Canada lags on 2020 climate target: NRT

Planned emission reductions will only take us halfway

June 13, 2012

OTTAWA: Canada is not on track to achieve the federal government’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 17% below 2005 levels, concludes a new report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRT)

“Canada will not achieve its 2020 GHG emission reductions target unless significant new, additional measures are taken. More will have to be done. No other conclusion is possible,” states the NRT, an independent agency mandated by Canada’s parliament.

Reality Check: The State of Climate Progress in Canada was undertaken last year at the request of the federal Minister of the Environment to inform the government’s regulatory approach to reducing emissions.

NRT’s research is based on original modelling using Environment Canada’s data as a principal source, as well as extensive consultations with the provinces and territories, academic and public policy experts.

The report shows Canada is making significant progress toward its 2020 target but will not get there with only existing and proposed climate policy measures by all governments. The NRT found that:

• Combining all existing and proposed federal, provincial and territorial climate policies and actions would lead to a reduction of 104 Mt CO2e in 2020, which represents almost 50% of the required emission reductions to meet Canada’s target of 607 Mt CO2e in 2020 – but an emissions gap of 117 Mt CO2e remains.

• Provincial policies are driving the largest portion of emission reductions to date – 75% of all emission reductions by 2020 – although the federal portion should rise to approximately a third by 2030.

• Provinces are making progress toward achieving their own targets, but almost all will need to introduce additional measures to meet them. Only Nova Scotia, and possibly Saskatchewan are forecasted to achieve their targets.

The NRT notes that the target is not yet out of reach, but the cost of additional policies to close the gap will be higher on average than policies pursued so far. While almost half the emission reductions from existing and proposed measures have been in the low-cost range of $50 per tonne and under, achieving the 2020 target will require reductions to come from medium and high cost measures of up to $150 per tonne.

Most emission reductions will have to come from the oil and gas sector, followed by manufacturing, electricity generation and transportation.

Provincially, emission reductions from Alberta will need to account for more than half of all future reductions to meet the 2020 target, followed by Ontario and BC.

Reality Check recommends that advances in future Canadian climate policy meet three tests: they are collaborative across governments by meeting regularly and specifically on climate policy; coherent by acting together in a coordinated way to reinforce each other’s policies and determine who is best positioned to act in one area over another; and considered by undertaking regular progress reports and assessments of how well Canada is meeting targets and forecasting to help consider future actions.

Recommendations include complementing the federal sector-by-sector regulatory approach with base-level carbon pricing; announcing a detailed plan as to which sectors will be regulated and when; using equivalency agreements with provinces for flexibility; and regular independent GHG progress forecasts.

Click here for a copy of the report.