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Reality Check: The State of Climate Progress in Canada

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRT) is pleased to present Reality Check: The State of Climate Progress in Canada. This report was undertaken at the request of the federal Minister of the Environment to inform the government’s regulatory approach to reducing emissions.

This report concludes that despite making progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Canada is not on track to achieve the federal government’s 2020 reduction target of 17% below 2005 levels. Canada will not achieve its target unless significant new, additional measures are taken.  More will have to be done. No other conclusion is possible.

Combining all existing and proposed federal, provincial and territorial climate policies and actions would lead to a reduction of 104 Mt CO2e in 2020, which represents almost 50% of the required emission reductions to meet Canada’s  target of 607 Mt CO2e in 2020 – but an emissions gap of 117 Mt CO2e remains. While the target is not yet out of reach, the cost of additional policies to close the gap will be higher on average than policies pursued to date.

This report serves as a reality check on the state of climate progress in Canada today. It reinforces some key truths about climate policy in Canada: that a national target needs a concerted national policy behind it, that policy uncertainty still exists and stifles progress, that the country has yet to implement effective policies to address some large sources of emissions, and that all this means progress has been and will remain difficult and uneven across the country.

Reality Check recommends that advances in future Canadian climate policy meet three tests: that they are collaborative, coherent, and considered – a 3C approach.  Collaborative across governments by meeting regularly and specifically on climate policy; Coherent by acting together in a coordinated way to reinforce each other’s policies and determine who is best positioned to act in one area over another; and Considered by undertaking regular progress reports and assessments of how well Canada is meeting targets and forecasting to help consider future actions.

Our analysis could not be clearer: Canada cannot cherry-pick its way to 2020. This will require a more engaged and integrated climate change policy approach at the pan-Canadian level than what we have seen to date.

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