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Canada Throws Hat into the Emissions Reduction Ring

On May 15, 2015, the federal government announced that it will commit to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.  New regulations for Canada's oil and gas sector, as well as regulations on natural gas electrical plants, will be introduced.  Canada's Environment Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, stated that she will be meeting with provincial environment ministers in June to discuss potential avenues to reduce emissions.

The 30 per cent target is a significant increase over Canada’s current target to reduce emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.  To put the 30 per cent reduction into perspective, according to recent reports, Canada will have to reduce its emissions from the 726 megatons emitted in 2013 to 515 megatons in 2030 in order to meet its target.  In comparison, the United States has pledged to cut its emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2025.  Additionally, Mexico has pledged to cut emissions by 25 per cent by 2030 and the European Union has agreed to reduce its emissions on 1990 levels by 40 per cent by 2030.

To meet its goal, Canada will have to rely heavily on the provinces to reduce emissions within their own boundaries.  Ontario recently set its own 2030 target of a 37 per cent reduction from 1990 levels, while British Columbia had previously committed to a 33 per cent reduction from 2007 levels by 2020.  In Alberta, the oil and gas industry anxiously awaits the changes in climate change policy promised by the new NDP government, including possible cancellation of the carbon capture and storage program and phasing out of coal fired electricity generation.  Alberta is the number one greenhouse gas emitter amongst the provinces, with 267 megatons emitted in 2013.  This figure is expected to rise to nearly 300 megatons by 2020.

Notably, on June 2, 2015, Alberta's newly enacted Environment Minister announced that new climate-change regulations would be introduced by the end of June.  Details remain to be seen, but an increase in the current $15-a-tonne levy for carbon emissions from major industries is expected.

Whether Canada can hit its new target remains to be seen.  According to Environment Canada, Canada's emissions are actually projected to increase slightly between 2015 and 2020, when they are projected to reach 727 megatons.  There is no question, however, that Canada’s emission target will continue to gain international and domestic scrutiny, particularly with the upcoming G7 conference in Germany on June 7 and 8, 2015, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Paris in late November, 2015.


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Lawson Lundell's Project Law Blog focuses on updating proponents on issues emerging in the law and policy that applies to the development of major projects in Canada. The focus of the blog is on matters relating to environmental assessment and compliance, regulatory matters and Indigenous consultation.




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