Climate change in Canada

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Among countries which emit high levels of greenhouse gas Canada is the highest per person

Climate change in Canada has had large impacts on the country's environment and landscapes. The number of climate change–related events, such as the 2013 Alberta Floods and an increasing number of forest fires, has become an increasing concern over time.[1] Canada's annual average temperature over land has warmed by 1.7 degrees Celsius since 1948. The rate of warming is even higher in Canada's north, the Prairies, and northern British Columbia. The country's precipitation has increased in recent years and extreme weather events have become more common.

Canada is currently the world's 7th largest greenhouse gas emitter, and has a long history of producing industrial emissions going back to the late 19th century. In 2019 transport and oil and gas extraction together emitted over half of the total.[2] Canada's fossil fuel extraction industry has increased its greenhouse gas emissions by 21.6% since 1990.

Canada is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. Several climate change mitigation policies have been implemented in the country, such as carbon pricing, emissions trading and climate change funding programs. In 2019, the House of Commons voted to declare a national climate emergency in Canada.

Greenhouse gas emissions[edit]

Canada's greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2016

Climate change is the result of greenhouse gas emission, which are produced by human activity. Canada is currently the world's 7th largest greenhouse gas emitter.[3] In 2018, of all the G20 countries, Canada was second only to Saudi Arabia for greenhouse gas emissions per capita.[4] Indeed, in 2018, Canada dumped a total of 729 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2eq) into the atmosphere. This represents a minuscule decrease from 730 Mt CO2eq in 2005, but a large increase from 602 Mt CO2eq in 1990.[5]

Furthermore, Canada has one of the heaviest climate debt in the world. Indeed, the country has a very long history of producing industrial greenhouse gas emissions. As of 2021 Canada is the 10th heaviest cumulative emitter at 65,000 Mt.[6] The WRI's Climate Analysis Indicators Tool estimates that, between 1950 and 2000, Canada had the highest Greenhouse gas emissions per capita of any first world countries.[7]

Energy consumption[edit]

Electricity consumption in Canada accounts for 74 carbon dioxide equivalent Mt CO2eq, or 10% of the country's emissions.[5] This sector's climate footprint significantly reduced in recent decades due to the closure of many coal-fired power stations. Currently, 81% of Canada's electricity is produced by non-emitting energy sources, such as hydro, nuclear, solar or wind power.[8]

Fossil fuels provide 19% of Canadian electric power, about half as coal (9% of the total) and the remainder a mix of natural gas and oil. Only five provinces use coal for electricity generation. Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia rely on coal for nearly half their generation while other provinces and territories use little or none. Alberta and Saskatchewan also use a substantial amount of natural gas. Remote communities including all of Nunavut and much of the Northwest Territories produce most of their electricity from diesel generators, at high economic and environmental cost. The federal government has set up initiatives to reduce dependence on diesel-fired electricity.[9]

Transportation[edit]

Canada is a large country with a low population density, so transportation—often in cold weather when fuel efficiency drops—is a big part of the economy. In 2017, 24% of Canada's greenhouse gases (GHG)s came from trucks, trains, airplanes and cars.[5]

The vast majority of Canadian emissions from transportation come from road transportation, accounting for 144 Mt CO2eq, or 20% of total emissions.[5] These originate for individual cars, but also from long-haul trucks, which are used to transport most goods across the country. In 2018, the Canadian truck industry delivered 63.7 million shipments. In 2019, Canadian factories produced 1.4 million new trucks, more than triple the Canadian car production.[10]

The Canadian domestic aviation industry, represented largely by the country's two largest airlines, Air Canada and Westjet, produced 7.1 Mt CO2eq in 2017, and account for 1% of Canada's total greenhouse gas emission.[5]

Fossil fuel production[edit]

The largest industry of GHG emissions, accounting for 195 Mt CO2eq or 27% of the national total, is from the oil and gas sector. Driven by high emissions from tar sands projects, greenhouse gas emissions from this sector increased by 84% from 1990 to 2017.[5]

Industrial emissions[edit]

In 2017, Canadian heavy Industry emitted 73 Mt CO2eq, or 10% of Canada's total greenhouse gas emission. This represents a 25% drop in emissions in this category since 1990.[5] This data is consistent with the rapid decline of manufacturing in Canada.[11]

Deforestation[edit]

Canada's deforestation rate is one of the lowest in the world, at 0.02 percent per year. This rate of deforestation has been reducing every year since 1985.[12]

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), "Harvested wood products" in Canada account for 130 Mt CO2eq of greenhouse gas emissions. This would represent 18% of the country's emissions in 2017, but ECCC exclude this number from its national total. Also excluded from the total is ECCC's calculation that Canada's forests reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 150 Mt CO2eq Before 2015, ECCC used to calculate a 160 Mt CO2eq reduction from its forest, a sign of their slow but continued deterioration.[5]

Impacts on the natural environment[edit]

In recent decades, Canada has experienced increased average temperatures, increased precipitation, and more extreme weather events. These trends are expected to continue over the next century. ECCC determined it was extremely likely that these changes were the result of increased greenhouse gas emissions driven by human activity.[13]

