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At a glance

Canada has begun to decouple greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth.

Even though the economy grew by 6.3% between 2005 and 2010, greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 48 megatonnes or 6.5% in that same period.

Current trends indicate that Canada is on track to achieve half of the reductions as required under Copenhagen.

Current projections show that Canada is about one half of the way towards meeting its national greenhouse gas reduction target.

Performance to date

  • The Government of Canada has begun to regulate two of Canada's largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions -- transportation and electricity.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions standards, harmonized with national standards in the United States, are in place for new cars and light trucks (2011–2016 model years). In 2012, proposed regulations were announced to establish more stringent standards for model years 2017 and beyond.
  • Federal regulations now require an average of 5% renewable content in gasoline and, as of July 2011, 2% renewable content for diesel and heating oil.
  • In 2012, the Government of Canada published regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired electricity generation. Starting July 1, 2015, the regulations apply a stringent performance standard to new coal-fired electricity generating units and old units that have reached the end of their useful life.
  • Canada endorsed the Durban Platform, a negotiation framework for a new international climate change agreement to include all emitters, for completion by 2015 and implementation by 2020.
  • Canada's energy sector was improved through advancements in clean electricity and cleaner energy production, increased use of alternative fuels, and improvements in end-use energy efficiencies.
  • Canada is contributing $1.2 billion in fast-start financing between 2010 and 2013 to support developing countries' efforts to address climate change.

Remaining challenges

  • In 2009, the Government of Canada committed under the Copenhagen Accord to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, establishing a 2020 target of 607 megatonnes.
  • Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 were 692 megatonnes.
  • Current projections show that, based on existing and announced actions by the federal and provincial governments, businesses and consumers, Canada is about one half of the way towards meeting its target. Additional measures will be required to close the remaining gap.

Air quality in Canada is among the best in the world.

Concentrations of fine particulate matter -- a pollutant that is harmful to human health -- had no overall increase or decrease over the 10 years up to 2010.

Between 1990 and 2010, emissions of most key smog-forming air pollutants decreased by 18% to 57%; only ammonia was higher than 1990 levels.

Performance to date

  • The Government of Canada is working to improve air quality and the health of Canadians in collaboration with provinces, territories and stakeholders through the development of an Air Quality Management System. This system will introduce new ambient air quality standards, provide a framework for managing air quality and the transboundary flow of air pollutants through local air zones and regional airsheds, and will establish emissions requirements for major industrial sectors.
  • Canada has made strategic investments in the commercialization and adoption of clean energy technologies to help the energy sector improve its air pollution emission performance.
  • In 2011, Canada introduced regulations to reduce air pollutant emissions from snowmobiles, personal watercraft, outboard motors and off-road motorcycles, in alignment with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. Also in 2011, more stringent air pollutant emission standards were introduced for off-road diesel engines, such as those found in tractors and forklifts, to align with current U.S. EPA standards.
  • After more than 20 years of Canada-U.S. cooperation under the Air Quality Agreement, emissions that cause acid rain have been reduced by more than 50% and emissions causing smog by 40% in the geographic area covered under this agreement.
  • Since the launch of the Chemicals Management Plan in 2006, the Government of Canada has worked closely with health and environment groups, consumer groups and industry to reduce risks to Canadians and the environment by setting clear priorities for the assessment and management of hundreds of chemicals.
  • In August 2010, Government of Canada published the Report on Human Biomonitoring of Environmental Chemicals in Canada, which presents the first-ever comprehensive set of biomonitoring data for the Canadian population. This baseline information about the levels of chemicals in the Canadian population is critical to advancing health surveillance and research and assessing the effectiveness of actions by governments and others in Canada.

Remaining challenges

  • Ammonia emissions increased by 10% between 1990 and 2010, as did the national average ambient concentrations of ground-level ozone.
  • Between 1990 and 2010, ground-level concentrations have been rising. Fine particulate matter concentrations remained unchanged during the same period.
  • Approximately 7% of Canadian homes have radon concentrations above 200 becquerels per cubic metre, the level at which remedial measures should be undertaken.

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