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The Credibility of Meeting Canada’s 2030 Target for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In December/2016, the federal government published its “Pan-Canadian Framework”, which included various programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In 2021, the government committed to reducing GHG emission by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030 (Canada’s enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution to the United Nations). This is a bold pronouncement, which will require courageous action.


While the length of the list of key initiatives appears impressive, the reader will find it is far from courageous, mere tokenism. In addition, none of these initiatives are S.M.A.R.T. objectives – the government provides no indication of the contribution of each to its stated goal of 40-45% reduction. The list, presented in chronological order, includes:

  • 2018 carbon tax: The objective of the carbon tax is to change habits. Consider the example of gasoline. When adopted – quickly challenged by Conservative provincial governments but upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada – the price of gasoline in Toronto was $1.03 per litre. Imposing the carbon tax was to make the price rise to $1.23 by 2030. By 2022, the price due to carbon tax was to be $1.05. Instead, in 2022, the global supply/demand issues caused the price of a litre of gasoline to rise to $1.60. We are just beginning to hear that people are looking for other options. There is also a carbon tax on your natural gas bill. Most do not even know. While the government believes this tax will yield a third of the needed GHG reduction, there is yet no evidence regarding its effectiveness.

  • May/2018: government purchased Trans Mountain pipeline. It plans to increase oil production.

  • May/2019: A rebate of up to $5,000 for low emission vehicles. The rebate is too low an incentive and it is scheduled to end in March/2022.

  • Aug/2020: Eliminate all "inefficient fossil fuel subsidies" by 2025. What is an “"inefficient fossil fuel”. The awkward working makes it difficult to know what this commitment really means. The capital cost and funding of pipelines by the government is a subsidy. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, for example, is going to add annual 35 megatonnes of CO2 emissions (a 5% adder to total GHG emissions) just to extract the oil, let alone refine and burn it.

  • Dec/2020: Plant 2 billion trees by 2030. Although announced in December/2020 it has yet to start. It takes ten years for a tree to significantly absorb carbon. Canada’s boreal forest has become a net emitter of carbon rather than a sink due to monoculture planting, mega-fires, and insect infestation.

In April/2021, Environment Canada published its report of GHG emissions as of 2019 (there is always a 2-year lag). The report showed that since 2016 – after the 2015 election – GHG emissions have continued to rise. The above listed initiatives were having no effect.

  • May/2021, Greener Homes Grant: The grant provides 700,000 homes a rebate of up to $5,000 for GHG reducing retrofits. This initiative will reduce CO2 emissions by less than 0.2% by 2030.

  • June/2021, The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act: “enshrines in legislation Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The Act ensures transparency and accountability as the government works to deliver on its targets”. We will be able to gauge the effectiveness when the first plan since this Act was passed is tabled in March/2022. Unfortunately, the Act targets emissions and not production of fossil fuels. Despite an alleged reduced emissions target, Peak Oil in Canada – continued production increases – is scheduled for 2032. The government is relying on carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technology to negate the increased GHG emissions. CCS is also being promoted by oil companies. The technology is prohibitively expensive and in the hands on the oil companies, untrustworthy.

  • June/2021: government announced “all new cars and light-duty trucks sold will need to be zero-emissions by 2035”. The average age of our cars in Canada is approximately 10 years. With this announcement, a person could buy a new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle (gas, diesel propane or biofuel) in late 2034 and keep it until 2044. This announcement is going to do little toward meeting our 2030 target.

  • July/2021, A Clean Fuel Standard: “Under this regulation, the fossil fuels we use every day will become progressively cleaner over time”. The government is promoting biofuels and hydrogen both of which will increase GHG emissions. Biofuels are questionable, they still produce CO2 on land that could be used to feed people. Hydrogen is fine provided it is produced from sustainable generation. Using natural gas to produce hydrogen as the government is planning, is not a sustainable solution.

  • Aug/2021, Zero Emission Transit Fund: “the Government of Canada is investing $2.75 billion over five years, starting in 2021, to support public transit and school bus operators plan for electrification, support the purchase of 5,000 zero emission buses and build supporting infrastructure, including charging infrastructure and facility upgrades.” In Canada, road transportation contributes 21% of the total GHG emissions. The road transportation category includes cars, public transportation and trucks, which contribute approximately 10%, 4%, and 7%, respectively. The buses are likely to run on hydrogen. Provided the hydrogen is Green, this is a good initiative, however, it will only recover 4% of GHG emissions by 2030.

  • Nov/2021, Enhanced Nature Legacy: “to protect 25 percent of our lands and oceans by 2025, while working toward 30 percent by 2030”. This laudable initiative will prevent future increases to GHG emissions but does nothing to reduce our current emissions.

  • Dec/2021: Support for Global Methane Pledge to reduce “oil and gas methane emissions by at least 75 percent below 2012 levels by 2030”. Another good initiative but it only targets fugitive sources. The increasing methane emissions from the melting permafrost are not part of the government’s equation.

  • Dec/2021: the Canada Energy Regulator (CER), which is part of the federal public service,  announced, "oil output in Canada, the world's fourth-largest producer, will climb over the next decade and peak at 5.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2032, seven years sooner than previously forecast." This is counter to Canada’s GHG reduction commitment.

  • Dec/2021: the government announced it was moving forward with a ban on single-use plastics. The optics of the great garbage patch in the Pacific or marine life being trapped by or ingesting plastic is horrific. This overdue announcement does virtually nothing to reduce our emissions.

To recap:

Optimistically, the above initiatives may reduce GHG emissions by 10% by 2030. The reduction is negated by the Trans Mountain expansion, Coastal Link, Enbridge 3 expansion and various other planned pipelines, supported by the Peak Oil mandate. Unless the upcoming revised March/2022 plan includes


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