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Canada Will 'Wildly Miss' Its Greenhouse Gas Targets. This Report Confirms It

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just signed the Paris Agreement in New York, which would see Canada reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent. A new report says Canada probably won't reduce its carbon footprint at all.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA
Photo via AP/Mark Lennihan

If Canada wants to get even close to the targets it signed on to this week at the United Nations, it's going to have to do a lot more. And Canadians are going to feel the pinch.

That's according to a new report that says that Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are expected to stay flat over the next 15 years. The report was released just a day before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed a document at the UN, committing to a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.


Problem is, as the report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) points out, that's going to be virtually impossible.

"Canadians expect their government to take a leadership role in fighting climate change and transitioning Canada to a cleaner economy. The Liberals made ambitious promises but we have yet to see any real action."

"The 30 per cent target means removing more than the equivalent of all emissions from today's cars and trucks (including off-road vehicles)," writes the independent policy watchdog. "The actions undertaken so far by various levels of government, though substantial, will not be sufficient to achieve the target."

Models drawn up by the PBO show that, if Canada is serious about hitting the target, there will need to be sacrifice. The average Canadian income will need to fall by as much as $1,800 per year, and the country's GDP growth will need to remain slowed at under 2 percent as harsh measures come into place to shift the economy away from oil and coal towards renewable energy sources. And, even then, Canada would be less than halfway to hitting the 2030 target.

The PBO expects that if the economy continues to grow at its current rate and serious additional measures aren't taken, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions will remain largely unchanged by 2030.

A spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna said that they "welcome" the report and will be reviewing it.


"Currently, a number of working groups are considering options to reduce emissions and grow the economy over the longer-term," the spokesperson said.

Related: Canada Admits There's No Chance It'll Reach Its Climate Change Targets — Not Even Close

The Liberals have already faced hits from the opposition New Democratic Party over their climate change plans, with the left-wing party accusing the government of saying much and doing little.

"Canadians expect their government to take a leadership role in fighting climate change and transitioning Canada to a cleaner economy. The Liberals made ambitious promises but we have yet to see any real action," said Nathan Cullen, the NDP's environment and climate change critic, in a statement. "In the meantime, greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb and Canada will wildly miss the weak Conservative 2030 target — which this government adopted."

The 2030 target that Trudeau signed on to in New York last week was originally committed to by the previous government. Since being elected, Trudeau has pledged new money to invest in green infrastructure and to cut methane emissions, but has not forged ahead on a national carbon-pricing system.

The latest report is a sobering look at the real costs of tackling climate change.

But it's not all doom and gloom. The PBO report predicts that job losses or economic losses in somes sectors would be met with more growth and job creation in others. But the PBO says that, at the end of the day, Canada will simply need to have a smaller economy if it manages to cut that 30 percent.


Related: Canada Is Talking Tough on Climate But Don't Expect the Oil Sands to Shut Down

It, however, would not cripple the economy, as some have predicted.

The PBO estimates that it will cost, on average, $100 per tonne of gas removed from the atmosphere. "This should not be dismissed as trivial, but it would also not substantially alter the Canadian economy," the report writes.

The report offers few concrete policy options — it does suggest some ideas like improving cattle's diet to reduce methane emissions and expanding the use of carbon-capture programs — instead, it says it was looking to drive home a simple point: "Deeper reductions will be needed."

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