Temperature and weather changes[edit]

Annual average temperatures in Canada have increased by 1.7 °C since 1948. These weather changes have not been uniform across season. Indeed, average winter temperatures have risen by 3.3 °C over the same period while average summer temperature only rose by 1.5 °C. The trends were not uniform across regions either. British Columbia, the Prairie provinces and Northern Canada experienced winter warming the most. Meanwhile, some areas of southeast Canada experienced average warming of less than 1 °C during the same period.[14]

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada "warming over the 20th century is indisputable and largely due to human activities"[15] adding "Canada's rate of warming is about twice the global rate: a 2° C increase globally means a 3 to 4 °C increase for Canada".[16]

ECCC lists impacts of climate change consistent with global changes. Temperature-related changes include longer growing season, more heatwaves and fewer cold spells, thawing permafrost, earlier river ice break-up, earlier spring runoff, and earlier budding of trees. Meteorological changes include an increase in precipitation and more snowfall in northwest Arctic.[15]

Current/past Köppen climate classification map for Canada for 1980–2016
Predicted Köppen climate classification map for Canada for 2071–2100

Precipitation[edit]

ECCC summarized annual precipitation changes to support biodiversity assessments by the Canadian Council of Resource Ministers. Evaluating records up to 2007 they observed: "Precipitation has generally increased over Canada since 1950 with the majority of stations with significant trends showing increases. The increasing trend is most coherent over northern Canada where many stations show significant increases. There is not much evidence of clear regional patterns in stations showing significant changes in seasonal precipitation except for significant decreases which tend to be concentrated in the winter season over southwestern and southeastern Canada. While the previous sentence might be technically correct in part, all seasons show increased precipitation in Canada, especially in the Winter, Spring, and Fall months.[17] Also, increasing precipitation over the Arctic appears to be occurring in all seasons except summer."[18]

ECCC climate specialists have assessed trends in short-duration rainfall patterns using Engineering Climate Datasets: "Short-duration (5 minutes to 24 hours) rainfall extremes are important for a number of purposes, including engineering infrastructure design, because they represent the different meteorological scales of extreme rainfall events." A "general lack of a detectable trend signal", meaning no overall change in extreme, short-duration rainfall patterns was observed in the single station analysis. In relation to design criteria used for traditional water management and urban drainage design practice (e.g., Intensity-Duration-Frequency (IDF) statistics), the evaluation "shows that fewer than 5.6% and 3.4% of the stations have significant increasing and decreasing trends, respectively, in extreme annual maximum single location observation amounts." On a regional basis, southwest and the east (Newfoundland) coastal regions generally showed significant increasing regional trends for 1- and 2-hour extreme rainfall durations. Decreasing regional trends for 5 to 15 minute rainfall amounts were observed in the St. Lawrence region of southern Quebec and in the Atlantic provinces.[19]

Extreme weather events[edit]

The extreme weather events of greatest concern in Canada include heavy rain and snow falls, heat waves, and drought. They are linked to flooding and landslides, water shortages, forest fires, reduced air quality, as well as costs related to damage to property and infrastructure, business disruptions, and increased illness and mortality. Heat waves, including those in the summer of 2009, 2012, and 2021, are associated with increases in heat stroke and respiratory illness.

Sea level rise[edit]

Coastal flooding is expected to increase in many areas of Canada due to global sea-level rise and local land subsidence or uplift.[20]

Ecosystems[edit]

Boreal forest[edit]

Change in Photosynthetic Activity in Northern Forests 1982–2003; NASA Earth Observatory

According to Environment Canada's 2011 annual report, there is evidence that some regional areas within the western Canadian boreal forest have increased by 2 °C since 1948.[21] The rate of the changing climate is leading to drier conditions in the boreal forest, which leads to a whole host of subsequent issues.[22]

As a result of the rapidly changing climate, trees are migrating to higher latitudes and altitudes (northward), but some species may not be migrating fast enough to follow their climatic habitat.[23][24][25] Moreover, trees within the southern limit of their range may begin to show declines in growth.[26] Drier conditions are also leading to a shift from conifers to aspen in more fire and drought-prone areas.[22]

Climate change creates more fire-prone conditions in the Boreal forest of Canada.[27] In 2016, Northern Alberta witnessed the effects of climate change in a dramatic manner when a "perfect storm" of El Niño and global warming contributed to the Fort McMurray wildfire, which led to the evacuation of the oil-producing town at the heart of the tar sands industry.[28] The area has witnessed an increased frequency of wildfires, as Canada's wildfire season now starts a month earlier than it used to and the annual area burned is twice what it was in 1970.[29]

As to 2019, climate change has already increased wildfires frequency and power in Canada, especially in Alberta. "We are seeing climate change in action," says University of Alberta wildland fire Prof. Mike Flannigan. "The Fort McMurray fire was 1+12 to six times more likely because of climate change. The 2017 record-breaking B.C. fire season was seven to 11 times more likely because of climate change."[30]

