Canada sets national climate plan to meet Paris Agreement, showing leading role of sub-national governments

Ilario D'Amato
Reading time: 6 minutes
11 December 2016

LONDON: Canada has just released a much-awaited pan-Canadian climate plan that will set the pathway for the country to meet its pledge to cut carbon emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, set in the Paris Agreement last December.

The “Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change” – adopted by all Canadian provinces but Saskatchewan and Manitoba – commits federal and provincial governments to cut the country’s annual emissions by around 291 million tons by 2030, which is same as taking about 62 million cars off the road. At the same time, it provides enough flexibility to adjust with the different paces and ambitions of the various provinces.

The plan also provides for massive investments in hydro power lines, clean technology and public transit – with the implementation of new building codes to boost energy efficiency, more charging stations for electric cars, and expanding clean electricity sources and upgrading power grids.

The national plan builds upon the climate work some forward-thinking Canadian provinces are already implementing – showing the way forward through innovative policy tools, such as carbon markets and investing in cleaner jobs, which will shape the future of the global economy.

“We are proud that the climate leadership shown by states, provinces and regions has been so inspiring and is playing a key role in moving Canada forward on its climate commitments,” commented Libby Ferguson, States & Regions Director, The Climate Group.

“A number of Canadian provinces have taken a consistent leadership stance on climate change over the past 10 years, despite changes at the national level. Active members of our global States & Regions Alliance, they are demonstrating how bold climate action at the sub-national level is key to implementing the Paris Agreement. Collaboration between all level of governments is crucial to achieve a coordinated response on climate change, which in turn can spur more prosperous economies and healthier societies.”

Image: Vancouver, British Columbia


In October, Canada ratified the Paris Agreement – signaling the will for the North American country of being part of the great opportunities arising from a clean, long-term strategy involving businesses and citizens.

Earlier in March, the country’s First Ministers signed the “Vancouver Declaration”, whereby they committed to increased collaboration in order to raise Canada’s overall level of ambition on climate change. With such declaration, they also agreed to work towards the adoption of mechanisms that will ensure the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Prior to the release of the pan-Canadian framework, the government of Canada announced its intention to have carbon pricing in place across Canada by 2018 – starting with a C$10 per ton minimum price rising yearly by C$10 to reach C$50 per ton in 2022 - in jurisdictions who don’t have a tax or a cap-and-trade system already in place.

The government of Canada also decided to accelerate the process of phasing out coal-fired plants, while reducing methane emissions from oil and gas and developing cleaner standards for fuel.

The province of Alberta, one of the members of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance, is already committed to phasing in a carbon price of C$30 per ton next January, phasing out all coal emissions by 2030 and reducing methane emissions by 45% by 2025. The government has also set a limit on oil sands emissions at 100 megatons a year, while is transitioning to more renewable energy and natural gas generation by 2030.

“Our Climate Leadership Plan is a made-in-Alberta solution that prepares the province for a carbon-constrained future,” said Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips. “Putting a price on carbon, and using the revenue to support investment in renewable energy and efficiency, will diversify our economy and create new jobs.

“Alberta is a driving force in the national economy, and we’re bending the curve on emissions that will make a significant contribution to Canada’s international climate commitments. Sub-national jurisdictions in Canada and around the world are essential to the global push to reduce emissions and tackle climate change.”

Image: Quebec City, Quebec


The Canadian province of Québec has been the first in the country to put a price on carbon, showing how this tool has reduced over time pollutants, while stimulating the industry to find innovative technologies to cut their emissions.

Québec, one of the five co-chairs of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance, has also created an Emission Trading Scheme in 2013 which was linked to that of California – another member of the States & Regions Alliance – in 2014, thereby creating the largest regional carbon market in North America, and the first of its kind to have been designed, developed and operated by subnational governments of different countries.

“When trying to reach ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets our road must be guided by ingenuity,” said David Heurtel, Quebec Minister for Sustainable development, the Environment and the Fight against climate change. “Transforming classic economic growth measures into long-term climate solutions is the most sensible way forward for the future of the planet and that of our children.

“By sending a price signal and having stringent declining caps on GHG emissions, the Québec-California carbon market bridges the gap between the high costs of pollution, namely for climate damages and adaptation measures, and the necessary investments in renewable energies, energy efficiencies, low-emissions innovations and sustainable transportation.”

Also the province of Ontario is implementing a carbon price: last July, it launched its own cap-and-trade program and aims to link it with Québec’s and California’s joint scheme. The government expects to generate up to C$478 million from its first and only auction in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Proceeds from Ontario’s cap and trade program will be invested entirely in initiatives reducing GHG emission in the area. The province has a target of reducing its GHG emissions by 15% below 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80% by 2050.

“The new agreement acknowledges existing actions taken by provinces and territories to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including Ontario's cap and trade program – the most cost-effective solution for Ontario's people and businesses,” said Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne. “It also supports our transition to a low-carbon economy by encouraging innovation and helping us maintain our competitiveness.

“We remain hopeful that all First Ministers will sign on to the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change in the near future, and now we will move to implement the framework.”

Image: Toronto, Ontario


Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Ontario and Québec have also disclosed their climate data to the latest Compact of States and Regions Disclosure report, which has showed once again the crucial impact sub-national governments are having on bending the emissions’ curve.

The report has indicated how delivering on all disclosed GHG reduction goals would put governments on track for a 2 degrees Celsius pathway – the limit indicated to avoid worst effects of climate change.

Speaking before the First Ministers’ meeting that finalised Canada’s climate plan, US Vice-President Joe Biden encouraged them to continue stepping-up with their climate plan, saying: “I am absolutely confident the United States will continue making progress on this path to a low-carbon future.”

Citing China’s plans to go ahead with its national carbon market next year – the biggest in the world – he underlined such measures are “unstoppable. There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful, but no reason to be anything other than feeling an overwhelming sense of urgency. We just have to keep our eye on the ball.”

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