Canada’s Most Significant Climate Policies and Programs in 2023

A proposed Federal Nature Accountability Bill: Canada’s pledge (2022) to protect a third of Canada’s land and water by 2030 is legislation.

As Scorecard looks back on 2023, Canada’s adaptation strategy (2022) appears underfunded, and its mitigation strategy (2022) needs faster implementation to reach the 1.5 C target.  Each year, Canada’s COP28 announcements intensify the need to do more, even as countries come together this year to address the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and push for ambitious outcomes. So although Canada announced strengthened oil and gas methane reduction regulations with targets of at least 75% from 2012 levels by 2030 (first published in 2018 as 40-45% below 2012 levels by 2025) and declared a draft framework to cap pollution from the oil and gas sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) to phase-in between 2026 and 2030, which ignores production, Canada also reminds us the oil and gas sector accounted for 28% of national emissions in 2021 (last available data). The Canadian Climate Institute projects increased federal fossil fuel emissions for 2022, seemingly demonstrating a continued longer-term trend of steadily rising emissions from the oil and gas sectors while undercutting other sectors’ reduction successes.

Further described on Environment and Climate Change Canada’s website, Canada has a suite of policies to support emissions reductions in the oil and gas sector and multiple measures to support investments in decarbonization. But it says the design will ensure predictable emissions reductions while providing flexibility to respond to unpredictable market forces. Oil and gas producers can maintain or even grow production by using better technology and improving efficiency while lowering emissions. It also notes despite improvements in emissions intensity in recent years, overall emissions from this sector have continued to grow since 2005.

So, where do we look for concrete change that reduces emissions as of 2023? At COP28, Canada also announced a Federal Nature Accountability Bill in 2024 and an accountability framework for the federal government to fulfill its nature and biodiversity commitments under the Global Biodiversity Framework (Canada signed on in 2022). This Framework aims to safeguard at least 30 % of the world’s land, freshwater, and oceans, halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, and achieve full recovery for nature by 2050. Steps from now until 2030 for a 30% reduction in Canada include developing a 2030 Biodiversity Strategy and reporting with clear and accessible progress reporting and course corrections to maintain its nature and biodiversity commitments. This builds on Canada’s 2020 Biodiversity targets (2015) in response to the UN’s Biodiversity Plan from 2011-2020. Why is this critical?

Canada depends on nature-based climate solutions to help slow climate change and reach its emission targets. Climate scientists measure emissions and removals of C02 from ecosystems such as forests and wetlands separately from anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions. This sector is called LULUCF – Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry. Canada’s forests and improved farming practices on agricultural land provide a significant carbon sink. Carbon sinks are natural deposits collected in oceans, forests, and soils that absorb and store C02 from the atmosphere. When LULUCF is included in GGE data, the inventory drops as LULUCF is recorded as harmful emissions. In 2021, this net flux amounted to net removals of 17 Mt, which decreased Canada’s total emissions by 2.6% when included with emissions from other sectors.

National Geographic declares countries should protect 50% of all land by 2030 to have a real hope of keeping climate change under 1.5 degrees. It’s not widely understood that large areas of forests, grasslands, and other natural areas soak up carbon emissions. Conservation is also critical to achieving climate goals. Forests, peatlands, and oceans are carbon sinks, absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. When destroyed, all that carbon goes back into the atmosphere. Land and oceans absorb more than half of all carbon emissions. The UN tells us that one-third of the GGE reductions needed in the next decade could be achieved by improving nature’s ability to absorb emissions.

Over 2023, Canada recognized five areas (over 15,000 hectares) on federal land holdings toward its 30%. More is expected. Last year, the IPCC stated that healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change and provide life-critical services such as food.  By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30-50% of Earth’s land, freshwater, and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store carbon. We can accelerate progress towards sustainable development. Still, adequate finance and political support are essential.


This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Canada Country Manager Diane Szoller.


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