The mountain pine beetle epidemic raged from 1996 to 2015 as a result of milder winters in the boreal forest, allowing for the proliferation of the parasite. It resulted in 18 million hectares of dead trees and economic impacts for forest-dependent communities.[31][32][33]

Arctic[edit]

Annual mean temperature over Northern Canada increased by 2.3°C (likely range 1.7 °C–3.0°C), which is approximately three times the global mean warming rate. The strongest rates of warming were observed in the northernmost regions of Yukon and the Northwest Territories where annual mean temperature increases of about 3.5ºC were observed between 1948 and 2016.[34]

Climate change melts ice and increases the mobility of the ice. In May and June 2017 dense ice – up to 8 metres (25 ft) thick – was in the waters off the northern coast of Newfoundland, trapping fishing boats and ferries.[35]

Impacts on people[edit]

Economic impact[edit]

Agriculture and food production[edit]

During the drought of 2002, Ontario had a good season and produced enough crops to send a vast amount of hay to those hit the hardest in Alberta. However this is not something that can or will be expected every time there is a drought in the prairie provinces.[36] This causes a great deficit in income for many as they are buying heads of cattle for high prices and selling them for very low prices.[37] By looking at historical forecasts, there is a strong indication that there is no true way to estimate or to know the amount of rain to expect for the upcoming growing season. This does not allow for the agricultural sector to plan accordingly.[38][needs update]

In Alberta there has been a trend of high summer temperatures and low summer precipitation. This has led much of Alberta to face drought conditions.[39] Drought conditions are harming the agriculture sector of this province, mainly the cattle ranching area.[40] When there is a drought there is a shortage of feed for cattle (hay, grain). With the shortage on crops ranchers are forced to purchase the feed at the increased prices while they can. Those who cannot afford to pay top money for feed are forced to sell their herds.[41][42][needs update]

Wood industry[edit]

Climate change causes challenges for the sustainable management and conservation of forests. It will have a direct impact on the productivity of the wood industry, as well as the health and regeneration of trees.[22] The assisted migration of forests has been proposed as way to help the wood industry adapt to climate change.

Health impact[edit]

The Public Health Agency of Canada reported that incidences of Lyme disease increased from 144 cases in 2009 to 2,025 cases in 2017. Dr. Duncan Webster, an infectious disease consultant at Saint John Regional Hospital, links this increase in disease incidence to the increase in the population of blacklegged ticks. The tick population has increased due largely to shorter winters and warmer temperatures associated with climate change.[43]

Impacts on indigenous peoples[edit]

Inuit who reside in Canada are facing significant difficulty maintaining their traditional food systems because of climate change. The Inuit have hunted mammals for hundreds of years.[44] Many of their traditional economic transactions and cultural ceremonies were and still are centred around whales and other marine mammals.[44] Climate change is causing the ocean to warm up and acidify, negatively impacting these species in these traditional areas and causing many to move elsewhere.[44] While some believe a warming Arctic would cause food insecurity, already a problem for Canadian Inuit,[45] to increase by taking away some of their primary food sources, others point to the resilience they have displayed in the past to changing temperatures and believe they will likely be able to adapt.[44] Although ancestors to the modern Inuit would travel to other places in the Arctic based on these animals and adapt to changing migration routes, modern geopolitical boundaries and laws would likely prevent this from happening to the extent necessary to preserve these traditional food systems.[44] Regardless of whether they can successfully modify their marine food systems, they will lose certain aspects of their culture. To hunt these whales and other marine mammals, they have used the same traditional tools for generations.[44] Without these animals providing them subsistence, a core part of their culture would become obsolete.

The Inuit are also losing their access to ringed seal and polar bears, two key animals that are essential to the traditional Inuit diet.[44] Climate change has led to drastic drops in the ringed seal population, which has led to serious harm to the Inuit subsistence winter economy.[44] The ringed seal is the most prevalent subsistence species in all of Nunavut, with respect to both land and water.[44] Without the ringed seal, the Inuit would lose their sense of ningiqtuq, or their cultural form of resource sharing.[44][46] Ringed seal meat is one of the core meats of this type of sharing and has been utilized in this system for hundreds of years.[44] With climate change, ningiqtuq would be drastically altered. Also, the ringed seal embodies the ideals of sharing, unity, and collectivism because of ningiqtuq.[44] Its decline signifies loss of Inuit identity. The polar bear population is also declining because of climate change.[44] Polar bears rely on ringed seals for food, so both of their declines are correlated.[44] This decline is also harming ningiqtuq as polar bear meat is shared among Inuit people.[44]

For the Gwichʼin people, an Anthabaskan-speaking First Nations in Canada, caribou are central to their culture.[47] They have coexisted with the Gwichʼin for thousands of years.[47] As a result, their entire culture is at immediate risk. Caribou numbers are rapidly declining due to warmer temperatures and melting ice.[47] Sarah James, a prominent Alaskan Gwichʼin activist, revealed, “We are the caribou people. Caribou are not just what we eat; they are who we are. They are the stories and songs and the whole way we see the world. Caribou are our life. Without caribou, we wouldn’t exist."[47]

