Where does Canada stand in light of the Paris Agreement?

Canada has always been at the forefront of many different international environmental efforts, agreements, conventions and conferences, though with some level of criticisms.

At the COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015, Canada along with the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reached a historic milestone agreement to tackle climate change and accelerate the transition towards sustainable low carbon future. The 195 member nations committed to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C, ideally limiting the increase to 1.5°C.

Under the Paris Agreement, Canada pledged to reduce its GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, a reduction from 730 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 2005 to 511 Mt CO2 eq in 2030.

Since signing onto the Paris Agreement, Canada released its first-ever national climate plan in 2016 – the Pan – Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. The framework was developed in consultation with all levels of the government – federal, provincial, and territorial, and are projected to help Canada reach its 2030 goal of a 30% reduction below 2005 levels. 

A strengthened federal climate plan was announced in December 2020 – ‘A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy’. This plan builds on the measures included in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change containing 64 ambitious and new federal policies, programs, and investments to spearhead a strong low-carbon economy. Once fully implemented, the more ambitious proposal will enable Canada to exceed its current 2030 target.

Projected greenhouse gas emissions in 2030

Projected greenhouse gas emissions in Canada in 2030

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada

Key results of Canada’s Climate Action Plan

In 2030, Canada’s Greenhouse Gas emissions are

  • projected to be 588 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) under the Pan-Canadian Framework or 227 Mt CO2 eq lower than the 815 Mt CO2 eq projected before its adoption,
  • projected to be 503 Mt CO2 eq under the more robust climate plan or about 8 Mt CO2 eq below the 2030 target of 511 Mt CO2 eq.

Sources of emission reductions contributing to reaching the 2030 target

Sources of emission reductions contributing to reaching the 2030 target in Canada

Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada

Key results from Canada’s Economic Sector Reductions

Under the more robust climate action plan, Canada's economic sectors are projected to reduce their emissions by 283 Mt CO2 eq in 2030 relative to 2015. The various reductions from these economic sectors include:

  • Buildings (44 Mt CO2 eq)
  • Oil and gas (104 Mt CO2 eq)
  • Electricity (47 Mt CO2 eq)
  • Heavy industry (46 Mt CO2 eq)
  • Transportation (12 Mt CO2 eq)
  • Waste and others (28 Mt CO2 eq)
  • Agriculture (2 Mt CO2 eq)
  • Land sector contribution (17 Mt CO2 eq)
  • Nature-based solutions and agriculture measures (10 Mt CO2 eq)

Overall, the sum of these reductions are 503 Mt CO2 eq in 2030, or about 8 Mt CO2 eq below Canada's 2030 target, representing a 31% reduction below Canada's 2005 emissions.

Cap and Trade

In March 2021, the Canadian Federal government released draft regulations to build a national carbon trading marketplace. The scheme will enable companies in the agriculture and forestry sector to voluntarily reduce their emissions by earning revenues through credits which, in turn, will allow industries that need to cap their emissions to purchase these credits.

Projects must be eligible to generate credits or GHG offsets where 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide reduced is worth one credit that can be sold to a buyer to offset their GHG emissions. All eligible projects must be quantifiable, verifiable and permanent according to the federal government.

The regulations will also include a tracking and verification system that will be shared through a public registry.

Note: Featured Image by Andre Furtado from Pexels.

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