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Current situation

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

Emissions profile

Canada’s emissions in 2017 were estimated at 715 MtCO₂e (excl. LULUCF). Emissions in 2020 are estimated to drop to approximately 606-633 MtCO₂e (excl. LULUCF), with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.3

In 2017, the power, transport and buildings sectors represented the largest shares of total emissions, accounting for around 28%, 25% and 13% of emissions respectively. Agriculture and industry processes each accounted for 8% of total emissions. Data revisions in Canada’s 2021 National Inventory Report indicate LULUCF emissions in recent years have been an emission source, rather than a sink as previously reported, and that these emissions have been on an upward trend.8

Canada’s 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change forms the basis for their targets and submissions in their NDC.9 In 2020, Canada adopted a new plan, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy”, to reach the 2030 NDC target and 2050 net zero target.10

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.

Canadaʼs current GHG emissions

MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values

By sector

  • Power
  • Transport
  • Buildings
  • Industry (energy use)
  • Fugitive emissions
  • Other
  • Agriculture
  • Industry (processes)
  • Waste
  • LULUCF
Energy (82%)⟵ LULUCF negative emissions

By gas

  • CO₂
  • CH₄
  • N₂O
  • Other
080%0

Sectors by gas

Energy
091%0
Agriculture
00
Industry (processes)
074%0

Energy system

Canada’s primary energy use is highly reliant on gas and oil, contributing 35% and 34% respectively in 2017. The draft Clean Fuel Standard, which is expected to be finalised in late 2021, would require liquid fuel suppliers to cut carbon intensity of fuels they sell over time.11 The remaining energy mix is comprised of 17% renewables including biomass, 9% nuclear, and 6% coal. Current plans indicate that Canada intends to continue production of natural gas, particularly liquefied natural gas for export.12,13

In 2017, roughly 67% of electricity was generated by renewables, with the majority supplied by hydropower, and an additional 15% supplied by nuclear.14 Energy modelling by the Canada Energy Regulator show an increase in the share of renewable and nuclear generation to a total of 90% by 2050 in their Evolving Scenario that assumes increasing climate action.13 Coal, oil and gas account for 9%, 1% and 8% of present day generation, respectively, though Canada aims to phase out unabated coal by 2030.15

Targets and commitments

Economy-wide targets

Target type

Base year emissions target

NDC target

  • 40-45% below 2005 by 2030 (incl. LULUCF)
  • 36-41% below 2005 by 2030 (excl. LULUCF)

Market mechanism

  • Canada has not officially submitted its updated NDC target to the UNFCCC. Whether and the extent to which it intends to rely on market mechanisms to meet that target is unclear. In its original NDC submission, it said that it would explore the use of such mechanisms, depending on agreement of the international rulebook (which remains outstanding).

Long-term target

  • Net zero GHG emissions by 2050.7
  • Role of land sector in meeting target is unclear.

Sector coverage

EnergyIndustryWasteAgricultureLULUCF

Greenhouse gas coverage

CO₂CH₄NF₃HFCsN₂OSF₆

Sectoral targets

Energy

  • Proposed CAD $ 170/tonne CO₂ nation-wide carbon price by 2023, increasing by CAD $ 15 per year from 2023 to 2030.10

Transport

  • Draft Clean Fuel Standard to enact regulations on carbon intensity of fossil fuels through gradual annual reductions of permitted intensities.17
  • 100% electric light-vehicle transport by 2035.18

Agriculture

  • Draft regulations on the creation of a voluntary federal offset scheme for industries not covered by carbon pricing (e.g. waste, agriculture and forestry).

Power

  • Unabated coal phase-out by 2030.15
  • 40-45% reduction in methane emissions from oil and gas by 2025 compared to 2012 levels, with plans to establish new targets for 2030 and 2035.10,16

Buildings

  • Develop “net-zero ready” building codes to be adopted by 2030 for new buildings.

Waste

  • Draft regulations on the creation of a voluntary federal offset scheme for industries not covered by carbon pricing (e.g. waste, agriculture and forestry).

LULUCF

  • Planting of 2 billion trees over the next decade.

Footnotes