Mitigation and adaptation[edit]

Policies and legislation (national level)[edit]

Harper Government (2006–2015)[edit]

Under the tenure of Stephen Harper, who was Prime Minister from 2006 to 2015, the Kyoto Accord was abandoned and the Clean Air Act was unveiled in October 2006.[48]

In 2009, Canada's two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, became wary of federal policies shifting the burden of greenhouse reductions on them in order to give Alberta and Saskatchewan more room to further develop their oil sands reserves.[49]

In 2010 Graham Saul, who represented the Climate Action Network Canada (CAN) – a coalition of 60 non-governmental organisations – commented on the 40-page CAN report "Troubling Evidence"[50] which claimed that,[51]

Canada's climate researchers are being muzzled, their funding slashed, research stations closed, findings ignored and advice on the critical issue of the century unsought by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.

— Leahy The Guardian 2010

By 2014 award-winning American/Canadian limnologist, David Schindler, argued that Harper's administration had put "economic development ahead of all other policy objectives", in particular the environment.[52]

It's like they don't want to hear about science anymore. They want politics to reflect economics 100 per cent – economics being only what you can sell, not what you can save.

— David Schindler 2014

Trudeau Government (2015–present)[edit]

Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Catherine McKenna at the COP21 summit in Paris, on November 30, 2015

After being elected, prime minister Justin Trudeau outlined the Liberal government's Climate Action Plan:[53]

  • "We will fulfil our G20 commitment and phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term."
  • "We will also work in partnership with the United States and Mexico to develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environmental agreement."
  • "Together, we will attend the Paris climate conference, and within 90 days formally meet to establish a pan-Canadian framework for combatting climate change."
  • "We will endow the Low Carbon Economy Trust with $2 billion in our mandate."

While the Liberal government has fulfilled many of its program commitments relating to climate change, environment commissioner Julie Gelfand described the country's lack of progress in reducing emissions as “disturbing" and noted that it was on track to miss its climate change targets.[53]

Trudeau's Foreign affairs Minister was Stéphane Dion from 2015 to 2017. Dion is known as being very supportive of climate change policies. Catherine McKenna was Trudeau's Minister to the Environment and Climate Change from 2015 to 2019. McKenna is known for her legal work surrounding social justice.[53]

Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, Trudeau's national climate strategy, was released in August 2017.[54] Provincial premiers (except Saskatchewan and Manitoba) adopted the proposal on December 9, 2016.[55] The core of the proposal is to implement carbon pricing regimes nationwide. The federal minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Catherine McKenna states that carbon taxes has been shown to be the most economical way of reducing emissions.[56]

In 2019, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) released a report called Canada's Changing Climate Report (CCCR). It is essentially a summary of the IPCC 5th Assessment Report, customised for Canada.[57] The report states that coastal flooding is expected to increase in many areas due to global sea-level rise and local land subsidence or uplift.

The government of Justin Trudeau promised to step up the targets for the year 2030 and reach carbon neutrality in 2050. In 2020 it introduced a bill that will require the country to reach zero emission by 2050.[58] Even though fossil fuels will be phased out in "the medium term" Trudeau has stated that the Kinder Morgan Pipeline will be built. The federal government has also approved the Woodfibre LNG Terminal in Vancouver.[53] The Trudeau government has introduced a carbon tax. This tax was set at $20 a tonne in 2018 and will increase by $10 a year until it reaches $50 in April 2022.[citation needed] It also places levies on natural gas, pump gas, propane, butane, and aviation fuel.[59] Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Albertan Premier Jason Kenney (UCP) and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister (PC) took the federal government to court on April 15, 2019, and the court ruled in favor (3–2) of the constitutionality of the carbon tax.

Following on a motion by prime minister Justin Trudeau, on June 12, 2019, the House of Commons voted to declare a national climate emergency.[60] In December 2020 the government of Justin Trudeau introduced a bill that will require the country to reach zero emission by 2050 (Climate Change Action Plan 2001).[58]

International cooperation[edit]

Canada is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol. However, the Liberal government that later[clarification needed] signed the accord took little action towards meeting Canada's greenhouse gas emission targets. Although Canada committed itself to a 6% reduction below the 1990 levels for the 2008–2012 as a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, the country did not implement a plan to reduce greenhouse gasses emissions. Soon after the 2006 federal election, the new minority government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada could not and would not meet Canada's commitments. The House of Commons passed several opposition-sponsored bills calling for government plans for the implementation of emission reduction measures.

Canadian and North American environmental groups feel that Canada lacks credibility on environmental policy and regularly criticize Canada in international venues. In the last few months of 2009, Canada's attitude was criticized at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) conference,[61] at the Commonwealth summit,[62] and the Copenhagen conference.[63]

In 2011, Canada, Japan and Russia stated that they would not take on further Kyoto targets.[64] The Canadian government invoked Canada's legal right to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on December 12, 2011.[65] Canada was committed to cutting its greenhouse emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012, but in 2009 emissions were 17% higher than in 1990. Environment minister Peter Kent cited Canada's liability to "enormous financial penalties" under the treaty unless it withdrew.[64][66] Canada's decision was strongly criticized by representatives of other ratifying countries, including France and China.

