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

New CO2 emission projections show that Canada, unlike its allies, has little hope of hitting the targets it agreed to in 2009.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA
Photo Szwarc

In statistics released on Friday evening — a prime time to break bad news — the Canadian government admitted that it was way off its already modest CO2 emission targets.

The numbers show that years of environmental efforts in Canada essentially had no impact.

The projection, released by Environment and Climate Change Canada, shows that Canada is expected to pump out the equivalent of 768 megatons of CO2 by 2020, and 815 megatons by 2030. Those projections also do not include emissions from the forestry sector.


"The data are clear and confirm that more needs to be done."

That's nowhere near the targets Canada set for itself at the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009. There, Ottawa pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions by 17 percent over 2005 levels by 2020.

Instead, Canada will likely increase its CO2 emissions by roughly two percent. The numbers say that increase may be as high as five percent.

The projections for 2030 are even further off. Canada pledged to reduce its emissions by 30 percent. Instead, it's on track to to increase those emissions by nearly 17 percent.

Image via the Government of Canada.

In a clear indictment of Ottawa's ineffective environmental initiatives, the numbers released Friday are actually higher than projections from 2012 and 2013.

"We're getting results," former Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said of the 2013 projections at the time.

Canada's new minister of the environment and climate change Catherine McKenna conceded that the numbers were not good.

"The data are clear and confirm that more needs to be done," reads a statement from McKenna.

McKenna's office turned down an interview request on the numbers.

The new projection makes very clear that these trends do not include initiatives planned by the still-fresh government of Justin Trudeau, nor do they take into account new measures adopted by some of Canada's provinces.

"Our governments are now moving forward collaboratively to develop a framework and specific actions, including investments in green infrastructure, to meet the commitments we made in Paris in order to close the gap," McKenna said in the statement.


Trudeau's plan has primarily been to cajole the provinces to undertake more ambitious carbon pricing schemes. Those initiatives, which include cap and trade programs in Quebec and Ontario, and carbon taxes in oil-rich Alberta and natural gas exporter British Columbia, have only just begun to come online. Most of those policies were not included in Friday's projections.

On the federal level, Trudeau's government has sketched out details of new funding for clean technology and renewable energy that will appear in the government's March budget.

Related: Justin Trudeau Subjects Canada's Premiers to a Science Class Before Paris Climate Summit

But while Trudeau may be able to blame his predecessor for the lack of results on its CO2 reduction plans, the buck will ultimately stop at his desk if — or, perhaps more accurately, when — Canada does not meet its international targets. And blame may come much sooner than 2020.

The new projections were prepared in advance of Canada's report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), for the organization's biennial report.

Other reports already filed with the UNFCCC show that Canada stands to be a laggard when all the chips are counted.

Thanks to recent steps taken by the Obama administration, the United States is expected to reach its Copenhagen goal of a 17 percent reduction by 2020, or at least get quite close. The European Union's report is similarly optimistic that they will achieve their 14 percent reduction.

Trudeau has promised to meet with the premiers to hammer out a more concrete CO2 reduction plan by March.

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @Justin_Ling