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What is Canadaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

Ambition gap

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Canadaʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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Displayed values
Reference year
−100 %−80 %−60 %−40 %−20 %0 %20002020204020601234
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
Legend
  1. 1
    1.5°C emissions level
    −57 %
  2. 2
    NDC
    −41 %
  3. 3
    Ambition gap
    −16 %
  4. 4
    Reference year
    2005
Key messages

Last updated: August 2021

In July 2021, Canada updated its NDC target under the Paris Agreement setting an economy wide emission reduction target of at least 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030, including an estimated LULUCF contribution of -27 MtCO2e/yr.1,2 This results in a target of 36-41% below 2005 levels by 2030 excluding LULUCF.2

1 Office of the Prime Minister of Canada. Prime Minister Trudeau announces increased climate ambition.(2021).

2 Climate Action Tracker. CAT Climate Target Update Tracker: Canada | July 2021 Update. (2021).

3 Climate Action Tracker. Canada. CAT September 2020 Update. (2020).

4 Government of Canada. Regulations Amending the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-fired Generation of Electricity Regulations. in Canada Gazette Part II, Vol. 152, No. 25, Regulation SOR/2018-263 (2018).

5 Government of Canada. Net-Zero Emissions by 2050.

6 Canada Ministry of the Environment. Bill C-12: An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. (House of Commons of Canada, 2020).

7 Government of Canada. Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. in Bill C-12 (2021).

8 Environment and Climate Change Canada. National Inventory Report 1990-2019: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. (2021).

9 Government of Canada. Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. 1–86. (2016).

10 Environment and Climate Change Canada. A healthy environment and a healthy economy: Canada’s strengthened climate plan to create jobs and support people, communities and the planet.(2020).

11 Government of Canada. Clean Fuel Standard. (2020).

12 Natural Resources Canada. Canadian LNG Projects. (2020).

13 Canada Energy Regulator. Canada’s Energy Future 2020. (2020).

14 IRENA. Renewable Energy Statistics 2020. (2020).

15 Government of Canada. Canada’s coal power phase-out reaches another milestone. (2018).

16 The Government of Canada. Government of Canada working with provinces to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. (2020).

17 Government of Canada. Clean Fuel Standard. (2020).

18 Transport Canada. Building a green economy: Government of Canada to require 100% of car and passenger truck sales be zero-emission by 2035 in Canada. (2021).

19 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

Canada’s updated NDC reduces the 2030 ambition gap compared to its 2017 NDC, but further reductions are still needed. The country would need to achieve up to 52-63% emissions reductions below 2005 levels by 2030, excluding LULUCF, to get onto a 1.5°C compatible pathway.

Canada is not on track to meet its new NDC target with its current policies likely to only achieve a 14-17% reduction in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels, excluding LULUCF, falling far below its NDC target and a 1.5°C compatible pathway.3

A fair share contribution to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions compatible with the Paris Agreement would require Canada to go further than its domestic target, and provide substantial support for emission reductions to developing countries on top of its domestic reductions.

Canada has a target of net zero GHG emissions by 2050 and in June 2021, passed legislation to enshrine this target into law.5,6,7 The extent to which the government intends to rely on the land sector as a sink (and therefore what residual emissions are expected) is unclear.

To be 1.5°C compatible, Canada will need to reduce its emissions to around 88-94% below 2005 by 2050 (excluding LULUCF).19 Canada will need to strengthen its 2030 target and implement additional policies to achieve its net zero GHG target.

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Key messages

To be 1.5°C compatible, Canada needs to phase coal out of its electricity supply by 2026 and natural gas between 2026-2030. The government’s current plans are not consistent with either benchmark.4

Its proposed coal phase out date is too late (2030 vs 2026) and the government plans to shift much of its coal-fired power generation to natural gas. This creates the risk of carbon-lock-in and stranded assets, and would likely prevent it from achieving a 1.5°C compatible pathway.

To get onto a 1.5°C compatible pathway, Canada’s power sector would need to be decarbonised around 2030, with renewable energy accounting for 91-99% of Canada’s power generation by 2030. As of 2017, 67% of Canada’s electricity comes from renewable sources, mostly from hydro, and 15% from nuclear.

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Key power sector benchmarks

Renewables shares and year of zero emissions power Including the use of BECCS

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Current targets
Required targets
2029
  1. 2029-2030 Zero emissions power
2030
  1. 2030 Coal phase-out
  1. 2030 91 to 99% Renewable share
2033
  1. 2033 94 to 100% Renewable share

Footnotes