Just over a month after taking office in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna represented Canada at the Paris climate summit. At this meeting, the Liberal Government of Canada stated its commitment to stopping a global temperature increase at 1.5 °C, phasing out fossil fuels, financially supporting clean energy, and assisting developing countries to meet their targets.[53]

Paris Agreement[edit]

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international agreement. Its main goal is to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.[67] The Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are the plans to fight climate change adapted for each country.[68] Every party in the agreement has different targets based on its own historical climate records and country's circumstances and all the targets for each country are stated in their NDC.[69]

The NDC target regarding the Canada against climate change and greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement are the following:[70]

  • 30% reduction in Greenhouse gas emissions until 2030, compared to 2005
  • Pricing carbon pollution with $10 per tonne by 2018 and rising to $50 per tonne by 2022
  • Reduce Methane (CH4) emissions from the oil and gas sector with at least 40% by 2025 compared to 2005
  • Reduce the Black carbon
  • Support Indigenous people communities

Canada has different ways to achieve the established goals depending on resources. The following approach is established to support the NDCs' climate change plan:[70]

  • Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change; plan to reduce emissions across all sectors of the economy, announced in Budget 2017
  • Vehicles:
    • Investing in infrastructure to support zero-emissions vehicles and public transport
    • Support fuel switching in the rail, aviation, marine, and off-road sectors
  • Canada's Mid Century Long-Term Low-Greenhouse Gas Development Strategy, which was released in November 2016
  • To achieve its target, Canada must reduce its total economy-wide emissions to 523 Mt in 2030
  • One of the first country to pricing carbon pollution
  • Targets for improved energy efficiency and an increased amount of renewable energy have been established.
  • New regulations to accelerate the phase-out of traditional coal units by 2030.

In the long-term low GHG emission development strategies (LT-LEDS) Canada more information is available.[71]

Climate action tracker (CAT) is an independent scientific analysis that tracks government climate action and measures it against the globally agreed Paris Agreement. Climate action tracker found Canada actions to be "insufficient".[72]

Policies and legislation (provincial level)[edit]

Mitigation[edit]

Greenhouse gas emissions (t CO2Eq) per capita (2016)
Jurisdiction t CO2Eq
 Quebec
9.55
 Ontario
11.82
 Prince Edward Island
12.60
 British Columbia
13.34
 Nunavut
13.91
 Yukon
16.73
 Manitoba
17.21
 Nova Scotia
17.32
 New Brunswick
18.74
 Newfoundland and Labrador
19.24
 Canada
20.14
 Northwest Territories
28.72
 Alberta
67.12
 Saskatchewan
71.02

In the mid-2000s, mitigation measures in some provinces moved forward, though the federal government under Stephen Harper was did not develop a federal monitoring and credible reduction regime. Several provincial governments established programs to reduce emissions in their respective territories. These measure were later integrated in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change under the premiership of Justin Trudeau.

Ontario premier Doug Ford has been very vocal about his opposition to these programs, and abolished them when he came to office in Ontario. He maintains that the federal carbon tax imposed on his province will cause a recession. Economists have studied the issue and do not agree, citing the example of British Columbia, which has had a carbon tax since 2008 causing no economic downturn for the province.[56]

Alberta[edit]

Alberta has an established "Climate Change Action Plan",[73] released in 2008. The Specified Gas Emitters Regulation in Alberta made it the first jurisdiction in North America to have a price on carbon in 2007.[73][74] and was renewed to 2017 with increased stringency. It requires "large final emitters", defined as facilities emitting more than 100,000 t CO2eq per year, to comply with an emission intensity reduction which increases over time and caps at 12% in 2015, 15% in 2016 and 20% in 2017. Facilities have several options for compliance. They may actually make reductions, pay into the Climate Change and Emission Management Fund (CCEMF), purchase credits from other large final emitters or purchase credits from non-large final emitters in the form of offset credits.[75] Criticisms against the intensity-based approach to pricing carbon include the fact that there is no hard cap on emissions and actual emissions may always continue to rise despite the fact that carbon has a price. Benefits of an intensity-based system include the fact that during economic recessions, the carbon intensity reduction will remain equally as stringent and challenging, while hard caps tend to become easily met, irrelevant and do not work to reduce emissions. Alberta has also been criticized that its goals are too weak, and that the measures enacted are not likely to achieve the goals. In 2015, the newly elected government committed to revising the climate change strategy.[76][77]

As of 2008, Alberta's electricity sector was the most carbon-intensive of all Canadian provinces and territories, with total emissions of 55.9 million tonnes of CO
2
equivalent
in 2008, accounting for 47% of all Canadian emissions in the electricity and heat generation sector.[78][needs update]

