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Reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions

Target 1.1: Climate change mitigation – Relative to 2005 emission levels, reduce Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions 17% by 2020.

As a result of the combined efforts to date of federal and provincial governments, consumers and businesses, Canada is projected to reduce its emissions by 130 megatonnes in 2020 when compared to projected business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. This is about half the emissions reductions needed to meet Canada's 2020 emissions target.

The Government of Canada is taking action on climate change domestically and internationally. Under the Copenhagen Accord, Canada inscribed a GHG emission reduction target that is aligned with the U.S. target, this being 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 -- equivalent to 607 Mt based on Canada's original 2005 baseline.

The Government of Canada is continuing to implement its plan to regulate GHG emissions on a sector-by-sector basis, aligning with the U.S. where appropriate. The Government of Canada has already put regulations in place to address emissions from the electricity and transportation sectors -- two of the largest sources of Canadian emissions -- and is moving forward to develop regulations for other major emitting sectors including oil and gas. This is complemented by clean energy initiatives, adaptation efforts and international engagement.

Clean Air Agenda

Since 2007, Canada has addressed climate change and air pollution through the Clean Air Agenda (CAA). The CAA was renewed in 2011 to support: initiatives to reduce GHGs and improve air quality; advances in innovation for clean energy and transportation, and for improved indoor air quality; helping Canadians adapt to climate change; and, engagement with international partners. This chapter includes both 2010 FSDS Implementation Strategies and CAA programs, highlighting CAA contributions of 2011–2012. Information on the financial performance of CAA programs is set out in Annex A. Additional details about CAA programming may be found in Departmental Sustainable Development Strategies of CAA departments and agencies.

Domestic agenda

Sector-by-sector regulatory approach: Industrial sources

Canada is implementing a sector-by-sector approach to reducing GHG emissions in major-emitting sectors. Given the highly integrated North American economy, the Government of Canada is aligning its climate change approach with that of the U.S., as appropriate for Canadian circumstances. The sector-by-sector approach makes it possible to tailor regulations to sector circumstances, integrating environmental and economic considerations. Regulations are being designed to provide regulatory certainty for industry, drive investments in clean energy technologies, and leverage capital stock turnover to minimize costs and consumer impacts. The Government of Canada's efforts to reduce GHGs and air pollutant emissions are supported by funding allocated through the Clean Air Regulatory Agenda.

In 2012, the Government of Canada published regulations to address GHG emissions from coal-fired electricity generation. These set stringent performance standards for new facilities and old ones that have reached the end of their useful lives. Starting in July 2015, these regulations will encourage companies to phase out traditional coal-fired units and invest in low- and non-emitting technologies. The regulations, in combination with the commitments made by the provinces and industry, and other measures, are projected to reduce GHG emissions from the electricity sector by 41 Mt between 2005 and 2020, from 122 Mt to 81 Mt.

The Government of Canada is also developing sector-specific regulatory approaches to address GHG emissions from oil and gas as well as other major emitting industrial sectors.

Sector-by-sector regulatory approach: Clean transportation

Regulations are a key component of the government's efforts to promote clean transportation. The Government of Canada has put in place GHG emissions standards for new cars and light trucks for the 2011–2016 model years. These are harmonized with U.S.standards and are expected to result in annual reductions of 9 to 10 Mt in Canada by 2020. In 2012, the government announced proposed regulations for more stringent GHG emission standards, in alignment with the U.S., for cars and light-trucks of model years 2017 and beyond.

In 2012, the government proposed regulations to reduce GHG emissions for new on-road heavy-duty vehicles, such as buses and tractor-trailers, for model years 2014 to 2018. The proposed standards are expected to reduce GHG emissions from 2018 heavy-duty vehicles by up to 23% from those sold in 2010.

As of December 2010, the Renewable Fuels Regulations require an average of 5% renewable content in gasoline and, as of July 2011, 2% renewable content for diesel and heating oil. The GHG reductions from the regulation of renewable content in fuels are equivalent to removing one million vehicles from the road.

