Canada Can Still Keep its Climate Promise for 2020 if it Acts Now

Mountain Forest

By Arman Kazemi

December 18, 2014

A new report from the David Suzuki Foundation confirms that Canada would now be on schedule to meet its international commitments to reduce greenhouse gases by 2020 – if, as recently as 2008, it had been serious about its targets.

According to the study, Building on the Best: Keeping Canada’s Climate Promise, “serious headway” is still possible if the federal government takes national leadership on climate change.

The study details key initiatives taken by various provinces that could provide successful models for a unified national climate policy.

It notes Ontario’s legislative push to eliminate the province’s coal-burning electricity (which it achieved last April), B.C.’s innovative carbon tax system – the first of its kind in North America – and Quebec’s cap-and-trade partnerships with California, all of which could be successfully adapted at the federal level to help Canada meet its climate goals.

The report also emphasizes the role of Canada’s thriving clean technology sector, “our best-kept secret,” in modernizing and diversifying Canada’s energy profile away from fossil fuels.

Overall, if the federal government had “adopted key, best-in-country policies” enacted at the provincial level, the report’s authors estimate that carbon emissions in Canada would have dropped by 77 million tonnes by 2020, bringing them to within 5.6 per cent of the country’s agreed targets.

Indeed, the Suzuki foundation’s study comes just as Environment Canada released its own annual emissions report, confirming that Canada is on track to meet just over half of the agreed target by 2020, which is a 17 per cent reduction of greenhouse-gases from 2005 levels.

Last October, the auditor general also came out with his own report claiming that the federal government’s climate policy “has been ineffective and the action it has taken has been slow and not well co-ordinated.”

On top of Canada’s increasingly marginal role as U.N. climate talks wrap up in Lima, the Suzuki Foundation’s latest report comes as a call to arms, encouraging the federal government to reassume leadership of Canada’s climate policy, following the recent example of two of its strongest trade partners, the U.S. and China.

“These are not radical new ideas,” says Ian Bruce, science and policy manager for the Suzuki Foundation. “They are proven solutions that work and they are being implemented right in our own backyard.”