Tracking the country’s progress with Canada’s Net Zero Emission Accountability Act

The act was created to ensure Canada is transparent and accountable in meeting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets

The federal government released a 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in Canada. (Flickr/Ansel Adams)

The federal government released a 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in Canada. (Flickr/Ansel Adams)

Canada has ambitious goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with a long way to go in reaching them. 

In March, the Canadian government released a 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. It aims to cut down emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by then. As part of the Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act, the plan will assist in reaching the emissions goal to zero by 2050.

The Net Zero Emission Accountability Act was created to ensure Canada is transparent and held accountable in doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through “climate accountability legislation,” as Caroline Brouillette, the national policy manager of Climate Action Network Canada calls it. 

But Brouillette has mixed thoughts on the plan. 

“Canada has failed to meet every single target it has ever set. That’s not because those targets were too ambitious, or wrong, [but] rather because of the lack of infrastructure that made sure the government was delivering on its [commitments],” she says. 

She adds there’s a lot that can and should be done to see a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions now. 

“We need to completely transform our economy, so that it’s good enough to have zero-emissions by 2050.”

“So, that means giving up fossil fuel production, we need to transition our electricity system to renewable energy, and we need to make sure that this transition is just — in that it leaves no one behind,” Brouillette says.  

The federal government lists several initiatives on their website with the shared goal of reducing emissions, such as in homes and buildings, and in the transportation sector. 

One such initiative is selling “green bonds” to local and international investors to help fund projects and allow them to “support federal investments in climate action and environmental protection, while fostering development of the Canadian sustainable finance market,” according to the 2030 emissions plan. 

These bonds will help fund projects in nine different areas, including renewable energy, climate adaptation, biodiversity, and clean transportation, according to a news release

The Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program (ZEV) is a $680 million initiative going until 2027 with the goal to address the lack of charging and refuelling stations in Canada. According to the government’s website, this addresses a barrier to ZEV adoption, and the funding will be delivered through cost-sharing contribution agreements. Targeted infrastructure in the program include public places like restaurants and libraries, on-street parking, workplaces, and residential and commercial buildings. 

The program supports the government’s target to require all car and passenger truck sales to be zero-emission by 2035. Interim goals are set in the meantime for 10 per cent of sales by 2025 and 30 per cent in 2030 to be zero-emission. 

The government invested more than $1 billion in this initiative, with $587 million meant to incentivize people making the switch to a zero-emission vehicle, including a purchase incentive of up to $5,000 is available to claim for those that do. Over $460 million is also provided to increase the network of EV charging stations and hydrogen stations

Two funds are in place to create greener homes and buildings to reduce emissions. 

The Low Carbon Economy Fund (LCEF) to support reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The government announced at Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan and Budget 2022 a commitment to expand the LCEF over seven years through a $2.2 billion recapitalization starting in the 2022-23 year. This includes support for climate action by Indigenous Peoples through a $180 million Indigenous Leadership Fund. 

The Climate Action Incentive Fund (CAIF) applies to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick “where provinces had not committed to their own carbon pollution pricing systems in 2019-20,” according to the government website. The fund will support projects taken by “small and medium-sized enterprises,” municipalities, universities and schools, hospitals, and not-for-profit organizations. 

Eighty per cent of Canada’s electricity comes from non-emitting sources, and the government plans to produce 90 per cent of our electricity from the same sources by 2030. 

Canada’s forests, wetlands, and croplands “have great potential to absorb and store carbon dioxide,” reads the government website. An estimated three per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions come from waste, in particular from landfills and incineration sites. The government expects those emissions to decline as landfill gas capture increases. 

Industrial facilities also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act ensures carbon pollution pricing applies in Canada by providing a framework for provinces or territories that don’t have their own system in place. 

In 2019, the government introduced the Output-Based Pricing System Regulations (OBPS) for industrial facilities that face competitiveness when trying to reduce emissions and emit 10,000 tonnes or more in certain sectors, which sets a performance standard for greenhouse gas emissions per unit of output. 

“Facilities that produce more emissions than the standard have to compensate for the excess,” reads the government website. 

A Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) is also being developed to assist in environment-friendly transportation. Extraction, processing, and combustion of fossil fuels is the largest source of pollution in Canada. The CFS will require fuel producers to provide new fuel options to consumers, and to create or buy credits to come in compliance with the reduction requirements. The goal is to reduce oil and gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2025. 

Oil and gas facilities contribute to short-lived climate pollutants, a group of greenhouse gases and air pollutants that have a “near-term warming impact on climate and can affect air quality,” according to the government website. These pollutants include black carbon, methane, ground-level ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons. 

The government’s Strategy on Short-Lived Climate Pollutants from 2017 explores solutions to address methane from oil and gas sources, particularly in Alberta and British Columbia at the federal level. It also includes a landfill gas recovery initiative to reduce methane from municipal solid waste landfills. 

“Canada’s endorsement of the World Bank Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 initiative is expected to contribute to reduced emissions of black carbon, CO2 and other pollutants produced by routine flaring from oil production operations,” according to the strategy. 

The Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act is not only to set milestones, but to ensure the government is on track to implement these plans, Brouillette says. 

“The pandemic has shown us what it looks like to treat an issue like an emergency,” Brouillette says. “I think the pandemic made us realize collectively that we’re vulnerable as a society to a convergence of crises.” 

She says that government communications in regards to the threat of climate change should resemble what was seen from governments about COVID-19. 

“We really need convincing government responses that make people better and safer from this convergence of crises.”