To help inform the regulatory process, Canada worked with vehicle manufacturers, industry associations, governments and other stakeholders to test and evaluate emerging vehicle technologies.

Finally, the government continued to advance efforts in the aviation, rail and marine transportation sectors, both domestically and internationally. For example, the government is developing new marine emission regulations under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and air pollutant emission regulations for locomotives. Together the government and the Canadian aviation industry have developed Canada's Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Aviation. The government also addresses GHG and air pollution emissions through a series of complementary measures.

Clean energy

Canada promotes clean energy by improving environmental performance, advancing clean electricity and cleaner energy production, increasing the production capacity and use of alternative fuels, and improving end-use energy efficiencies.

The ecoENERGY suite of programs encourages production of low impact renewable energy, helps Canadians improve their energy use, and accelerates the development and market readiness of technology solutions. The ecoENERGY Efficiency program delivered initiatives that improved energy efficiency in Canada and achieved energy savings of more than 5 petajoules in 2011–2012. In particular, the National Energy Code for Buildings was published in November 2011, and the new code is now ready for adoption or adaptation by provinces and territories. As part of the ecoENERGY for Aboriginal and Northern Communities program, 36 Aboriginal and northern communities received funding in 2011–2012 to support clean energy projects that are expected to reduce GHG emissions by 0.9 Mt over the course of their 20-year project life cycles.

Canada has also furthered research and regional cooperation towards the development of Atlantic Canada's clean energy resources under the Atlantic Energy Gateway. Research found significant potential benefits from regional collaboration in this sector.


Building on prior work, the government renewed domestic climate change adaptation funding in 2011 with a $148.8 million investment over five years (2011–2016). Some programs build the scientific foundation for understanding and predicting climate and assessing climate change impacts; some enhance public health and safety; others foster the competitiveness of climate-sensitive economic sectors and systems across Canada; while others build resilience in the North and climate-sensitive Aboriginal communities.

Canada is collaborating with the provinces and territories, industries, and stakeholders to help decision-makers understand the relevance of climate change to their operations and manage the risks by equipping them with appropriate tools and information.

Forestry and agriculture

The government is taking additional action in forestry and agriculture sectors to complement its regulatory agenda.

The forestry sector makes important contributions to GHG emissions, both because forests store carbon and from the emissions of the industry itself. The National Forest Carbon Monitoring, Reporting and Accounting System has provided the foundation for a Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector. It enables annual estimates of forest-related carbon stock changes and GHG emissions for the annual GHG National Inventory Report required under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As well, a model for estimating emissions associated with carbon in harvested wood products has been developed and will be used to meet international commitments.

The Investments in Forest Industry Transformation Program supports projects that produce new bioproducts, including advanced bio-composites and bioenergy, while maximizing the value of wood fibre harvested.

Since 2009, the Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program has invested $950 million in energy efficiency and renewable energy production for Canada's pulp and paper sector. This has helped reduce GHG emissions in pulp and paper mills in Canada by more than 10% from 2009 levels -- some 543 000 t per year -- while positioning the sector as a leader in forest biomass-based renewable energy. Across Canada, 98 projects in 38 communities are expected to increase the generation capacity of renewable electricity by 200 megawatts per year, and the production of renewable thermal energy by 4.4 million gigajoules (GJ) per year, and to save 8.5 million GJ of energy annually. The program's environmental achievements significantly exceed initial expectations, and have supported approximately 14 000 direct jobs in the forest sector.

The government's Sustainable Agriculture Environmental Systems initiative has improved scientific understanding of agriculture's interaction with the environment. It has also funded scientific research to improve understanding of the impacts of agricultural activities on GHG emissions, particulate matter and other pollutants, as well as the development of tools, practices and technologies to reduce and mitigate emissions. In addition, the National Carbon and GHG Accounting and Verification System has improved the ability to measure and monitor GHG emissions associated with agriculture, leading to targeted and efficient reduction measures.