In November 2015, Premier Rachel Notley unveiled plans to increase the province's carbon tax to $20 per tonne in 2017, increasing further to $30 per tonne by 2018.[79] This policy shift came about partly because of the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, which the premier likened to a "kick in the teeth".[80] The province's new climate policies also include phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2030, and cutting emissions of methane by 45% by 2025.[81]

British Columbia[edit]

BC has announced many ambitious policies to address climate change mitigation, particularly through its Climate Action Plan,[82] released in 2008. It has set legislated greenhouse gas reduction targets of 33% below 2007 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050.[83] BC's revenue neutral carbon tax is the first of its kind in North America. It was introduced at $10/tonne of CO2eq in 2008 and has risen by $5/tonne annual increases until it reached $30/tonne in 2012. In 2021, the carbon tax increased from $40/tonne to $45/tonne, and is scheduled to reach $50/tonne in 2022.[84] It is required in legislation that all revenues from the carbon tax are returned to British Columbians through tax cuts in other areas.[85]

BC's provincial public sector organizations became the first in North America to be considered carbon neutral in 2010, partly by purchasing carbon offsets.[86][87] The Clean Energy Vehicles Program provides incentives for the purchase of approved clean energy vehicles and for charging infrastructure installation.[88] There has been action across sectors including financing options and incentives for building retrofits, a Forest Carbon Offset Protocol, a Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and landfill gas management regulation.

BC's GHG emissions have been going down, and in 2012 (based on 2010 data) BC declared it was within reach of meeting its interim target of a 6% reduction below 2007 levels by 2012. GHG emissions went down by 4.5% between 2007 and 2010, and consumption of all the main fossil fuels are down in BC as well while GDP and population have both been growing.[89]

In 2018 it was announced that the province "after stalling on sustained climate action for several years, admitted they could not meet their 2020 target", the 33% reduction target had stalled at 6.5%.[90] Provincially BC is the second-largest consumer of natural gas at 2.3 billion cubic feet per day.[91]

Ontario[edit]

In August 2007, the Ontario government released Go Green: Ontario's Action Plan on Climate Change. The plan established three targets: a 6% reduction in emissions by 2014, 15% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The government has committed to report annually on the actions it is taking to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.[92] With the initiatives currently in place, the government projects it will achieve 90% of the reductions needed to meet its 2014 target, and only 60% of those needed to meet the 2020 target.[93]

The largest emissions reductions to date have come from the phase-out of coal-fired power generation by Ontario Power Generation. In August 2007, the government issued a regulation that required the end of coal burning at Ontario's four remaining coal-fired power plants by the end of 2014.[94] Since 2003, emissions from these plants have dropped from 36.5 Mt to 4.2 Mt.[95] In January 2013, the government announced that coal will be completely phased out one year early, by the end of 2013.[96] The last coal generating station was closed on April 8, 2014 in Thunder Bay.[97]

Through the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009[98] Ontario implemented a feed-in tariff to promote the development of renewable energy generation. Ontario is also a member of the Western Climate Initiative. In January 2013, a discussion paper was posted on the Environmental Registry seeking input on the development of a greenhouse gas emissions reduction program for industry.

Over the years, transportation emissions have continued to increase. Growing from 44.8 Mt in 1990 to 59.5 Mt in 2010, transportation is responsible for the largest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the province. Efforts to reduce these emissions include investing in public transit and providing incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles.

The government also recognizes the need for climate change adaptation and, in April 2011, released Climate Ready: Ontario's Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan 2011–2014.[99]

As required by the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario does an independent review and reports annually to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on the progress of activities in the province to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

On June 7, 2018, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario under Doug Ford was elected to a majority government.[100][101] Since then there has been a great deal of controversy regarding the environmental policies of his government. Among the changes to environmental policy by Ford's government were the withdrawal of Ontario from the Western Climate Initiative emissions trading system, which had been implemented by the previous Liberal government, and eliminating the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, a non-partisan officer of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario charged with enforcing Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR).[102] The Ford government released a report indicating that the duties of the Environmental Commissioner would be transferred to the Auditor General of Ontario.[103][104][105] Other criticisms levelled by Mike Schreiner of the Green Party of Ontario include cuts to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks as well as making unspecified changes to the Endangered Species Act.[102]

Quebec[edit]

Greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.8% in Quebec between 1990 and 2007, to 85.7 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent before falling to 81.7 in 2015. At 9.9 tonnes per capita, Quebec's emissions are well below the Canadian average (20.1 tonnes) and accounted for 11.1% of Canada's total in 2015.[106]

Emissions in the electricity sector spiked in 2007, due to the operation of the TransCanada Energy combined cycle gas turbine in Becancour. The generating station, Quebec's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions that year, released 1,687,314 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2007[107] or 72.1% of all emissions from the sector and 2% of total emissions. The plant was closed in 2008[108] in 2009[109] and in 2010.[110]

Between 1990 – the reference year of the Kyoto Protocol – and 2006, Quebec's population grew by 9.2% and Quebec's GDP of 41.3%. The emission intensity relative to GDP declined from 28.1% during this period, dropping from 4,500 to 3,300 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per million dollars of gross domestic product (GDP).[111]

