Key Issues - Climate Change

Note

This information was current as of November 2015.

  1. Climate Change Science
  2. Domestic Climate Change Mitigation
  3. International Climate Change Negotiations
  4. International Climate Change Financing
  5. Climate Change Adaptation
  6. Oil Sands

Climate Change Science

What is the issue?

The scientific evidence is clear: the Earth’s climate is warming. Since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millenniaFootnote 1. In Canada, these changes include rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, and increases in certain types of hazardous weather.

Climate change is primarily attributed to the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which traps heat in the atmosphere and causes a warming effect. This warming effect depends on the total amount of GHGs accumulated in the atmosphere, the time that they remain in the atmosphere, and each GHG’s capacity to trap heat. In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that “it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”.

Based on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report’s mitigation scenario, limiting the average global temperature increase to likely less than 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels, in line with the goal of the Copenhagen Accord, will require that global GHG emissions be reduced by 40% to 70% below 2010 levels by mid-century and that emissions be decreased to near zero in the long term. To keep warming likely below 2oC, cumulative global emissions of carbon dioxide must be limited to approximately one gigatonne of carbon, half of which has already been emitted. Under this scenario, temperature in Canada is projected to rise by approximately 4.0oC. Under the highest emissions scenario, which assumes that global annual GHG emissions continue to rise throughout the 21st century, average global temperature is projected to rise by 5.6oC by 2100. However, temperature in Canada is projected to rise by 9.5oC.

While impacts including temperature rise are projected to vary by region, GHGs are distributed throughout the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, emissions reductions efforts that are undertaken contribute to addressing this global challenge, irrespective of where they are taken (either within or beyond any one country’s national borders). This underscores the importance of coordinated global action to address climate change.

Why is it important?

Climate science provides facts about climate change, enables understanding of the causes, and makes projections about future climate conditions. Scientific methods and processes such as scientific research, monitoring, modeling and assessment inform evidence-based decision making by providing policy makers with credible and relevant information. Climate science contributes to building effective domestic climate change strategies and mitigation measures, and informs international policy (e.g., selection of emission targets and policy options).

Environment Canada’s role

Environment Canada (EC) comprises Canada’s largest group of climate scientists and is the only scientific agency in Canada with the mandate to study climate change at a national level. EC’s climate science helps to broaden the state of knowledge on domestic impacts supporting decision-making on adaptation, to plan and monitor mitigation efforts, to make projections of future changes, and to contribute to international assessments that underpin key climate negotiations.

Furthermore, through a suite of EC climate services, the department interprets, contextualizes, and communicates science-based climate information to users to inform decisions. These services include advice for updating building codes and standards, as well as the provision of historical climate data sets, trends analyses, and climate change scenarios. EC’s Canada-wide observation network monitors changes in weather, climate, water, ice, and air quality, and provides the foundation for these services.

In a country as large as Canada, climate change is more evident in some regions than in others. Natural year-to-year climate variability also means that certain indicators are more noticeable in some years than in others. However, looking at long-term data across all regions, it is clear that the climate is changing both in Canada and globally. EC plays a leadership role in tracking climate change indicators of relevance to Canada, including:

Temperature

Precipitation

Snow cover

Sea ice

Biodiversity/wildlife

EC leads the production of Canada's annual GHG inventory, which provides essential information to support policy development on GHG mitigation. Inventory results are reported annually to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to inform global climate negotiations.

Total Canadian GHG emissions for 2013 are estimated at 726 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent. The vast majority of emissions are carbon dioxide (CO2, 78% of total GHG emissions), followed by methane (CH4, 15%), and nitrous oxide (N2O, 6%). Lesser amounts of synthetic gases (HFCs, PFCs, SF6 and NF3, ~1%) are emitted, but their contribution to global warming is magnified by their high warming potential.

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) influence the climate in the near-term. Examples include black carbon, methane, ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs, for instance, can have warming potentials up to 1000 to 3000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Due to their short lifespans (ranging from days to decades), reducing emissions of SLCPs has the potential to mitigate warming in the short-term and achieve more immediate climate benefits, complementing action on longer-lived GHGs such as carbon dioxide, the benefits of which are realized over comparatively longer periods of time. SLCPs significantly impact the North and concerted action to address them can have an important impact in keeping Arctic temperatures from rising(Canada has advanced efforts to tackle SLCPs through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and established a new agreement to address black carbon and methane under Canada’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council). EC also reported its first black carbon inventory in February 2015 to the Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution.

Long-term climate change projections obtained through climate information, forecasts and modeling are used to support planning and adaptation decision making. Climate evolves as a system where changes result from interactions of atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, and biosphere. Climate models integrate the scientific knowledge about these interactions to estimate the future state of regional and global climate.  

International dimensions

Scientific assessments-systematic reviews of the most recent scientific evidence-provide a mechanism for establishing collective understanding on climate change that can serve as a basis for coordinated action. EC plays an important role in several international fora and climate change science assessments which enables a continual challenge and evaluation of EC’s scientific contributions. Examples include:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

As Canada’s federal lead and focal point for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), EC connects the Canadian scientific community and the Government of Canada to the leading international body for the assessment of climate change science. EC has made a particularly strong contribution to the IPCC by advancing knowledge of climate system behaviour, climate change detection and attribution, and climate variability and extremes. Twenty-eight Canadians, including two EC employees, played lead roles in preparing the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report.

Arctic Council

EC scientists have been engaged in the climate science-related work of Arctic Council scientific assessments and reports, including the Snow, Water, Ice, and Permafrost Assessment, the Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic initiative, the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment, a scientific assessment on mercury in the Arctic, and several studies and reports on SLCPs.

World Meteorological Organization

EC scientists are involved in the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) atmospheric and climate science task teams. As a member of the WMO, Canada leverages the WMO’s global weather and environmental data holdings, which are essential to delivering on EC’s mandate, and has been instrumental in launching implementation of the Global Framework for Climate Services. In addition, EC’s Assistant Deputy Minister of the Meteorological Service of Canada serves as the President of the WMO.

Domestic Climate Change Mitigation

What is the issue?

Since 2009, Canada has announced two greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets-17% below 2005 levels by 2020 (2009) and 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 (2015). As reported in Canada’s 2015 National Inventory Report on GHG Sources and Sinks (NIR), economy-wide emissions in 2005 were 749 megatonnes (Mt). As such, Canada’s 2020 (Copenhagen) and 2030 targets are 622 Mt and 524 Mt, respectively. In 2013, Canada’s total GHG emissions are estimated to be 726 Mt, or 3.1% below 2005 emission levels.

Canada’s unique geographic, demographic, and economic circumstances influence its GHG emissions profile and make addressing climate change a significant challenge. For instance, Canada has an extreme, highly variable climate that contributes to higher energy use for space heating. Moreover, Canada’s large landmass and low population density contribute to higher transportation energy demand (and corresponding GHG emissions) per capita compared with more densely populated countries. As well, Canada has a large resource base, with production driven by US and global demand.

