Though Canada’s provinces and territories hold much of the power over the country’s energy resources, new research shows that the majority lack the policy infrastructure and measures necessary to achieve significant greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reductions.

“Climate success requires all hands on deck,” said Linda Coady, executive director of the Pembina Institute. “Our findings show that across Canada, provinces and territories are unprepared to deliver the emissions reductions needed for a safe climate.”

To determine climate readiness, the Pembina Institute and Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Environmental Management assessed each province, territory, and the federal government on 24 indicators foundational for climate success. Governments were invited to review the accuracy and completeness of the data and summary for their region. The findings and priorities for action for each government, along with recommendations, have been published in All Hands on Deck: An assessment of provincial, territorial and federal readiness to deliver a safe climate.

The evaluation found that:

  • Not a single province, territory, or even Canada’s federal government is fully prepared to make the emissions cuts necessary to help achieve 2030 and 2050 climate targets.
  • Although the federal government has set 2030 and 2050 targets, 50 per cent of national emissions (from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) are not covered by a provincial or territorial 2030 target. Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of national emissions (from Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) are not covered by a provincial or territorial 2050 target.

The two sectors driving emissions growth—offsetting decreases elsewhere—are oil and gas, and transportation. Since 2005, emissions from Canada’s oilsands increased 137 per cent. Emissions from transportation increased 16 per cent, with freight emissions increasing at three times the rate of passenger emissions. However, the evaluation found that:

  • None of the oil- and gas-producing provinces are preparing for the decline of oil and gas with transition plans and sufficient measures to deal with fossil fuel liabilities.
  • No jurisdiction is utilizing all of the policy tools available to dramatically lower transportation emissions.
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“As an oil- and gas-producing country, Canada has an opportunity to be a global leader in decarbonization and to position its economy and workforce for success in emerging industries and technologies—but all levels of government have a role to play in reducing emissions,” said Coady. “It’s time for Canadian provinces and territories to do more. Across Canada, climate action must be pursued in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and impacted workers and communities. Addressing inequities should be at the heart of climate planning.”

Though climate success does not require a uniform approach for every province and territory, the evaluation did reveal six actions urgently needed across Canada. To plan for climate success:

  • Federal, provincial, and territorial governments need to set higher emissions reduction targets and shrinking carbon budgets.
  • To deliver on targets, provinces and territories need accountability legislation with climate modelling and independent verification.
  • Provinces and territories need to prioritize reconciliation and equity.

To address sectoral emissions:

  • Federal, provincial, and territorial governments need to set sectoral budgets and plan to respect them—focusing on the highest-emitting sectors first.
  • Oil- and gas-producing provinces and territories need to create inclusive, equitable transition plans for the oil and gas sector based on net-zero pathways.
  • Provinces and territories need to decarbonize passenger and freight transportation, and increase access to public transit and forms of active transportation.

“Ontario made great gains phasing out coal, which contributed to the province’s 21 per cent drop in emissions between 2005 and 2019, but Ontario’s downward trend has reversed in recent years,” said Carolyn Kim, Ontario regional director at the Pembina Institute. “Between 2017 and 2019, emissions in Ontario went up five million tonnes.”

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“On both emissions trend and policy, the province is moving in the wrong direction,” added Kim. “That matters—Ontario is the second highest emitter in Canada. Ontario needs to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, and develop a pathway to reach this goal. And since transportation, buildings and industry are the highest-emitting sectors, the province should focus on cutting emissions from those sectors first.”

The full report, which includes climate policy wins and priorities for action for each jurisdiction, is available here.


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