Government of Canada charts course for clean growth by legislating a path to net-zero emissions by 2050
The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act tabled in Parliament
The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act delivers on the Government of Canada’s commitment to legislate Canada’s target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Act will establish a legally binding process to set five-year national emissions-reduction targets for 2030, 2035, 2040, and 2045, as well as develop credible, science-based emissions-reduction plans to achieve each target. The Act was introduced in the House of Commons by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, on November 19, 2020.
Each target will be based on the best available scientific information and reflect Canada’s international climate-change commitments. National emissions-reduction plans must contain the greenhouse-gas-emissions target for the year to which the plan relates; a description of the key emissions-reduction measures the Government of Canada intends to take to achieve its greenhouse-gas-emissions target; a description of any relevant sectoral strategies; and a description of emissions-reduction strategies for federal government operations.
National emissions-reduction plans must also explain how the measures and the strategies outlined in the plan will contribute to Canada achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. These plans will reflect Canada’s unique circumstances, including our demographics, our geography, our economy, our constitutional obligations to uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and shared federal-provincial-territorial jurisdiction.
The Act will hold the Government of Canada to account by requiring the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to report to Parliament with respect to each national emissions target. These reports will include the following:
- Emissions-reduction plans to achieve the targets.
- Interim progress reports to update on the ongoing implementation and effectiveness of reduction plans.
- Final assessment reports to indicate whether a target has been met and assess the effectiveness of the associated plan.
In the event of a missed target, the Act will mandate the Government of Canada to assess the reasons for its failure to meet the target. Specifically, the Minister must table a report outlining the reasons why Canada failed to meet the target and describing the actions the Government will take or is taking to address the failure to achieve the target. This robust parliamentary accountability and transparency will ensure that the Government of Canada is held accountable for achieving these climate objectives. Beyond tabling reports in Parliament, the Act calls on the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to examine and report on the Government’s implementation of climate-change mitigation measures at least once every five years. This measure will ensure rigorous oversight of the Government’s milestone plans and progress toward implementation.
Experience at home and around the world shows that understanding the risks and opportunities posed by climate change and the emerging low-carbon economy is now an essential part of good decision-making. That’s why a growing number of companies and countries are factoring climate considerations into their planning, and the Government of Canada should be no exception. The Act will require the Minister of Finance, in cooperation with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, to publish an annual report outlining key measures that federal departments and crown corporations have taken to manage the financial risks and opportunities related to climate change. This means that every department and all federal crown corporations will include climate risks and opportunities in their planning, leading to better decisions that invest in a safer, cleaner, and more prosperous Canada.
Input from across the country will be key to these efforts. To that end, an independent Net-Zero Advisory Body will be established under the Act to provide the Government of Canada with expert advice to grow the economy and achieve net-zero emissions. The Advisory Body will provide advice on measures to catalyze long-term, low-carbon economic growth across the Canadian economy, including advice on policy measures to incentivize economically and environmentally beneficial investments in step-change infrastructure and clean technology.
In developing advice regarding the optimal pathways through which to achieve net zero by 2050, the Advisory Body should consider a range of factors:
- Economic costs and opportunities. For example, impacts on job creation and competitiveness, trade and export opportunities, regional economic impacts, opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, and domestic and international supply chain considerations.
- Environmental benefits. For example, greenhouse-gas-reduction potential, improved resilience and adaptation to climate change, decreases to other pollutants, and nature conservation and other co-benefits.
- Contributions to inclusivity and well-being. For example, opportunities to further reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples; analysis of the impacts on marginalized or vulnerable people; degree of public engagement, awareness, and support for the proposed actions; and improvements to Canada’s education and skills development agenda.
- Technological readiness and requirements. For example, available and emerging clean technologies, role of net-negative technologies, and technology needs and investments required.
The Advisory Body will also undertake robust engagement:
- Pursuing opportunities to discuss sectoral and regional dimensions of the pathways to net zero with provinces and territories, municipalities, and other stakeholders.
- Soliciting input from Indigenous governments, organizations, groups, communities, and individuals.
- Organizing targeted engagement activities such as meetings and round-table discussions with civil-society groups; industry associations and member companies; youth; and academic, scientific, and technical experts.
- Leveraging innovative techniques for broad public engagement and informed, meaningful dialogue—such as citizen assemblies—based on the advice of experts.
The Advisory Body’s advice will include actions that are within the federal jurisdiction, but may also include actions that could be implemented by others, such as individuals, communities, businesses, and other orders of government.
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