Climate change is a shared responsibility in Canada. Under Canada’s constitution, jurisdiction for environmental protection is shared between the federal and provincial/territorial (FPT) governments. Provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over energy development, electricity supply, resource extraction, land use and forestry, transportation infrastructure, and building codes. Federal jurisdiction over pollutants, including carbon dioxide and other GHGs, extends to matters of national interest, transboundary environmental impacts, and interprovincial/international commerce and trade. Federal legislative authority on climate change is underpinned by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) which includes authorities to regulate various aspects of GHG releases, including setting the quantity or concentration of a GHG that may be released from various types of facilities, or from vehicles, engines and equipment. CEPA 1999 allows the federal government to establish equivalency agreements with PTs in order to avoid regulatory duplication (see below). The federal government also has program, taxation and spending authorities that can be used to address climate change.

In 2014, the federal and provincial/territorial governments agreed to collaborate on climate change through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME). Within the CCME, Ministers established a new climate change committee to facilitate ongoing FPT engagement on climate change. The initial work of the group is focused on greater collaboration on the analytical base (GHG inventories and emissions projections) but it may be a useful forum for broader climate change discussions.

Provinces and territories set their own climate change targets and have been taking action to address climate change according to their unique circumstances. Examples include Nova Scotia’s absolute cap on emissions from electricity; Quebec’s cap-and-trade system; Ontario’s power feed-in tariffs and coal-fired electricity generation phase-out; Saskatchewan’s flaring and venting regulations for oil and gas production; Alberta’s regulatory framework for industrial emissions; and, British Columbia’s carbon tax. Several governments, including British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec are in the process of updating their climate change strategies.

The principal international process for addressing climate change is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (see sections on International Climate Change). Under the UNFCCC, Canada has been working toward a new climate change agreement for the post-2020 period that is to include, for the first time, commitments from all major emitters, including both developed and developing countries. As part of this process, Parties to the UNFCCC agreed to submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that include new mitigation targets for the post-2020 period.

On May 15, 2015, Canada submitted an INDC, with a target to reduce its GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. As part of the INDC, the intention to develop new regulatory measures was also announced (see below). Canada’s INDC also emphasized the importance of working with provinces and territories, as well as international partners (particularly the United States.) to make further progress on reducing emissions.

Why is it important?

Climate change can have impacts on human health and safety, the economy, natural resources, and ecosystems in Canada and throughout the world. Climate impacts put supply chains and billions of dollars of assets at risk.

Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. In the lead-up to the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris in December 2015 where a new global climate change agreement is to be adopted,there is high international expectation for all Parties to demonstrate action and strengthen commitments to reduce GHG emissions. However, even if all countries’ current 2020 emission reduction pledges are met in full, the global average temperature is still projected to rise to at least 3°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

There is a growing evidence base supporting the idea that well-designed environmental policy, including GHG emission reduction policies, can also support economic objectives in areas such as innovation, improved energy and resource productivity, energy security, and opportunities in global clean technology markets. While natural resources are an important component of economic growth, along with physical and human capital, environmental damage and natural resource degradation can have significant economic costs.

Relevant trends and comparative international context

In addition to its reporting obligations to the UNFCCC (see below), since 2011, Environment Canada has also voluntarily published GHG emission projections to 2020 in Canada’s Emissions Trends reports.  These GHG projections give an indication of future trends in emissions with current climate mitigation policies and measures in place (i.e., existing actions).  The 2015 report is currently being prepared. Based on preliminary projections, in the current measures reference scenario, Canada’s GHG emissions are projected to be 766 Mt in 2020 and 816 Mt in 2030.  To address the uncertainty inherent in projections, alternative scenarios that reflect different assumptions about oil and natural gas prices and production, as well as different rates of economic growth have been developed.  

These scenarios suggest that the expected range of emissions in 2030 could be between 768 Mt in the lowest emissions scenario, and 870 Mt in the highest emissions scenario.  Figure 1 shows that additional reductions of between 125 and 164 Mt will be required to meet Canada’s Copenhagen commitment and 244 to 346 Mt of reductions would be needed to meet Canada’s announced 2030 target.

Figure 1: Canada’s Preliminary Emission Projections

Figure 1: Canada’s Preliminary Emission Projections

Long description

The figure shows that Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions projections under a “with current measures” scenario are projected to be 766 megatonnes (Mt) CO2 eq in 2020 and 816 Mt CO2 eq in 2030. It also shows the expected range of the same projections under different economic and energy price and production scenarios. For 2020, the expected range of emissions could be between 747 Mt and 786 Mt. For 2030, the expected range of emissions could be between 768 Mt and 870 Mt. It must be noted that these projections do not include contributions for the land use, land-use change and forestry sector (LULUCF), as analysis of alternative accounting approaches remains ongoing.

The figure also shows Canada’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions target (622 Mt) and the range of additional reductions required to get to it (125 to 164 Mt), and Canada’s 2030 target (524 Mt) and the range of additional reductions required to get to it (244 to 346 Mt).

Although emissions are projected to decrease by 9% between 2005 and 2030, GDP is expected to increase by 54% over the same period, demonstrating a continued weakening in the relationship between economic and emissions growth. In addition, as population is projected to increase, per capita emissions are expected to fall to 19.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person in Canada in 2030, a decrease of 15% from 2005 levels.

Environment Canada’s role

Within the Government of Canada, the Minister of the Envioronment is the lead minister responsible for Canada’s domestic and international climate change policies. Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), and other federal departments are also involved in the development and implementation of climate change policies and measures. Natural Resources Canada sets federal energy policy and administers many clean energy supply and energy demand reduction programs, as well as delivering programs and providing expertise on energy efficiency, and clean energy technology and innovation. Transport Canada works with partners through international fora such as the Regulatory Cooperation Council, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and the International Maritime Organisation in an effort to address emissions from rail, aviation, and marine modes of transport, respectively. DFATD is a key agent for Canada’s international climate financing programs, although EC has overall responsibility for climate financing (and reporting thereon).

Current Federal Measures

Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) – the primary federal authority for regulating GHG emissions – regulations have been established for the transportation and coal-fired electricity generation sectors.

Transportation measures

Electricity regulations

While electricity generation represents a low cost source of emission reductions for many countries, Canada already has one of the cleanest electricity sectors in the world, with almost 80% of electricity supply generated using non-GHG emitting sources.

Proposed regulations announced as part of Canada’s INDC

As part of its INDC, Canada announced its intention to introduce additional regulatory measures to reduce GHG emissions. In addition to these regulations, Canada also signaled that it may use international mechanisms to achieve its 2030 target, subject to robust systems that deliver real and verified emission reductions, and that it intended to begin accounting for all land and forest sectors using a net-net approach whereby projected 2020 or 2030 emissions are compared with 2005 emissions.

The proposed measures listed above, announced as part of Canada’s INDC, follow other recent announcements on proposed regulatory action.