In May 2009, Quebec became the first jurisdiction in the Americas to impose an emissions cap after the Quebec National Assembly passed a bill capping emissions from certain sectors. The move was coordinated with a similar policy in the neighboring province of Ontario and reflects the commitment of both provinces as members of the Western Climate Initiative.[112]

On November 23, 2009, the Quebec government pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below the 1990 base year level by 2020, a goal similar to that adopted by the European Union. The government intends to achieve its target by promoting public transit, electric vehicles and intermodal freight transport. The plan also calls for the increased use of wood as a building material, energy recovery from biomass, and a land use planning reform.[113] As of 2015 the rate of emissions has been reduced by 8.8%.[114] In order to encourage electrification of the transportation sector, Quebec has introduced numerous policies to promote the purchase of electric vehicles, with the result that 9.8% of all new car sales in Quebec are electric vehicles.[115]

Adaptation[edit]

Many climate change adaptation policies are within provincial government's jurisdiction. However, adaptation is currently low in their list of environmental priorities, and most provinces have no climate adaptation plan at all.[116]

Assisted migration of forests[edit]

However, some provinces implemented assisted colonization policies to guide their forests to their future optimal range. As the climate gets warmer, tree species' become less adapted to the conditions of their historical southern or downhill range and more adapted to the climatic condition of areas north or uphill of their historical range.[117] In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia modified their tree reseeding guidelines to account for this phenomenon.[117] British Columbia even gave the green light for the relocation of a single species, the Western Larch, 1000 km northward.[118]

Policy assessments[edit]

According to data in 2021, for giving the world a 50% chance of avoiding a temperature rise of 2 degrees or more Canada should increase its climate commitments by 57%.[119]: Table 1  For a 95% chance it should increase the commitments by 160%. For giving a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees Canada should increase its commitments by 215%.[119]

Society and culture[edit]

Activism[edit]

The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF), one of the largest conservation organisations in the country, lobbies for climate change mitigation. According to CWF the organization recognized the need for action in 1977.[120] It published Checkerspot, a now discontinued biannual climate change magazine.

Some Canadian groups have also lobbied for fossil fuel divestment.[121]

Public opinion[edit]

According to a survey of the Canadian Nuclear Association, climate change concerns Canadians more than any other issue.[122]

Canadians think the threat posed by climate change is higher than their United States counterparts do, but slightly below the median opinion of other nations included in a Pew Research Center survey in 2018.[123] However the majority of Canadians in every electoral riding of every province in Canada believe that climate is changing.[124]

Rates of acceptance (belief) for ongoing climate change are highest in British Columbia and Quebec, and lowest in the prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. In a survey published by the University of Montreal and colleagues, national belief that the earth was warming was at 83%, while 12% of respondents said the earth was not warming. However, when asked if this warming is due to human activity, only 60% of respondents said "yes".[125] These numbers are consistent with a 2015 survey that showed 85% of Canadians believed the earth was warming, while only 61% felt this warming was due to human activity. Canadian public opinion that human activity is responsible for global warming slightly declined overall from 2007 to 2015.[126] When asked whether their province has already felt the effects of climate change, 70% of Canadians responded "yes". This result was based on a majority of respondents in almost all electoral ridings. At the same time, the three ridings in Alberta where opinion was lowest each polled at 49% "yes", which is just below a majority. National support for action to stop climate change sits at 58%, with similar levels of support for either a cap and trade system (58%) or a direct tax on carbon emissions (54%).[125]

A December 2018 Ipsos-Reid poll was conducted to gauge the public's opinion of Doug Ford's environmental policies in Ontario. The poll results were as follows:[127]

  • Negative – 45%
  • Positive – 27%
  • Neutral – 28%

Statistics on greenhouse gas emissions[edit]

