Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan - Chapter 1

The Climate Imperative: IPPC Report Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the issue of Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. The IPCC assessed that climate change, including increases in the frequency and intensity of climate and weather extremes, has caused widespread adverse impacts on ecosystems, agriculture, food, water, human health, livelihoods, and economic activity. By disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, especially through impacts on food, water, and livelihoods, climate change can further entrench existing inequalities and inequities.

Near-term increases in global warming reaching 1.5°C would cause unavoidable increases in multiple hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans. Near-term actions that limit global warming close to 1.5C would substantially reduce future risks compared to those at higher warming levels, although some risks cannot be eliminated. For 127 identified key risks, assessed mid- and long-term impacts are up to multiple times higher than currently observed across ecosystems, critical infrastructure, networks and services, living standards and equity, food and water security, human health and human migration/displacement. Without rapid mitigation to limit global warming, adverse impacts are projected to escalate, and the effectiveness of adaptation options will be reduced.

There is an urgent need to address climate change and move towards a low-carbon economy. At current rates, global warming of 1.5°C will likely be reached between 2030 and 2052, and it is only with urgent, deep reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that global warming can be limited to below 2°C. There is also an urgent economic and social need to make sure nearCanada prospers and that people succeed as we reduce carbon pollution. Meeting Canada’s 2030 and 2050 climate objectives will create good, middle-class jobs, and grow a competitive, sustainable and inclusive economy.

The scientific imperative

Canada is warming at twice the global average, with the North warming three times as fast. The effects of widespread climate change are evident in many parts of Canada and are projected to intensify in the future, including some weather extremes. The rate and magnitude of climate change under high versus low emission scenarios project two very different futures for CanadaFootnote 1. Scenarios with large and rapid warming illustrate the profound effects on Canadian climate of the continued growth in GHG emissions. But scenarios with limited warming will only occur if Canada and the rest of the world take action to reduce carbon emissions to net zero early in the second half of the century and reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases substantially. 

With deadly heatwaves and devastating wildfires and flooding, the cost and impact of inaction on Canadians’ lives and livelihoods is far too high. According to the Canadian Climate Institute, the number and cost of catastrophic weather events in the past decade alone were twice as high as those recorded in the previous decades combined (that is, 1983 to 2009). A report from Health Canada, Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action, notes the likelihood of extreme days of heat (over 30°C) have increased from one to three days annually, increasing the likelihood of death in Canadian cities by 2% to 13%.

Insured catastrophic losses in Canada
*A catastrophic loss = 1 event costing $25 million or more in insured damages

Source: IBC Facts Book, PCS, CatIQ, Swiss Re, Munich Re & Deloitte
Values in 2020 $ CAN, * 2021 preliminary

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For more information on this graphic, please consult Severe Weather in 2021 Caused $2.1 Billion in Insured Damage.

The climate momentum

Across the world, momentum for increased global climate action continues to build among governments, businesses, and individuals. Net-zero commitments are rapidly proliferating, with commitments in place by countries accounting for 88% of global emissions, 90% of global GDP and 85% of global population.Footnote 2 The United Nations recently reported that cities and regions with a carbon footprint greater than the emissions of the United States, and companies with a combined revenue of over $11.4 trillion (equivalent to more than half of the US GDP), are now pursuing net-zero emissions by the end of the century.Footnote 3 The increased momentum for collaborative climate action was highlighted at the 26th Conference of Parties in Fall 2021, where countries committed to numerous ambitious climate commitments related to key actions like phasing out the use of coal, halting and reversing forest and land degradation, and accelerating the transition to net-zero cars and vans by 2040.

Within Canada, increased climate momentum has also been building. Over the past few years, several provinces and territories, such as British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec have made net-zero commitments, as well as major cities like Toronto, Halifax, and Vancouver. For decades, Indigenous Peoples have shown climate leadership, with many Indigenous leaders and communities reinforcing the need to take action to reduce pollution, adapt to the impacts of climate change, and improve the ways in which the natural environment is respected and protected. Major Canadian businesses have made commitments and are taking action to reduce their emissions. Finally, public opinion research from Abacus Data also shows that more Canadians today believe that the earth is warming when compared to 2015, and more people today see the benefits of fighting climate change when compared to 2018.Footnote 4

Beyond GHGs – What does cutting emissions mean for Canadians?