Equivalency agreements

Provinces are also concurrently implementing and/or developing approaches to mitigate climate change. Establishing equivalency agreements with interested PTs can help limit regulatory duplication. An equivalency agreement allows the federal regulation to stand down in a province if conditions under CEPA 1999 are met, including that the jurisdiction has an enforceable regime in place that will result in equivalent or better environmental outcomes than the federal regulation.
For example, an equivalency agreement with Nova Scotia with respect to the coal-fired electricity regulation was signed and published in June 2014. EC officials have also engaged in discussions with other provinces toward the development of equivalency agreements. Officials have also done analysis to assess how equivalency would work with different types of regulatory systems.

Short-lived climate pollutants

Canada has taken action domestically and internationally to reduce a group of emissions known as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as black carbon, ozone, methane, and certain HFCs, which contribute to global warming and air pollution. Black carbon plays a particularly important role in Arctic warming, as its deposition on snow and ice accelerates melting.

Due to the short lifespans of SLCPs (ranging from days to decades), reducing emissions has the potential to significantly mitigate warming in the short-term as a complement actions to reduce emissions of longer-lived GHGs such as CO2. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that up to 0.5° of expected warming and 50% of the warming in the Arctic can be avoided between now and 2050 with concerted global action on SLCPs.

Within Canada, some of the GHG and air pollution measures currently in place also address SLCP emissions. These include the regulations for on-road vehicle and engine GHG and air pollutant emissions; off-road diesel engine emission air pollutants and sulphur in gasoline and in diesel. Additional regulatory measures would further reduce these emissions; these measures include regulations to limit air pollution from marine shipping in Canadian coastal waters; regulations to reduce air pollutant emissions from the Canadian rail sector and GHG regulations for coal-fired electricity generation.

The new Air Quality Management System (AQMS, see Tab 4 – c) includes both new, more stringent ambient air quality objectives and emissions limits for various industry sectors and equipment types. The AQMS will also lead to co-benefits including reducing emissions of particulate matter, and therefore black carbon. It is anticipated that these emission limits will also reduce the formation of ground-level ozone.

On HFCs, the Department has been revising the 1998 Ozone-depleting Substances Regulations in order to promote cost-effective action to facilitate controls of HFCs. This is an area of interest to the U.S. The proposed approach would reinforce Canada's ongoing participation in a North American proposal to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.

At the international level, Canada is a founding member and contributor to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to reduce short-lived climate pollutants. Canada has pledged $13 million to support the CCAC, in addition to $7 million committed to bilateral projects that support the long-term mitigation of SLCPs in developing countries. Canada has also been working through the International Maritime Organization to better understand the nature of black carbon as it relates to international shipping.

Recognizing that the Arctic is warming considerably faster than other regions of the globe, and that emission reductions of black carbon and methane can lead to substantial near-term benefits both from a health and climate perspective, in 2013, the Arctic Council (an intergovernmental forum which promotes cooperation among Arctic States) established the Task Force for Action on Black Carbon and Methane. The Task Force was a priority initiative under Canada’s Arctic Council Chairmanship (2013-2015), and delivered a final framework agreement to Arctic Council Ministers in spring 2015 for enhanced black carbon and methane emission reductions. The U.S. assumed the Arctic Council Chairmanship in April 2015 and is expected to follow up with the implementation of the framework.

Government of Canada reporting on climate change

EC prepares key reports outlining Canada’s progress in addressing climate change, including:

Decisions or issues to be addressed in the near-term

International Climate Change Negotiations

What is the issue?

Canada has been engaging in international climate change discussions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as in other fora, to address the challenges posed by climate change.

Why is it important?

In order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, Parties to the UNFCCC committed in 2009 to the long-term global goal of limiting warming to below 2°C. To achieve this goal the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that global greenhouse (GHG) emissions need to peak before 2030, and to be reduced by 40% to 70% by 2050, compared to 2010 levels. Achieving this goal, as well as building resilience to the impacts of climate change, requires urgent action by all countries. Canada has been engaging in a range of collaborative initiatives with international partners, including the negotiation of a new global climate change agreement under the UNFCCC that will be applicable to all Parties, including all major emitters.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The UNFCC is the main multilateral forum to address climate change at the global level. The primary objective of the Convention is to stabilise GHG concentrations in the atmosphere “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interferences with the climate system.” The UNFCCC treaty entered into force in March 1994 and has been ratified by 195 Parties.
A key concept in the UNFCCC is the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, meaning that all countries have a common responsibility to fight climate change, while recognizing that responsibilities differ, given the different capabilities of individual countries. A 1992 categorization of countries on the basis of this principle under the Convention has resulted in different obligations for developed and developing countries. The Convention does not specifically bind Parties to set emission reduction commitments (or “targets”).

Kyoto Protocol:  The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and ratified in 2005 under the UNFCCC. The protocol set out legally-binding emission reduction targets for 38 developed country Parties in a first commitment period from 2008 to 2012. A second commitment period from 2013 to 2020, known as the Doha Amendment, was agreed to in 2012, and requires 144 signatures to enter into force. Like the first commitment period, the amendment only applies to developed country Parties. To date 43 countries have ratified the amendment, but only three are developed countries (Monaco, Norway, and Liechtenstein).  

Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2012, noting that it only covered countries responsible for a small percentage of global emissions and did not include the United States (U.S.). Under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, as part of negotiations towards a new, more inclusive global climate change agreement, Canada committed to a 2020 economy-wide target of a 17% reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels. This target is aligned with the 2020 target set by the U.S. While non-binding, the Copenhagen Accord marked an important milestone in the global effort to address climate change by including emission reduction commitments from major emitters including the U.S., China, India, and Brazil, and providing for international review of both developed and developing countries' targets and actions.

In the last few years, steps have been taken toward more ambitious global progress on climate change. The Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action was established at the Durban climate conference in 2011 to support the development of a new climate change agreement for the post-2020 period. As part of this commitment to global action under a new agreement, subsequent decisions at the Warsaw (2013) and Lima (2014) climate conferences invited all Parties to submit GHG emission reduction targets or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) for the period beyond 2020. In May 2015, Canada announced an INDC with a target of a 30% reduction in GHG emissions below 2005 levels by 2030.

The agreement is expected to have legal force and apply to all Parties. Negotiations to conclude the agreement will be the focus of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) this December in Paris. COP 21 is expected to be the most significant climate change conference in many years. Over 40,000 delegates and observers are expected to attend.

Other international climate change fora

Outside the UNFCCC, the international community is engaging in a wide range of activities that also make an important contribution to addressing climate change. For example, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization are taking action to reduce emissions for these major global sectors. Canada has been engaged in these and many other multilateral and bilateral efforts.