The government has also launched the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program as part of the Greenhouse Research Alliance, aimed at increasing international cooperation, collaboration and investment in public and private research activities to help the sector reduce GHG emissions while enhancing productivity and resilience to climate change.

International agenda

Canada engaged in international partnerships that leverage private sector investment in clean energy projects in developing countries.

Canada committed to reducing its GHG emissions 17% by 2020 from 2005 levels and has endorsed the Durban Platform, a negotiation framework for a new international climate change agreement to include all major emitters, for completion by 2015 and implementation by 2020.

In response to international commitments under the Copenhagen Accord, Canada is contributing $1.2 billion in fast-start financing between fiscal year 2010–2011 and 2012–2013 to support developing countries' efforts to address climate change.

Canada engaged in international partnerships that leverage private sector investment in clean energy projects in developing countries. In addition, Canada works with international partners, such as the Arctic Council, to address short-lived climate pollutants (e.g., black carbon, methane and some hydrofluorocarbons).

Canada is also a founding partner of a new international Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs), launched in 2012, which will further advance efforts to reduce these pollutants and address near-term climate change. Activities to support the mitigation of SLCPs in developing countries include: helping to reduce fugitive methane emissions in the oil and gas sector; addressing methane from landfills; and, supporting clean cookstove initiatives.

Canada also provided leadership in key bilateral mechanisms such as the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue. This is one of the ways that Canada is working with key countries to find practical solutions to address climate change and support Canada's transition to a low carbon economy.

For additional information on the implementation strategies that support this target, please consult the following websites:

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Canada Economic Development Agency for Quebec Regions, Environment Canada, Finance Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Health Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Industry Canada, National Research Council Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Parks Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, Standards Council of Canada, Transport Canada, and Western Economic Diversification Canada.

Progress towards Target 1.1: Government of Canada actions to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction target

As a result of the combined efforts to date of federal and provincial governments, consumers and businesses, Canada is projected to reduce its emissions by 130 Mt in 2020 when compared to projected business-as-usual GHG emissions for 2020. This is about half the emissions reductions needed by 2020 to meet Canada's emissions target.

In August 2012, Canada's Emissions Trends 2012 report projected that Canada's GHG emissions will be 720 Mt in 2020. This is 65 Mt less than the levels projected initially by Canada's Emissions Trends 2011 report. The reduction is due to several factors: using more up-to-date historical data that shows greater progress in decoupling gross domestic product and emissions, the inclusion of additional federal and provincial GHG reduction measures, and taking into account the effect of Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) land management activities that act as a carbon dioxide sink (i.e., remove CO2 from the atmosphere) or a GHG source (emit CO2 and other GHGs to the atmosphere). This is consistent with the UNFCCC's recognition of the important role of the LULUCF sector in addressing climate change.

In the year 2020, the gap between Canada's GHG emissions target of 607 Mt is now projected to be 113 Mt. This means that Canada's 2020 emissions are projected to be about one half of the way to the target. Figure 2.2 displays Canada's historical GHG emissions and projections to 2020.

Figure 2.2: Canada's historical greenhouse gas emissions and projections to 2020

Canada's historical greenhouse gas emissions and projections to 2020

Long description

The line chart shows four lines. A first line shows Canada's historical greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2010. A second line illustrates the emissions scenario "2011 no government actions" projecting emissions from 2005 to 2020 with emissions reaching 850 metatonnes in 2020. A third line illustrates illustrates the emissions scenario "2012 Trend Line" projecting emissions from 2011 to 2020 with emissions reaching 720 megatonnes in 2020. A fourth line is used to locate the relative location Canada's 2020 target of 607 megatonnes versus the other 2020 projected emissions values.

Source: Adapted from Canada's Emission Trends 2012.

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