Canada: The 2021 Climate Year in Review

Canada: The 2021 Climate Year in Review



  • Bill C-12 (Canada’s Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act) Passes
  • A Cap on Oil and Gas Emissions at Current Levels with a Decline in the Pace and Scale of Emissions Needed to Get to Net-Zero by 2050 
  • A Commitment to End All Foreign Financing of Oil and Gas Projects by 2022
  •  A Ban on Mining and Exporting Thermal Coal by 2030
  •  A Reduction in Oil and Gas Methane Emissions by at Least 75% below 2012 Levels by 2030
  •  All New Light-duty Cars and Passenger Trucks Sold in Canada Will Be Zero-Emission by 2035 in Leading Markets
  •  A New Paris Agreement Emissions Reduction Target of 40-45% Below 2005 Levels, by 2030 vs the 30% set in 2015


Significant policies this past year:

  1. Bill C-12 (Canada’s Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act) enshrines in legislation

Bill C-12 is Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (approved June 29, 2021). It binds the government to a series of five-year interim emissions reduction targets/plans until 2050, to complement international reporting obligations. The Minister of Finance will report annually on the NDC financial risks and options under Canada’s Paris Agreement target of 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and following years/targets with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. It will help clarify how Canada’s sharing (carbon budget) is divided across the nation. More that can be done is to establish a 2025 target to help qualify 2030 compliance.  

Emissions from the oil and gas sector account for 26% of Canada’s overall emissions. Canada’s Prime Minister and Ministry of Environment and Climate Change at COP26 made several important announcements regarding taking action on fossil fuel reduction:

  1. A cap on emissions from the oil and gas sector at current levels with a decline at the pace and scale needed to get to net zero by 2050 (on November 2, 2021). This is legislation long time coming and needs to be ambitious.
  2. A commitment to end all foreign financing for oil and gas projects by 2022 (on November 4, 2021).
  3. A ban on mining and exporting thermal coal by 2030 (on November 1, 2021) will end trade of about 36 million tones (or 60%) of what Canada produces.
  4. On October 11, Canada committed to reduce oil and gas methane emissions by at least 75% below 2012 levels by 2030 toward a global methane pledge officially announced at COP26. Methane accounts for about 13% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions from the transportation sector account for 26% of Canada’s overall emissions. On June 29, 2021 the federal government announced a mandatory target that all new light-duty cars and passenger trucks sold in Canada be zero-emissions by 2035 in leading markets. This declaration was re-acknowledged at COP26. This will include working with the USA to harmonize performance-based greenhouse gas emissions regulations and standards. In addition, consultation, supported by a discussion paper, was launched in December 2021 on emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles aligned with the most ambitious standards in North America, and requiring that 100% of selected categories of medium and heavy-duty vehicles will be zero emissions by 2040. A memorandum of understanding, signed by 15 countries working toward 100% zero-emission new truck and bus sales by 2040 and 30% by 2030 was announced at COP26. The 2040 goal was promised by Canada’s governing party earlier, the 2030 goal is new.


  1. Canada’s current emissions reduction pledge

On April 22, 2021, at the USA Leaders’ Summit on Climate, Canada announced an emissions reduction target toward the Paris Agreement of 40-45% below 2005 levels, by 2030 vs the 30% set in 2015. This target still falls short of a 1.5°C stability, perceived to reflect Canada’s highest possible ambition in light of current national circumstances. Public consultation is presently underway until mid-January 2022 on the new targets. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is expected to establish a 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan by the end of March 2022. The plan will be informed by consultations with provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, a Net-Zero Advisory Body, and interested Canadians on what is needed to reach Canada’s more ambitious climate target of 40-45%.  Canada has also committed to net-zero emission by 2050.


Many Canadian announcements made at COP26 pertain to promises of the now governing party from their fall election promises. They were not negotiated items of the actual COP26 process. COP26 did not gain the raised ambitions needed to reduce emissions adequately for its 1.5°C target. To keep 1.5°C within reach, global emissions must be cut by half by the end of this decade. COP26 called on more ambitious commitments by the end of 2022—this is critical.

This post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Canada Country Manager Diane Szoller


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