G7 and G20

The G7 and G20 have given considerable focus to climate change issues for many years and a number of important initiatives have emerged. At the June 2015 G7 Summit, for example, leaders reiterated their commitment to the 2oC goal, and emphasized the need for deep cuts in GHG emissions to achieve decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century. Leaders supported actions consistent with the upper range of the latest IPCC recommendation of 40 to 70% reductions by 2050 compared to 2010. G7 Leaders also committed to developing long-term national low-carbon strategies, as well as to developing and deploying innovative technologies to achieve a low-carbon global economy, and toward a significant transformation of the energy sector by 2050. Climate change is also expected to be a prominent part of the agenda at the upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit from November 15-16.

Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF)

Canada has been involved in the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) since it was launched by President Obama in 2009. The Forum is intended to facilitate dialogue among major developed and developing economies to achieve a successful outcome in the negotiation of a new international climate change regime and to advance the exploration of clean technology initiatives and promote joint concrete actions. The MEF is an important opportunity for dialogue among the world’s top 17 major emitters, and has had an important influence on the overall direction of the UNFCCC negotiations.

Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC)

In February 2012, Canada, along with Bangladesh, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, the U.S., and the United Nations Environment Programme, launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). This is an international voluntary initiative aimed at advancing efforts to reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs), such as black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons, to protect the environment and public health, promote food and energy security, and address near-term climate change.

SLCPs have a relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide and other longer-lived GHG, but are potent global warmers. The Arctic and other glaciated regions are highly vulnerable to warming and particularly affected by SLCPs. The benefits of reducing these emissions will be realized in the near-term and help improve air quality, as well as contribute to addressing the impacts of climate change.

Action on SLCPs can complement global actions to reduce GHG emissions, particularly those under the UNFCCC. Combining efforts on SLCPs with actions to address carbon dioxide emissions can increase the likelihood of meeting the UNFCCC’s objective of stabilizing GHG concentrations.

Presently, the CCAC has expanded to include over 100 partners. Canada is currently among the top contributors to the CCAC Trust Fund and has delivered $13 million to date. Canada’s contribution has primarily supported the implementation of activities to reduce SLCPs in developing countries.

Canada leads on many of the CCAC’s sectoral initiatives, including heavy duty diesel vehicles and engines, hydrofluorocarbons, the agriculture, municipal solid waste, and the technology demonstration component of the oil and gas initiative.

The Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum which promotes cooperation among Arctic states on common Arctic issues, including environment and sustainable development. Recognizing that the Arctic is warming considerably faster than other regions of the globe, and emissions reductions of black carbon and methane can lead to substantial near-term benefits both from a health and climate perspective, the Arctic Council established the Task Force for Action on Black Carbon and Methane in 2013. The Task Force was a priority initiative under Canada’s Arctic Council Chairmanship (2013-2015), and delivered a final framework agreement to Arctic Council Ministers in spring 2015 for enhanced black carbon and methane emissions reductions. The U.S. assumed the Arctic Council chairmanship in April 2015 and is expected to follow up with the implementation of the framework.

Environment Canada’s role

Environment Canada (EC) is the lead department on UNFCCC negotiations and provides analysis and advice on key negotiation issues. The Department works collaboratively with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development, Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Finance Canada, and other government departments in the UNFCCC process and in supporting Canada’s negotiating positions and objectives.

In addition, traditionally, the Minister of the Environment and senior departmental officials regularly participate in parallel bilateral and multilateral processes to advance international efforts to address climate change, complementing Canada’s engagement in the UNFCCC. For example, EC has been involved in the CCAC at all levels; Ministers engage at high level assemblies and senior officials participate at the working group level to ensure that CCAC continues to be action-oriented and produce real emissions reductions.

Federal-provincial-territorial dimensions

Since February 2009, the Department has led a senior-level structured consultation process with provincial and territorial governments on international climate change negotiations. This consultation process has covered relevant issues related to negotiations and activities in other multilateral partnerships. Environment Canada has also met and engaged with other stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations, national Aboriginal organizations and industry, in advance of international climate change negotiations. Given the high level of interest in the negotiation of a new climate change agreement, provincial and territorial Environment Ministers have been invited to attend COP21 as part of the Canadian delegation and broad participation from provinces and territories is expected. 

Short-term decisions and issues

The immediate focus of Canada’s international engagement on climate change will be to achieve a global agreement on climate change under the UNFCCC at the Conference of the Parties (COP21) meeting in Paris, France, beginning on November 30 and continuing to December 11, 2015. As part of COP21, Environment Ministers from nearly all 195 countries are expected to participate in a high-level segment. Ministers and other high-level officials have also been invited to a Pre-COP in Paris from November 8-10 (including Canada).

Short-term decisions leading up to COP21 include the following:

International Climate Change Financing

What is the issue?

Canada has been engaging in international climate change discussions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as in other fora to address the challenges posed by climate change. International climate change financing is a key component of these discussions and an important element in negotiations to secure a new global climate change agreement in Paris at COP21.

Why is it important?

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Canada and other developed countries have committed to providing new and additional financing to developing countries in support of their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In December 2009, Canada associated with the Copenhagen Accord and committed to:

Fast-Start Finance

The short-term pledge for fast-start financing of US $30 billion over 2010-2012 has been fully met. A total of US $33 billion was delivered, including $1.2 billion from Canada. See Annex 1 for detailed information on Canada’s fast-start finance package.

Long-Term Financing

Developing countries are increasingly linking further progress on the negotiations to a clear signal from developed countries on the delivery of the long-term finance commitment. In this respect, there is an emerging consensus among donors that providing further clarity on the joint mobilized financing flows will be required in order to build trust in advance of COP21.

Germany, as the G7 Presidency, and France, as the upcoming COP Presidency, have stated that international climate funding will be decisive for the success of the Paris Conference. In May 2015, both Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande stated that a roadmap for ramping up climate finance for developing countries to US $100 billion a year by 2020 will be essential to agreeing to a new global climate change deal in Paris.

Since the end of the fast-start finance period, progress is being made to achieve the goal of US $100 billion per year by 2020, with key donors continuing to provide climate finance, including to the GCF. A recent OECD study, Climate Finance in 2013-14 and the USD 100 Billion Goal (October 2015), estimates that USD 62 billion in public and private climate finance was mobilized in 2014, up from USD 52 billion in 2013. It is estimated that public finance accounted for 70% of these flows, mobilized private finance accounted for more than 25%, and export credits the remainder. See Annex 2 for post-2012 pledges by key donors.

Green Climate Fund

The GCF is intended to make a significant contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to address climate change. Having raised more than US $10 billion from 35 developed and developing countries, the GCF is expected to become one of the principal channels for adaptation by the poorest and most vulnerable countries, with a commitment to split GCF funding evenly between adaptation and mitigation. The GCF is also expected to deploy innovative financing instruments to mobilize significant private sector investment to address both mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The World Bank is the interim trustee of the GCF and is managing the GCF’s financial assets. The Fund is currently reviewing its first set of funding proposals, and is expected to approve its first projects at a meeting in November 2015.

Canada announced a $300 million contribution in November 2014, which was also the first new announcement since the end of the fast-start financing period in 2012. In August 2015, Canada became a member of the Board of the GCF, enabling it to play an oversight role over its contribution and participate in the governance process of the Fund.