Greenhouse gas emissions from International Panel on Climate Change sectors in Canada, 2005–2019[128] [129]
in Mt CO2 equivalent Change 1990–2019 (%) Change 2005–2019 (%) Share in 2019 (%)
1990 2005 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Energy (stationary combustion sources) Public electricity and heat generation 95 125 84 87 81 78 70 69 Positive decrease 27% Positive decrease 45% 9%
Petroleum-refining industries 17 20 18 18 16 14 15 15 Positive decrease 12% Positive decrease 25% 2%
Oil and gas extraction 31 63 96 97 99 102 106 105 Negative increase 339% Negative increase 66% 14%
Mining 4.7 4.3 5.1 4.6 4.3 4.7 6.3 6.4 Negative increase 36% Negative increase 49% 1%
Manufacturing industries 56 48 45 44 42 42 44 42 Positive decrease 25% Positive decrease 14% 6%
Construction 1.9 1.5 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.3 1.4 1.4 Positive decrease 26% Positive decrease 7% 0%
Commercial & institutional 26 33 31 30 30 32 33 34 Negative increase 30% Negative increase 3% 5%
Residential 44 46 46 43 39 41 45 42 Positive decrease 4% Positive decrease 9% 6%
Agriculture and forestry 2.4 2.2 3.8 3.6 3.8 3.7 3.8 3.7 Negative increase 54% Negative increase 68% 1%
Energy (transport) Aviation 7.5 7.7 7.6 7.6 7.5 7.9 8.7 8.5 Negative increase 13% Negative increase 12% 1%
Road transportation 84 130 141 143 145 148 154 153 Negative increase 82% Negative increase 18% 21%
Railways 6.9 6.6 7.5 7.1 6.5 7.5 7.6 7.7 Negative increase 12% Negative increase 17% 1%
Marine 3.1 4.0 3.5 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.8 4.4 Negative increase 42% Negative increase 10% 1%
Other transportation 44 42 39 40 39 40 43 43 Positive decrease 2% Negative increase 2% 6%
Energy (fugitives sources) Coal mining 2.8 1.4 1.3 1.1 1.3 1.2 1.3 1.4 Positive decrease 50% - 0%
Oil and gas 46 60 61 58 53 54 53 52 Negative increase 13% Positive decrease 13% 7%
Total Energy Uses 472 591 584 585 566 578 588 589 Negative increase 25% Positive decrease 0% 81%
Industrial processes and product use 57 57 54 53 54 53 54 54 Positive decrease 5% Positive decrease 5% 7%
Agriculture Enteric fermentation 22 31 24 24 24 24 24 24 Negative increase 1% Positive decrease 23% 3%
Manure management 6.1 8.8 7.7 7.8 7.9 7.9 7.9 7.9 Negative increase 30% Positive decrease 10% 1%
Agricultural soils 17 19 23 24 25 24 25 25 Negative increase 47% Negative increase 32% 3%
Liming, urea application and other carbon-containing fertilizers 1.2 1.4 2.5 2.6 2.5 2.5 2.6 2.6 Negative increase 117% Negative increase 86% 0%
Waste 26 31 27 27 27 27 27 28 Negative increase 8% Positive decrease 10% 4%
Total non-energy sources 130 148 139 138 141 138 140 141 Negative increase 8% Positive decrease 5% 19%
Total GHG 602 739 723 723 707 716 728 730 Negative increase 21% Positive decrease 1% 100%
Greenhouse gas emissions in Canada by economic sector, 1990–2019[128]
in Mt CO2 equivalent Change 1990–2018 (%) Share in 2018 (%)
1990 2005 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Oil and gas 106 158 185 191 191 187 188 193 191 Negative increase 82% 26%
Electricity 95 119 81 77 81 75 73 64 61 Positive decrease 34% 9%
Transportation 121 161 174 172 172 174 179 186 186 Negative increase 54% 26%
Heavy Industry 97 87 79 80 79 77 76 78 77 Positive decrease 20% 11%
Buildings 74 86 86 89 86 82 85 92 91 Negative increase 24% 13%
Agriculture 57 72 73 71 71 72 71 73 73 Negative increase 28% 10%
Waste & others 53 46 43 41 41 41 42 42 51 Positive decrease 21% 6%
National GHG Total 603 730 721 721 720 706 714 729 730 Negative increase 21% 100.0%
Greenhouse gas emissions by Canadian province/territory, 1990–2019[128]
in Mt CO2 equivalent Change 1990–2019 (%) Change 2005-2019 (%) Share in 2019 (%)
1990 2005 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
 Newfoundland and Labrador 9.8 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 Negative increase 12% Negative increase 5.4% 1.5%
 Prince Edward Island 2 2 1.8 1.7 1.6 1.7 1.7 1.7 1.8 Positive decrease 15% Positive decrease 14% 0.25%
 Nova Scotia 20 23 18 17 17 16 16 17 16 Positive decrease 20% Positive decrease 30% 2.19%
 New Brunswick 16 20 15 14 14 14 14 13 12 Positive decrease 25% Positive decrease 38% 1.64%
 Quebec 87 88 80 78 79 78 80 83 84 Positive decrease 4% Positive decrease 4.4% 11.51%
 Ontario 179 206 167 165 163 160 155 165 163 Positive decrease 9% Positive decrease 21% 22.31%
 Manitoba 18 21 21 21 21 21 21 22 23 Negative increase 28% Negative increase 10% 3.15%
 Saskatchewan 44 68 72 75 77 75 77 76 75 Negative increase 70% Negative increase 10% 10.27%
 Alberta 173 235 272 277 276 265 272 273 276 Negative increase 60% Negative increase 17% 37.81%
 British Columbia 52 63 60 60 59 62 63 66 66 Negative increase 27% Negative increase 4.3% 9.04%
 Yukon 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.6 0.7 Negative increase 40% Negative increase 17% 0.10%
 Northwest Territories n/a 1.6 1.3 1.5 1.7 1.6 1.3 1.2 1.4 n/a Positive decrease 13% 0.19%
 Nunavut n/a 0.6 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7 n/a Negative increase 17% 0.10%
Canada 603 739 721 723 723 707 716 728 730 Negative increase 21% Positive decrease 1.1% 100%

See also[edit]

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Report[edit]

External links[edit]