning of stabilization methods of all options can help to avoid risks such as those that are long-lasting and irreversible while achieving a fixed 1.5°C limit.

IPCC assumptions regarding future trends in population, consumption of goods and services (including food), economic growth, behaviour, technology, policies and institutions are all priorities to achieve a rapid phase-out of CO2 emissions. Key sectors are energy and land use. Biofuels, energy supply and conversion technologies, energy consumption, and supply and end-use energy efficiency must be considered. Within land use; food demand, agricultural productivity, terrestrial carbon management, and biofuel production all need transformation. Scenarios must incorporate regional differentiation in sectoral and policy development.  

Action Rating: *** Moving Forward

Take Action

Please send the following message to the policymaker(s) below. 

Canada needs to ensure that Canada is 1.5°C compliant by 2030 and to consider adopting the recommendations that Climate Scorecard is putting forward to achieve this goal.

Send Action Alert Message to:

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change 


Mail: 200 Sacré-Coeur Boulevard, Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H3

Tel: 819-938-3860 or toll-free: 1-800-668-6767

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