Largest announced contributions to the GCF

Rank

Country

Contribution
US $ (M) in Grant Equivalent Basis

Share of Total Pledges (%)

1

United States

3,000

29.43

2

Japan

1,500

14.72

3

UK

1,211

11.88

4

Germany

1,003

9.84

5

FranceFootnote *

683

6.70

6

Sweden

581

5.70

7

Italy

334

3.28

8

Norway

258

2.53

9

Australia

187

1.83

10

CanadaFootnote *

175.1

1.72

G7/G20

Climate change and in particular climate financing have featured prominently in G7/G8 and G20 Summits leading to and after the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. At the most recent 2015 G7 Leaders’ Summit, Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Copenhagen Accord goal of mobilizing US $100 billion per year by 2020 from a wide variety of sources, both public and private, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation. The statement notes that climate finance is already flowing, and emphasizes the crucial role of mobilizing private sector capital and overcoming barriers that prevent greater private investment in the climate space. To this end, two specific initiatives were agreed upon:

G7 Leaders also pledged to incorporate climate mitigation and resilience considerations into development assistance and investment decisions. The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has been looking at options to implement this pledge.

The next G20 Leaders' Summit will be held in Turkey on November 15-16 2015, and Turkey highlighted that it aims to conclude the summit with practical outcomes on such priority areas as development, climate change, and financing for climate change.

Donors Ministerial Process on Climate Financing

Recognizing the need to better coordinate efforts among donor countries, the United States launched a process for donor nations to look at available public tools and mechanisms to lever significant additional private sector investment for climate purposes. As part of this process, Climate Ministers and senior Finance ministry officials are scheduled to meet twice a year ahead of the climate change conference. The work under this process is divided into four streams of work: multilateral development banks, development finance institutions, export credit agencies, and a global public-private initiative to leverage private investment. Canada has been participating in the multilateral development banks (Environment Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, and Finance Canada) and export credit agencies streams (Export Development Canada).

Environment Canada’s role

Environment Canada (EC) provides leadership on UNFCCC negotiations, including on climate finance. EC also leads on the implementation of Canada’s climate finance commitments, including the delivery of Canada’s climate finance, climate finance policy and reporting.

The Department works collaboratively with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Natural Resources Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Finance Canada, and the International Development Research Center. For example, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and EC have shared accountability with respect to the GCF, building upon each department’s and Minister’s respective responsibilities.

FPT dimensions

Since February 2009, the Department has led a senior-level structured consultation process with provincial and territorial governments on the international climate change negotiations. This consultation process has covered relevant issues–such as climate financing–related to negotiations and activities in other multilateral partnerships.

Current issues

International discussions on long-term financing are continuing throughout the year ahead of COP21 and in a number of different fora, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings held on October 9-11, 2015 and the G20 Leaders’ Summit on November 15-16, 2015.

Canada monitors the distribution of funds and the results achieved. Canada’s Second Biennial Report is due to be submitted to the UNFCCC secretariat by January 1, 2016. In the report, developed countries are required to report on the financial resources they have provided over the last two years (fiscal years 2013-2014 to 2014-2015).

Climate finance features prominently in the negotiations under the UNFCCC to establish a new post-2020 international climate change agreement at COP21 in December 2015. Specific key issues to be addressed at COP 21 with respect to climate finance include:

Annex 1 – Canada’s Fast-Start Financing Package

Canada delivered on its fast-start financing commitment, providing $1.2 billion in new and additional support to climate change action, with approximately $400 million in each of the three years (2010-2011 to 2012-2013). By using a mix of grant and non-grant financing the fast-start financing package focused on three broad priorities: (i) adaptation by the poorest and most vulnerable countries, (ii) clean energy, and (iii) forests and agriculture.

To date, 61% of Canada’s allocated fast-start finance is supporting clean energy projects, 20% is supporting adaptation initiatives, 9% has been allocated to forests and agriculture, and 10% to cross-cutting programming.

Sectorial Distribution of Canada's Fast-Start Financing

Pie chart showing the sectorial distribution of Canada’s fast-start financing

Long description

The image depicts a pie chart showing the sectorial distribution of Canada’s fast-start financing.

  • Clean energy: 61%
  • Adaptation: 20%
  • Forests and agriculture: 9%
  • Cross-cutting programming: 10%.

Canada’s funding is achieving results in over 65 countries around the world, with more funding at the project level expected to roll out as funds continue to flow from Canadian facilities established at multilateral banks. To date, approximately 27% of Canada’s financing has flowed to Latin America and the Caribbean, 21% to South Asia, 17% to Sub-Saharan Africa, 6% to East Asia/Pacific, 5% to developing countries in Central Asia and Europe, and 2% to the Middle East and North Africa. 23% has been allocated to global or regional programs in developing countries for which it is not possible to estimate a geographic distribution.

Approximate Geographic Distribution of Canada's Fast-Start Financing

Pie chart showing the approximate geographic distribution of Canada’s fast-start financing.

Long description

The image depicts a pie chart showing the approximate geographic distribution of Canada’s fast-start financing.

  • Latin America/Caribbean: 26%
  • Global/Regional Programmes: 24%
  • South Asia: 21%
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: 17%
  • East Asia/Pacific: 6%
  • Central Asia/Europe: 4%
  • Middle East/North Africa: 2%

A significant portion of Canada’s fast-start financing, 57% or $687 million, was delivered to establish Canadian facilities at multilateral organizations, such as the International Finance Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. Canadian funds in these facilities are blended alongside the multilateral development banks’ own funds to enable private sector investments that would not otherwise happen. This type of finance can produce transformational projects at a very significant scale. In addition, 33% was used for contributions to multilateral trust funds, and about 9% was disbursed through Canada’s traditional bilateral channels and in partnership with non-governmental organizations.

Canada's Fast-Start Financing by Delivery Channels

Pie chart showing Canada’s fast start financing by delivery channels.

Long description

The image depicts a pie chart showing Canada’s fast start financing by delivery channels.

  • Canadian facilities at multilateral organizations: 57%
  • Multilateral: 34%
  • Bilateral and partnerships:9%

Canada has shown support for a wide range of projects and demonstrated high standard of transparency in reporting on its commitment. Examples of projects supported include:

Annex 2 – Post-Fast-Start Finance Pledges by Key Donors

Key donors

Post-2012 Positions/Contributions

Canada

Canada announced a $300 million contribution in November 2014 to the Green Climate Fund.

France

Agence Française de Développement (AFD) is committed to ensuring that 50% of its annual granting of financial aid in developing countries is allocated to climate-friendly projects (about US $2.5 billion per year).

Germany

Contributing €3.6 billion (US $4.78 billion) to support international climate change actions in 2013 and 2014, and committed to double its official development assistance to US $4 billion per year by 2020.

Japan

US $ 16 billion over 2013-2015 to mobilize development assistance, and private finance in the field of mitigation and adaptation, with a particular focus on technology transfer.

