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Canada Has Made ‘Real Progress’ in Meeting UN Emissions Targets, Says Environment Minister

Canada has made “real progress” in meeting emissions reduction targets outlined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), says Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, while the Conservatives say the Liberal government has yet to meet any of its federal climate goals.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) submitted its fifth biennial “climate action progress report” on Dec. 31 after it was delayed for an extra year by the UNFCCC. Canada’s last report to the UNFCCC was submitted in 2019.

“The report shows the real progress that Canada is making, thanks to our accelerated climate action in recent years, fighting climate change while also building a strong economy,” said Guilbeault in a statement on Jan. 3.

Statistics put forward by ECCC in the report say that carbon dioxide is the largest contributor to Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for about 80 percent.

The report says Canada emitted around 800 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015 and just under 600 million in 2017. The number stayed steady in 2019 before dropping to just under 500 million tonnes as of 2022.

Guilbeault said Environment Canada’s 2019 biennial report to the UNFCCC projected Canada would reduce its emissions by 227 million tonnes compared to the 2015 biennial report.

“I am happy to state that the 2022 report shows that Canada is on track to reduce another 97 million tonnes by 2030, in addition to the 227 million tonne reduction projected from the 2015 report,” he said in the statement.

The report adds that 82 percent of Canada’s electricity is produced from zero-emission sources, such as hydropower.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has criticized the Liberal government’s emissions reduction goals, saying they have yet to achieve any of them.

“The Prime Minister hasn’t gotten serious on climate change. He has a tax plan, not a climate plan, that has raised money for his government but it’s not reduced emissions or hit targets,” Poilievre said in the House of Commons on Oct. 5

“His carbon tax has not hit a single, solitary emissions reduction target—it has not worked,” he added.

Emissions Reduction Targets

Guilbeault said that the drop in emissions is due to new federal measures adopted since the 2019 biennial report, while also acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic presented “public health and economic challenges” in the meantime.

“Canada’s commitment to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030 remain not only within reach, but realistic,” he said, adding that Ottawa is “well positioned to reach our emissions reductions goals.”

The federal government’s current climate plan outlines a number of emissions reduction targets, one of which is to bring nationwide GHG emissions to “net zero” by the year 2050.

The ECCC’s recent biennial report projects Canada’s carbon dioxide equivalent emissions to drop to 491 million tonnes per year by 2030.

“Canada also became the first country to commit to reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas sector by at least 75 percent below 2012 levels by 2030,” Guilbeault said in his statement.

Guilbeault also announced in November 2022 a cap on GHGs from Canada’s oil and gas sector, which will be implemented this year.

The government says the cap will “hold the oil and gas sector accountable for its emissions” and will also require producers to adopt practices aligned with the federal 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan.

“[Canada is] the first major oil and gas producer to put in place a cap on oil and gas sector emissions—a significant measure that is not yet included in Canada’s 2030 UNFCCC emissions modelling,” Guilbeault said.

Peter Wilson

Peter Wilson is a reporter based in Ontario, Canada.

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