Canada’s Enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution

Backgrounder

Under the Paris Agreement, countries are required to submit national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), every five years. Each successive NDC is required to be more ambitious than the previous one.

Canada’s target up until today was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Yesterday, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a target of 40-45% reductions below 2005 levels by 2030. With less than a decade left to 2030, and with countries around the world quickly moving to a cleaner economy, Canada’s new target is ambitious, required and achievable—reflecting both the scale of the climate crisis and economic opportunity that climate action presents.

Targets are necessary to signal ambition and are a useful tool to hold governments to account for climate action. However, on their own, they are insufficient—a government’s policies, programs and strategies are critical.

Over the past five years, an intensive national effort has been made to put in place the measures needed to put Canada on a path to significantly reduce emissions in a way that ensures all sectors and parts of the country can participate and thrive in the increasingly low-carbon economy. This effort has been guided by the 2016 Pan‑Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change—Canada’s first‑ever national climate plan that is doing more to cut carbon pollution than any other plan in Canadian history.

Unlike peer countries, Canada’s emissions were on a steady upwards climb and were projected to increase 12% above 2005 levels by 2030 (815 Mt) until the Pan-Canadian Framework in 2016 was adopted. Driven by measures in the Pan-Canadian Framework alone, Canada’s emissions were projected to be 19% below 2005 levels by 2030 (227 Mt decrease). This represents the single-largest projected drop in emissions in Canadian history.

Measures implemented between 2017 and 2019 under the Pan-Canadian Framework contributed to a 34 Mt reduction in Canada’s overall emissions for 2019 relative to what they would have otherwise been for that year. In the absence of national minimum carbon pollution pricing from April to December of 2019, Canada’s absolute emissions would have been higher. Moreover, emissions projections included as part of the Pan-Canadian Framework in late 2016 forecasted that in 2019 Canada’s emissions would be 733 Mt, which is very close to the 730 Mt reported in the National Inventory Report for 2021. This demonstrates that the Pan-Canadian Framework has been effective at limiting emissions.

The Pan-Canadian Framework was an historic achievement and represents an important step for Canada. However, with the rapidly accelerating climate crisis and, in light of the scale of the clean growth opportunity, the Government committed to meet and exceed its previous 2030 goal, and delivered on that commitment in December of 2020 through Canada’s strengthened climate plan—A Healthy Environment and A Healthy Economy.

Early Environment and Climate Change Canada modelling for 2020 shows that the Pan‑Canadian Framework and A Healthy Environment and A Healthy Economy will lead to a projected decrease in absolute emissions in Canada annually starting in 2020, reaching 503 Mt by 2030.

Full implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework and A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy will bring Canada’s 2030 emissions to at least 31% below 2005 levels.

In early 2021, the Government of Canada invited Canadians to weigh in on Canada’s new target, and, of the more than 1,000 submissions received, respondents were overwhelmingly in support of faster, deeper emissions reductions.

The Government also recently introduced Budget 2021, and has been working with the U.S. Administration to increase ambition aligned to the Paris Agreement. Canada and the United States’ renewed bilateral relationship has cooperation on climate change as a key priority. This includes taking a continental approach to addressing methane emissions reductions in the oil and gas sector, ambitious standards for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, and setting a 100% zero-emissions vehicles sales target. The investments made in Budget 2021, along with other action including strengthened alignment with the United States to further cut pollution from transportation and methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, mean that Canada is now positioned to reduce emissions by about 36% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Significant investments and economic transformation are likely to unfold over the coming decade. Certain investments, such as those in clean technology or public transit, are difficult to quantify in advance, but can be expected to have a material impact on Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Canada’s emissions projections also do not account for the reality that Canada is just starting along the innovation curves associated with some of the most promising decarbonization technologies, such as industrial electrification, carbon capture, use and storage, and hydrogen.

Investments in clean technology and innovation, like those detailed in Canada’s climate plan, help to accelerate the development of next-generation technologies. As Canada and the rest of the world continue to invest in these and other areas, innovation will accelerate and costs will decline, as has already proven to be true with renewable energy.

In addition, investor decisions by leaders in the private and financial sectors will also drive and accelerate reductions as companies move to capitalize on the growing demand for low-carbon products and services.

Over the longer-term, these technologies will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also enhance Canadians’ quality of life, help Canadian companies create jobs and allow them to compete successfully in the global shift to net-zero emissions. In a North American context, there will continue to be increased opportunities for regulatory harmonization, which will also help advance technology development and deployment.

The Government of Canada will also continue to partner with First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation to advance Indigenous climate leadership and ensure that federal policies and programs address Indigenous peoples’ climate priorities.

Federal leadership is only part of Canada’s story. Many provinces have committed to deep greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets—for both 2030 and 2050—and we encourage all to develop a complete set of measures to reach these targets. Additional provincial and territorial measures could build on federal measures, leading to further emission reductions.

Canada also remains committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Bill C-12, the proposed Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, will establish a legally binding process to set five-year emissions reduction milestones starting with yesterday’s newly announced target for 2030, and achieve a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

The independent Net-Zero Advisory Body, an expert advisory panel, is working to recommend pathways for Canada to reach its new-zero by 2050 target. The Advisory Body will also provide advice on emissions reductions milestones leading up to 2050, and identify near-term actions and key building blocks that support this long-term target.

Moving forward, the Government of Canada will continue to work with provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, civil society, industry, national indigenous organizations, and the U.S. Administration to advance shared priorities that will further lower emissions. In these partnerships, the Government believes that Canada can go further and faster, together.

In summer 2021, Canada will formally submit its new Nationally Determined Contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change through a Nationally Determined Contribution Submission.

Quick facts

  • Canada is accelerating the phase-out of coal by 2030, while supporting a just transition.
  • Canada’s electricity grid is over 80% emissions-free—one of the cleanest in the world—, and is on track to meet its goal of having 90% non-emitting electricity generation by 2030.
  • Canada’s price on carbon pollution and rebate system is the second most stringent carbon pollution pricing approaches in the world.
  • Recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shows that, if the G20 adopted even half of the incremental carbon pricing policies that Canada has committed to, they would nearly triple their emissions reduction pledges under the Paris Agreement. The IMF also stated that Canada’s enhanced carbon pricing measures put it on track to meet its Paris Agreement targets, providing a model for other large-emitting countries to follow.
  • Canada has also published a proposed economy-wide Clean Fuel Standard on liquid fuels that will reduce over 20 Mts by 2030.
  • If all G20 countries adopted the three policies alone, the world would be well on its way to net-zero by 2050.
  • From 2015 to 2019, the Government of Canada has invested over $60 billion in initiatives that cut pollution and grow a clean economy. Since October, the Government of Canada has committed to over $53.6 billion to support a green recovery, including $6 billion in green growth through the Canada Infrastructure Bank (October, 2020), $15 billion in new funding for public and active transit projects in 2021 (February, 2021), and $17.6 billion in proposed investments in Budget 2021 (April, 2021).

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