Norway

Addressing deforestation through its International Climate and Forest Initiative to which it has committed approximately US $500 million per year until 2020.

United Kingdom

Implementing their International Climate Fund to provide £3.87 billion (US $6.42 billion) between 2011 and 2016 to help the poorest countries adapt to climate change and promote cleaner, greener growth.

United States

Maintained the continuity of climate finance at fast-start levels (about US $2.7 billion per year).

Climate Change Adaptation

What is the issue and why is it important?

The climate is changing, and will continue to change regardless of the effectiveness of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As a northern country, Canada’s average temperature has increased 1.6°C, or twice the global average, since 1948, while Canada’s North has warmed by about three times the global average, an increase of 2.2°C. Averaged over Canada, annual precipitation amounts have increased since 1948, with strong regional trends. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that global average temperature increase over the next few decades (2016–2035 time horizon) will likely be in the range of 0.3 to 0.7°C relative to the 1986–2005 average.

A wide range of impacts has been experienced across Canada as a result of these trends, including loss of sea ice, thawing permafrost, rising sea levels, and changes in extremes (such as an increase in hot temperature extremes). As the climate continues to change, it is likely that these conditions will be exacerbated with additional changes anticipated to the frequency and severity of extreme weather events (such as floods and droughts), smog episodes, and disease outbreaks. These impacts present risks to Canadians’ health and safety, infrastructure (especially in the North), the viability of natural resource industries (e.g., agriculture, forestry, and fishing), water availability and quality, coastal communities, and natural ecosystems.

Climate change, via an increasing incidence of severe weather, has become an important risk management issue for Canada’s insurance industry. Insured losses for weather-related claims have been near or above $1 billion in each of the last six years (2009-2014). In 2013, flood damage in southern Alberta and Toronto and an ice storm in southern Ontario and parts of eastern Canada pushed insured losses to a record $3.2 billion. Insurance claims resulting from water and wind damage caused by severe weather make up more than half of all property insurance claims, and are now responsible for more claims than damages caused by fire.

While climate impacts will differ in severity across Canada, they will be felt in every region. Canada may also experience some positive impacts, such as longer agricultural and ice-free shipping seasons and increased tourism opportunities.

Adaptation is about managing risks associated with a changing climate. It involves adjusting decisions and activities based on observed or expected changes in climate in order to moderate harm or take advantage of new opportunities. Adaptation actions can be in anticipation of or in response to climate impacts, though it is widely accepted that undertaking adaptation measures proactively is more effective in saving lives and money in the long run, compared to reacting to impacts after they occur. Examples of adaptation measures include the development of different building standards for areas where heavier snowfall is expected or limiting development in coastal areas where sea level is projected to rise.

Successfully adapting to the impacts of a changing climate is a shared responsibility. All levels of government, the private sector, communities, and individual Canadians have an interest in adaptation. Regional governments (provinces, territories, municipalities), in particular, have a critical role to play in coordinating and advancing adaptation in Canada, and many jurisdictions are well advanced in their planning efforts in this context. To date, the general approach to adaptation in Canada has been based on the principles of collaboration and “mainstreaming”, or integrating climate change considerations into regular decision-making and risk-management processes.

Funding for domestic adaptation programming was renewed in 2011 with a $148.8-million investment over five years (2011-2016). This funding continued and expanded federal adaptation activities (ten programs across nine departments and agencies), to improve understanding of climate change and help Canadians prepare for climate-related impacts in key priority areas, such as the economy, human health, and communities. This funding built on a previous investment of $85.9 million for domestic adaptation measures (2007-2011).

Environment Canada’s role

Environment Canada (EC) supports efforts in Canada to adapt to a changing climate by:

In 2011, EC received $29.8 million over five years for the Climate Change Prediction and Scenarios Program. This program provides knowledge, scientific expertise, information, and tools to Canadians to improve their ability to adapt to climate change and variability from seasonal to decadal time scales, thereby supporting federal, provincial, territorial, and community adaptation planning and decision-making. Specifically, EC ensures Canada’s national climate modelling program is maintained through enhancements to and operation of global and regional climate models and the development of improved climate change scenarios and seasonal forecasts. Additional work focuses on developing specialized information on climate extremes for infrastructure design, codes, and standards. Through this program, EC also makes ongoing scientific contributions to the IPCC and Arctic Council.

EC also provides policy analysis, research, advice, and support for issues associated with climate change impacts and adaptation. This includes advancing the Federal Adaptation Policy Framework, which is intended to help guide the federal government’s domestic climate change adaptation efforts. It outlines a federal role in advancing scientific information, tools that underpin adaptation decision-making, and sharing knowledge about climate change. The Framework highlights the importance of bringing climate change issues into the mainstream of federal decision-making and is intended to help guide federal priorities to address climate risks in the future.

Provinces, territories, and municipalities

Several provincial and territorial governments include climate change resilience building and adaptation provisions in their overall climate change plans. Provincial / territorial climate adaptation efforts generally focus on regionally-focused climate change adaptation studies and research, emergency preparedness initiatives, frameworks for new proposals, and the inclusion of climate considerations in urban and rural land-use planning processes and infrastructure investments.

British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, the Territories, and the Atlantic provinces have all released stand-alone adaptation strategies; others are in development. Generally speaking, provincial and territorial adaptation plans tend to highlight the importance of climate science to inform adaptation and the need for collaboration.

A number of Canadian municipalities are also taking action to build their resilience towards climate change impacts in response to recent climate trends and extreme events (e.g., flooding, forest fires, increasing number of freeze/thaw cycles). Most municipalities are actively involved in emergency management and recognize weather-related hazards as important considerations when evaluating their risks and preparing plans.

International approaches

The question of how to adapt to the impacts of climate change has been a challenge faced by all countries globally. Most governments are in the early planning stages of climate change adaptation, and are primarily focused on conducting research (impacts and future scenarios) and vulnerability assessments, and developing indicators. Many governments have stage-based strategies, and most have committed to launching more ambitious strategies and plans in the next two to four years. In addition, adaptation-focused committees, working groups, and other coordination mechanisms at the national and inter-governmental levels have begun to form, and are usually led by environmental ministries.

The United States is pursuing a comprehensive approach to address climate change impacts. In June 2013, President Obama announced a Climate Action Plan that included commitments to prepare for the impacts of climate change by strengthening community resilience, creating sustainable and resilient hospitals, maintaining agricultural productivity, and improving the provision of climate information and preparedness tools. Subsequently, the President signed an Executive Order directing federal agencies to take steps to strengthen the climate resilience of vulnerable populations, sectors, and ecosystems and also to establish an Interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to help coordinate federal efforts. The Executive Order established several priorities for action, including: climate-resilient federal investments; climate preparedness and resilience in communities and in the management of lands and waters; data, information, and tools; and agency risk assessments and implementation strategies (38 completed to date).