Good, sustainable jobs: RBC analysis suggests that the clean economy of tomorrow could bring new opportunities to workers, and create between 235,000 to 400,000 new jobs.

Clean air: The health impacts of air pollution in Canada are estimated to cost $120 billion per year. This can be substantially reduced by cutting emissions and pollution.

Making life more affordable: Constructing and renovating homes and buildings to be more energy efficient will help Canadians save money through lower utility bills.

More opportunity to enjoy nature: Protecting nature not only helps to reduce emissions, but means Canadians can enjoy the natural beauty of this country. From spending time with family to the benefits for mental health, this will boost Canadians' quality of life.

Fighting inequality: People marginalized through social, economic, cultural, political or other factors have heightened vulnerability to the risks posed by climate change. Taking action to decarbonize the economy and fight climate change provides an opportunity to address these inequities.

Climate resilience: Nature-based solutions, like the conservation of wetlands, will provide additional benefits to help protect Canadians and communities from climate risk.

The economic imperative

With each passing year, it becomes clearer that moving to a clean, net-zero economy will drive Canada's economic growth and create good jobs across the country. G lobal investments in climate solutions are growing at a rapid pace. BloombergNEF tallied global investment in the low-carbon energy transition at US$755 billion last year, up 27% from $595 billion in 2020. In addition, US$165 billion was raised from global public equity markets by companies offering climate solution technologies.Footnote 5 Economic data also show that returns on investments in climate solutions are increasingly profitable and predictable. For example, the International Energy Agency and Imperial College Centre for Climate Finance and Investment found that across all portfolios, renewable power generated higher total returns relative to fossil fuels.Footnote 6 Additionally, the Bank of Canada and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions found that delayed climate action in the short-term could lead to higher costs in the future.Footnote 7

As countries and businesses race toward net-zero, it is critical that Canada lead, rather than risk being left behind. To create good jobs, grow a strong economy, and build a bright, healthy future for everyone, enhanced domestic climate action is needed today.

By 2025, clean tech's contribution to Canada's GDP is expected to grow to $80 billion from $26 billion in 2016. And this year, global clean technology activity is expected to exceed $2.5 trillion. Canadians have the know-how and the skills to make Canada a destination of choice for investments in a low-carbon solutions and grow Canada's competitiveness.

Canada's leadership

How does the Act provide climate accountability and transparency to net-zero by 2050?

  • Requires national GHG reduction targets for every five years from 2030 to 2050 and an emissions reduction plan, a progress report, and an assessment report for each target to be published and tabled in Parliament.
  • Provides for public participation when setting or amending a target or plan.
  • Formally establishes the Net-Zero Advisory Body to provide the Minister of Environment and Climate Change with independent advice on achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Will require the Minister of Finance to prepare an annual report on key measures that the Government has taken to manage its financial risks and opportunities related to climate change.
  • Requires the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to, at least once every five years, starting no later than the end of 2024, examine and report on the Government's implementation of the measures and strategies in the current plan.
  • Provides for a comprehensive review of the Act, five years after it comes into force.
  • Enshrines the role of Indigenous Knowledge in the climate accountability process.

On June 29, 2021, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act (the Act) became law. The Act marks the first time a Canadian government has legislated emissions reductions accountability to address climate change. The Act sets legal requirements for current and future governments to plan, report, and course correct on the path to net-zero emissions by or before 2050. It enshrines in legislation Canada's 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, which is to reduce emissions by 40 to 45% below 2005 levels, as announced by Prime Minister Trudeau in April 2021. It also enshrines in legislation Canada's commitment to set national targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions every five years with the objective of attaining net-zero emissions by 2050.