Multilaterally, the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Cancun in December 2010, produced a key outcome on adaptation known as the Cancun Adaptation Framework. The Framework provides general guidance on the types of actions and activities that would advance action on adaptation at the international, regional, and national levels. The Adaptation Committee was also established to provide technical support for developing countries and improve the coherence with which adaptation is addressed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Current negotiations of the new international climate change agreement under the UNFCCC are giving adaptation important visibility as a global issue. While the implications for Canada are largely expected to be related to international assistance, other elements, such as general principles to guide actions and activities and strengthen national-level institutional arrangements, may be of interest domestically.

Short-term decisions or issues

Current adaptation program funding expires in March 2016.

Climate Change Adaptation

What is the issue and why is it important?

The climate is changing, and will continue to change regardless of the effectiveness of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As a northern country, Canada’s average temperature has increased 1.6°C, or twice the global average, since 1948, while Canada’s North has warmed by about three times the global average, an increase of 2.2°C. Averaged over Canada, annual precipitation amounts have increased since 1948, with strong regional trends. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that global average temperature increase over the next few decades (2016–2035 time horizon) will likely be in the range of 0.3 to 0.7°C relative to the 1986–2005 average.

A wide range of impacts has been experienced across Canada as a result of these trends, including loss of sea ice, thawing permafrost, rising sea levels, and changes in extremes (such as an increase in hot temperature extremes). As the climate continues to change, it is likely that these conditions will be exacerbated with additional changes anticipated to the frequency and severity of extreme weather events (such as floods and droughts), smog episodes, and disease outbreaks. These impacts present risks to Canadians’ health and safety, infrastructure (especially in the North), the viability of natural resource industries (e.g., agriculture, forestry, and fishing), water availability and quality, coastal communities, and natural ecosystems.

Climate change, via an increasing incidence of severe weather, has become an important risk management issue for Canada’s insurance industry. Insured losses for weather‑related claims have been near or above $1 billion in each of the last six years (2009-2014). In 2013, flood damage in southern Alberta and Toronto and an ice storm in southern Ontario and parts of eastern Canada pushed insured losses to a record $3.2 billion. Insurance claims resulting from water and wind damage caused by severe weather make up more than half of all property insurance claims, and are now responsible for more claims than damages caused by fire.
While climate impacts will differ in severity across Canada, they will be felt in every region. Canada may also experience some positive impacts, such as longer agricultural and ice-free shipping seasons and increased tourism opportunities.

Adaptation is about managing risks associated with a changing climate. It involves adjusting decisions and activities based on observed or expected changes in climate in order to moderate harm or take advantage of new opportunities. Adaptation actions can be in anticipation of or in response to climate impacts, though it is widely accepted that undertaking adaptation measures proactively is more effective in saving lives and money in the long run, compared to reacting to impacts after they occur. Examples of adaptation measures include the development of different building standards for areas where heavier snowfall is expected or limiting development in coastal areas where sea level is projected to rise.

Successfully adapting to the impacts of a changing climate is a shared responsibility. All levels of government, the private sector, communities, and individual Canadians have an interest in adaptation. Regional governments (provinces, territories, municipalities), in particular, have a critical role to play in coordinating and advancing adaptation in Canada, and many jurisdictions are well advanced in their planning efforts in this context. To date, the general approach to adaptation in Canada has been based on the principles of collaboration and “mainstreaming”, or integrating climate change considerations into regular decision-making and risk-management processes.

Funding for domestic adaptation programming was renewed in 2011 with a $148.8-million investment over five years (2011-2016). This funding continued and expanded federal adaptation activities (ten programs across nine departments and agencies), to improve understanding of climate change and help Canadians prepare for climate-related impacts in key priority areas, such as the economy, human health, and communities. This funding built on a previous investment of $85.9 million for domestic adaptation measures (2007-2011).

Environment Canada’s role

Environment Canada (EC) supports efforts in Canada to adapt to a changing climate by:

In 2011, EC received $29.8 million over five years for the Climate Change Prediction and Scenarios Program. This program provides knowledge, scientific expertise, information, and tools to Canadians to improve their ability to adapt to climate change and variability from seasonal to decadal time scales, thereby supporting federal, provincial, territorial, and community adaptation planning and decision-making. Specifically, EC ensures Canada’s national climate modelling program is maintained through enhancements to and operation of global and regional climate models and the development of improved climate change scenarios and seasonal forecasts. Additional work focuses on developing specialized information on climate extremes for infrastructure design, codes, and standards. Through this program, EC also makes ongoing scientific contributions to the IPCC and Arctic Council.

EC also provides policy analysis, research, advice, and support for issues associated with climate change impacts and adaptation. This includes advancing the Federal Adaptation Policy Framework, which is intended to help guide the federal government’s domestic climate change adaptation efforts. It outlines a federal role in advancing scientific information, tools that underpin adaptation decision-making, and sharing knowledge about climate change. The Framework highlights the importance of bringing climate change issues into the mainstream of federal decision-making and is intended to help guide federal priorities to address climate risks in the future.

Provinces, territories, and municipalities

Several provincial and territorial governments include climate change resilience building and adaptation provisions in their overall climate change plans. Provincial / territorial climate adaptation efforts generally focus on regionally-focused climate change adaptation studies and research, emergency preparedness initiatives, frameworks for new proposals, and the inclusion of climate considerations in urban and rural land-use planning processes and infrastructure investments.

British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, the Territories, and the Atlantic provinces have all released stand-alone adaptation strategies; others are in development. Generally speaking, provincial and territorial adaptation plans tend to highlight the importance of climate science to inform adaptation and the need for collaboration.

A number of Canadian municipalities are also taking action to build their resilience towards climate change impacts in response to recent climate trends and extreme events (e.g., flooding, forest fires, increasing number of freeze/thaw cycles). Most municipalities are actively involved in emergency management and recognize weather-related hazards as important considerations when evaluating their risks and preparing plans.

International approaches

The question of how to adapt to the impacts of climate change has been a challenge faced by all countries globally. Most governments are in the early planning stages of climate change adaptation, and are primarily focused on conducting research (impacts and future scenarios) and vulnerability assessments, and developing indicators. Many governments have stage-based strategies, and most have committed to launching more ambitious strategies and plans in the next two to four years. In addition, adaptation-focused committees, working groups, and other coordination mechanisms at the national and inter-governmental levels have begun to form, and are usually led by environmental ministries.

The United States is pursuing a comprehensive approach to address climate change impacts. In June 2013, President Obama announced a Climate Action Plan that included commitments to prepare for the impacts of climate change by strengthening community resilience, creating sustainable and resilient hospitals, maintaining agricultural productivity, and improving the provision of climate information and preparedness tools. Subsequently, the President signed an Executive Order directing federal agencies to take steps to strengthen the climate resilience of vulnerable populations, sectors, and ecosystems and also to establish an Interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to help coordinate federal efforts. The Executive Order established several priorities for action, including: climate-resilient federal investments; climate preparedness and resilience in communities and in the management of lands and waters; data, information, and tools; and agency risk assessments and implementation strategies (38 completed to date).