Reflecting input from provinces and territories, Indigenous Peoples, the Net-Zero Advisory Body, industry, civil society, and Canadians, this ERP provides a roadmap for Canada's progress to achieving its 2030 target, and outlines the additional efforts the Government of Canada is taking to meet the target and lay the foundation to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Net-Zero Advisory Body

The Net-Zero Advisory Body (NZAB) was launched in February 2021 and formally established through the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. Comprised of 14 experts from across Canada, the NZAB’s role is to provide independent advice on how Canada can achieve net-zero emissions in 2050.

In July 2021, the NZAB released its Net-Zero Pathways: Initial Observations report, which summarizes ten values and principles to guide the development of net-zero pathways.

In March 2022, the NZAB submitted its advice on the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Moving forward, the NZAB will continue to undertake research and engage Canadian society in an effort to develop advice that will be provided in public annual reports to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

This 2030 ERP is the first of many ERPs and related reports that the Government of Canada will develop pursuant to the Act. Three progress reports—in 2023, 2025, and 2027—will provide an update on progress to implement the measures and strategies outlined in the following chapters. Additionally, the Government will prepare ERPs at least 5 years in advance of each successive national GHG emissions reduction target year (for example, the next ERP will be established in 2030 to achieve the 2035 target).

On this and future reports, e ngagement with provinces and territories, Indigenous Peoples, the Net-Zero Advisory Body, industry, civil society and Canadians is and will continue to be integral.

The 2030 ERP is an evergreen plan, and the Government of Canada will continue to adapt it as new opportunities arise and promising pathways to Canada’s 2030 target and net-zero emerge.

1.1. Canada’s Emissions Profile

Canada’s current emissions profile and historical trends help provide a picture of where Canada needs to be by 2030 and 2050. According to Canada’s most recent National Inventory Report (NIR), total national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2019 were 730 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e). Oil and gas and transportation continue to be Canada’s largest sectoral emissions sources, with buildings, heavy industry, and agriculture following closely behind. Canada’s 2019 emissions were approximately 9 Mt lower than in 2005. Since 2005, emissions in the oil and gas and transport sectors have increased by 20% and 16%, respectively. Decreases in emissions from electricity (48%), heavy industry (12%) and waste and others (10%) have offset these increases.

Breakdown of Canada's GHG Emissions by Economic Sector

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Breakdown of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector (2019)
Economic sector Megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) Percentage (%) of total
Oil and gas 191 26%
Electricity 61 8.4%
Transport 186 25%
Heavy industry 77 11%
Buildings 91 12%
Agriculture 73 10%
Waste & others 51 7.0%
Total 730 100%
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector, selected years (Mt CO2 eq)
Economic sector 2005 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
National GHG Total 739 723 723 707 716 728 730
Oil and Gas 160 190 190 181 183 191 191
Electricity 118 76 79 74 72 62 61
Transport 160 171 172 174 179 184 186
Heavy IndustryTable ES-3 Note a 87 79 77 76 75 77 77
Buildings 84 85 83 81 86 90 91
AgricultureTable ES-3 Note b 72 71 71 72 71 73 73
Waste and OthersTable ES-3 Note c 57 50 50 50 50 51 51

Source: 2021 National Inventory Report


Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Estimates presented here are under continuous improvement. Historical emissions may be changed in future publications as new data becomes available and methods and models are refined and improved.

  1. Heavy Industry represents emissions arising from non-coal, -oil and -gas mining activities, smelting and refining, and the production and processing of industrial goods such as fertilizer, paper or cement.
  2. Emissions assoicated with the production of fertilizer are reported in the Heavy Industry sector.
  3. "Others" includes Coal Production, Light Manufacturing, Construction and Forest Resources.

Canada is growing its economic output while decreasing the amount of emissions associated with economic activities. Specifically, economy-wide emissions intensity (GHG per GDP) has declined 37% since 1990, and by 23% since 2005, due in large part to key policies and measures, such as carbon pollution pricing, that led to fuel switching, increases in efficiency, the modernization of industrial processes, and structural changes in the economy.