Multilaterally, the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Cancun in December 2010, produced a key outcome on adaptation known as the Cancun Adaptation Framework. The Framework provides general guidance on the types of actions and activities that would advance action on adaptation at the international, regional, and national levels. The Adaptation Committee was also established to provide technical support for developing countries and improve the coherence with which adaptation is addressed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Current negotiations of the new international climate change agreement under the UNFCCC are giving adaptation important visibility as a global issue. While the implications for Canada are largely expected to be related to international assistance, other elements, such as general principles to guide actions and activities and strengthen national-level institutional arrangements, may be of interest domestically.

Short-term decisions or issues

Current adaptation program funding expires in March 2016.

Oil Sands

What is the issue?

The Canadian oil sands are an important economic sector. However, their development has been under increasing domestic and international scrutiny as a result of concerns about environmental impacts. Environment Canada (EC) has a role in ensuring that oil sands development takes place in an environmentally responsible way.

Why is it important?

The oil sands have become a major contributor to Canada’s economy. During the ten years from 2001 to 2011, the oil sands attracted approximately $136 billion in investments. The development of the oil sands is an important contributor to job creation, energy security and government revenue.

However, there are environmental performance challenges associated with the extraction and refining of oil sands bitumen. These concerns include:

Environment Canada’s role

Although the development of natural resources falls mainly to the provinces, EC has specific legislative authorities in the area. Key federal legislation includes:

EC uses authorities under these statutes to undertake activities in related to the development of the oil sands, including cumulative effects monitoring and regulation and enforcement. Details of recent activities are provided below.

Cumulative Effects Monitoring

In 2012, the governments of Canada and Alberta announced the three-year Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring (the Plan) to implement scientifically rigorous, comprehensive, integrated and transparent environmental monitoring of the oil sands.
The three-year co-management and funding agreements that define the working relationship between EC and Alberta terminate in 2015. At their conclusion, the monitoring of the region will be improved: monitoring is happening in more places, for more substances, more frequently; planning is less ad hoc; and data is being released more routinely.

In 2014, the Government of Alberta established the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA), to obtain credible and relevant scientific data and other information regarding the condition of the environment across the entire province.
Scientific data from the Plan, as well as the methods on which it is based and supporting contextual information, continue to be released through the Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring Information Portal, a web portal jointly launched by Canada and Alberta in 2013.

Environmental monitoring data continue to demonstrate that oil sands development is creating low-level changes on the surrounding environment. Concentrations of substances found in the environment are generally not at levels that cause concern and are highest at locations close to oil sands extraction and upgrading facilities, decreasing to background levels within roughly 50 kilometres of the facilities.

The 2014-2015 Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Progress Report was released publically by AEMERA on July 24, 2015. This report highlights the progress made during the third and final year of the Implementation Plan, including a summary of year three monitoring activities. As in 2013-2014, the 2014-2015 report is presented in two parts: the status of year three progress against the Implementation Plan commitments and a second report, to be released in late 2015, presenting the scientific results of monitoring work.

Monitoring work continues to be funded by industry up to a ceiling of $50 million per year. EC receives funding through invoicing AEMERA, which collects resources directly from industry.
EC officials also support departmental regulatory and enforcement efforts through developing analytical methods to assess the toxicity of, and to “fingerprint” oil sands contaminants.

Regulation and Enforcement

A new enforcement office was opened in Fort McMurray, in spring 2012, to support an increased presence in the area. Inspections focus on enforcing the Fisheries Act. In 2012-2013, EC conducted about 16 inspections and 2 investigations.

The Department is also collaborating with the Government of Alberta to develop a cooperative approach to enforcing respective wildlife protection legislation.

EC also undertakes other regulatory development activities. For example, the Department is evaluating proposals for new regulations to address methane emissions from the oil and gas sector aligned with existing and proposed U.S. regulations. The oil and gas sector is an important source of methane emissions in Canada, contributing to 43% (46 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent) of Canada’s methane emissions in 2013.

Air Quality Management System, currently being implemented with the provinces, will provide a mix of measures (e.g., regulations, codes of practice) that would set base-level requirements for industrial sources, including the oil sands sector. For example, emission performance requirements under the department’s proposed Multi-Sector Air Pollutants Regulations, published in Canada Gazette Part I in June 2014, would affect oil sands facilities.

The Peace-Athabasca Delta, the largest freshwater inland river delta in the world (and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site) is partially located in Wood Buffalo National Park and is 50 kilometres downstream from the northernmost oil sands sites. Monitoring is being undertaken in the Delta to determine potential environmental impacts. Concerns regarding the impacts of oil sands development on the health of local Aboriginal peoples have also been raised.
The department also contributes expert advice as a federal authority for oil sands-related environmental assessments.

In addition to work done by EC, other federal departments have undertaken many initiatives related to the development of the oil sands. For example, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) works with industry to develop methods to reduce the impacts of tailings ponds, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada works with Alberta to establish habitat protection guidelines.

Federal-provincial-territorial dimensions

Alberta oversees most aspects of oil sands development, including land-use planning, assigning leases, project review and approval, and permitting. On June 25, 2015, the Government of Alberta announced the launch of an advisory panel that will review the province’s climate change policy, hold consultations, and make recommendations to inform the province’s development of a new climate change strategy. The panel, being chaired by Dr. Andrew Leach, is expected to provide its recommendations by mid-fall 2015. As an interim measure, Alberta also announced a two-year renewal of its current GHG regulation, the Specified Emitters Regulation, including increases in the price of the carbon levy and the stringency of emission intensity reduction targets in 2016 and 2017.

In 2012, Alberta implemented a province-wide comprehensive regional land-use framework that is intended to guide all subsequent development in the area. In the oil sands region, this is being implemented through the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP). One of the major desired outcomes of the LARP is to be able to manage the cumulative effects of future development. Under LARP, Alberta introduced new steps in March 2015 to reduce tailings ponds and regulate the use of water from the Athabasca River. The Tailings Management Framework focuses on getting tailings ponds remediated faster and slowing tailings ponds growth (currently, there are no set timelines for the remediation of existing ponds). The Surface Water Quantity Management Framework establishes water use requirements for both current and future mineable oil sands operators.

AEMERA, established in 2014, will support Alberta’s new approach to land use. The Agency will initially focus on monitoring in the oil sands, and will assume all of Alberta’s responsibilities for monitoring. The 2015-2016 Alberta Budget allocates $78 million for AEMERA (including $50 million collected from industry for oil sands monitoring).

Saskatchewan and Manitoba are downwind from oil sands development and may be receiving acidifying precipitation and air pollution from oil sands operations, with potential environmental health effects. Also, oil sands water issues have implications for the Northwest Territories by virtue of being connected by the Athabasca River.

International dimensions

Addressing the environmental challenges posed by the oil sands sector will be important for Canada in terms of meeting its international commitments to address the global challenge posed by climate change.

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