Canadian greenhouse gas emissions and indexed trend emission intensity (excluding Land-Use Change and Forestry)

Canadian greenhouse gas emissions and indexed trend emission intensity (excluding Land-Use Change and Forestry)

Source: 2021 National Inventory Report

Notes: Emissions do not yet reflect the impact of the most recent mitigation policies. Total emissions fall within a 2% uncertainty range.

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Canadian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and indexed trend emission intensity (excluding land use, land-use change and forestry)

This is a line graph displaying GHG emissions in megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) on one line and indexed trends of GHG emissions per GDP (Emissions intensity) (Index [1990 = 100]) on another. The following table displays both GHG emissions and indexed GHG emissions per GDP from 1990 to 2019. Emissions do not yet reflect the impact of the most recent mitigation policies. Total emissions fall within a 2% uncertainty range.

Year GHG emissions (Mt CO2 eq) Indexed GHG per GDP (emissions intensity)
1990 602 100
1991 596 101
1992 614 103
1993 617 101
1994 638 100
1995 656 100
1996 679 102
1997 691 99
1998 697 96
1999 710 93
2000 734 91
2001 723 88
2002 727 86
2003 745 87
2004 746 85
2005 739 81
2006 730 78
2007 752 79
2008 736 76
2009 694 74
2010 703 73
2011 714 72
2012 717 71
2013 725 70
2014 723 68
2015 723 68
2016 707 66
2017 716 64
2018 728 64
2019 730 63

*Indexed trend emission intensity refers to the year to year fluctuations that are superimposed over actual trends observed over a longer time period, showing that Canada’s economy has grown more rapidly than its GHG emissions.

Canada’s 2030 ERP and the NIR

Each year, Canada submits a national GHG inventory report (NIR) to the United Nations. NIRs reflect historical GHG emissions as reported two years prior to the publication year due to a lag in data.

On April 15, 2022, Canada will submit its 2022 NIR to the UNFCCC.

This 2030 ERP is required by legislation to be established by March 29, 2022. It uses emissions data from the most recent NIR published in 2021, which is based on 2019 emissions data. The Government will continue to adjust the measures and strategies outlined in this plan as Canada’s emissions profile changes, which will be reflected in new NIR data published annually. Progress reports associated with this 2030 ERP—in 2023, 2025, and 2027—will provide the opportunity for the plan to evolve in response to subsequent NIRs as they are released.

1.2. Progress to date: How Canada is bending the emissions curve

Canada has made progress fighting climate change, bending the emissions curve, and putting policies in place that will be fundamental to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. In 2015, Canada and 194 other countries concluded negotiations on the Paris Agreement. Over the past 6 years, Canada has invested over $100 billion and introduced over 100 measures in support of climate-related commitments.

In 2016, First Ministers adopted the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (PCF), Canada’s first ever national climate plan with input from Indigenous Peoples. The PCF sets in place Canada’s foundation for reaching its 2030 and 2050 targets, and many of the actions set out under the plan are still ongoing.

Building on the PCF, the Government released its Strengthened Climate Plan (SCP)A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy—in December 2020. Supported by an investment of $ 15 billion, the SCP introduced a suite of emissions reduction measures across all sectors of the economy. Investments and efforts are already yielding results. For example:

While some measures remain early in their implementation curves, data show that efforts are already paying off. Before the PCF, emissions in 2019 were projected to be 764 Mt; but, due in large part to measures in the PCF, actual emissions were 34 Mt lower. This trend was strengthened with the release of the SCP, which projected emissions to be 31% below 2005 levels in 2030.

The measures and policy signals in this 2030 ERP build on these important actions to date. Continued ambition and collaboration every step of the way—with Indigenous partners, provinces and territories,  businesses, experts, civil society, and Canadians – will help build a stronger, cleaner and healthier Canada. 

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