Canada Checkup

Canada—Moving Forward

The 2016 Government Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (PCFCGCC) is intended to help achieve Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments.  It calls for investments in green infrastructure, public transport, clean technology, and increased carbon sequestration. Carbon pricing is the core of the PCFCGCC. Provinces are required to institute a minimum carbon price of $10/tonne by 2018, rising to $50/tonne by 2022, or to have a federal carbon levy imposed on them.

Canada’s 2017 budget supports the beginning of the Framework implementation. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce supports Canada’s priority on climate change but recommends the use of additional economic/financial measures such as an updated carbon pricing policy and increased private sector involvement.

Canada’s Paris Agreement target is a 30% reduction below 2005 levels of emissions by 2030. The Climate Tracker (last updated Nov. 2016) states Canada as not reaching its Paris target but notes a national mandatory carbon-pricing plan could change this outlook. I see PCFCGCC quantifying its impact in meeting Canada’s INDC goals.

Climate Action Network Canada’s analysis supports the Framework but seeks more detail on how the Framework will be implemented. The Citizens Climate Agreement Campaign (Nov. 2015) asked that Canada adopt 1990 as a baseline vs 2005, strengthen its target, avoid international emission market schemes and implement a domestic carbon tax. The 30% reduction (523 megatonnes of CO2 eq) or 14.5% below 1990 levels was set by our previous government who withdrew from Kyoto, rolled back regulations and undermined climate action for a decade. Our new government has had to keep the Paris targets set in 2015 by the previous government. As of last month, Canada has not committed to international carbon trading.

I believe Canada is moving forward consistently, especially considering the past decade’s lost opportunity. The Framework (released only in Dec. 2016) sets out actions that will contribute to meeting or exceeding Canada’s 2030 target. Comparisons of carbon pricing systems across Canada will start in 2020. Emissions projections will be updated yearly as Framework measures are designed and implemented. Many factors cannot be foreseen with certainty such as economic and population growth, energy markets and projections, technologies, consumer behavior, and policies aimed at emissions reductions.

Learn More

Climate Action Network Canada’s Analysis and Summary of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change, Dec 12, 2016 and response to Canada’s 2017 budget, Mar 22, 2017
Click link within blog to review the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s assessment of Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change, Dec. 15, 2016
Canada’s Second Biennial Report on Climate Change translates 2005 targets to 1990 levels (a document that reflects comprehensive 2015 data)
UNCCC Session SBI46 (2016) – Canada’s position on international climate markets, multi-lateral assessments – questions and answers/Canada – responses April 28, 2017
Assessment of Canada’s ability to meet emissions targets, Feb, 27, 2017
Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators, Progress Towards Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Target  

Canada Emission Reduction Policy

Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

In March 2016, our provincial Ministers (premiers) and the Prime Minister issued the Vancouver Declaration on clean growth and climate change. They also agreed to develop a pan-Canadian Framework to achieve our commitment to the Paris Agreement (a 30% reduction below 2005 levels of emissions). Four working groups including federal, provincial and territories officials next developed reports to assess how and where to reduce emissions (specific mitigation opportunities), ideas for a low-carbon economy (clean technology, innovation and job creation), carbon pricing (pricing mechanisms) and how Canadians will need to prepare and respond to climate impacts (adaptation and climate resilience).

These reports were discussed by the Ministers of the Environment and the Ministers of Innovation and Economic Development in October and November 2016 to prepare provincial responses. On December 9, 2016, Canada’s First Ministers and the Prime Minster met again and adopted the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (Saskatchewan and Manitoba did not endorse it as drafted). Officials implementing the Framework will report back yearly.

This policy is significant because it prioritizes a price on carbon, making electricity cleaner and increasing energy-efficiency of buildings and vehicles while establishing measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change. It is a collective approach, and requires strong investment, particularly for Adaptation, demonstrating the long-term consequence of climate change that have already begun.

Learn More

A summary of the 4 working group findings to develop a pan-Canadian Framework to achieve Canada’s targets from the Paris Agreement  Pan Cdn document

The announcement of the adoption of the pan-Canadian Framework in December 2016

Canada’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change strategy

David Suzuki’s opinion on carbon pricing

Canada Extreme Weather Event

Wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta

Between 1995 and 2005, 250 communities and 700,000 Canadians were evacuated due to wildfires. Increasingly catastrophic events include Kelowna, BC (2003), Slave Lake, Alberta (2011), and now Fort McMurray, Alberta (2016). Canada’s Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) says three trends contribute to the likelihood of more fire disasters in Canada—more exposure as populations move into wild lands, climate change impacts, and deteriorating forest health conditions causing forest fuel accumulations.

Fort McMurray, May 2016, is the most costly disaster yet in Canadian history. It forced 90,000 citizens to evacuate and destroyed more than 2,400 buildings. Another 2,000 residents in nearby communities were displaced, their homes declared unsafe due to contamination. The fire spread to northern Alberta and into Saskatchewan, destroying forests and impacting Athabasca oil sands operations nearby. Shell, Suncor Energy and Syncrude operations were scaled back. No official fire cause has yet been determined.

ICLR examined neighborhoods at the forested fringes of the city, and acreages nearby discounting direct contact from flames or radiant fire heat as the problem. It concluded wind-driven embers as the probable cause of much of the destruction. Once established, the fire spread from structure to structure, a pattern called ‘wildland/urban interface disaster sequence.’

A set of conditions in urban areas allows for ignition of structures from flames or embers. Typically, when fire behavior peaks due to low humidity, high wind, and very dry fuel, it spreads rapidly with extreme intensity. The winter preceding Fort McMurray’s fires was drier than usual, thus the snowpack melted quickly. This combined with high temperatures, created a ‘perfect storm’. The wildfires will alter how governments, communities and industry prepare for, respond to, and recover from future wildfires to reduce losses. Losses can be reduced by widespread adoption of risk mitigations within the home ignition zone and steps to further secure a community.

Learn More

Canada’s FireSmart program helps communities reduce risk of wildfire damage  

Canadian wildfire shifts north, prolonging oil sands shutdown. Reuters Canada. May 17, 2016.

Risk reduction status of homes reconstructed following wildfire disasters in Canada.
Alan Westhaver, M.Sc., September 2015.

The State of Canada’s Forests 2016 report, this year’s theme is climate change.

Why some homes survived: Learning from the Fort McMurray wildfire disaster. Alan Westhaver, M.Sc., August 2016,

Canada Media Organizations

Broadcast Media

CBC News is a national public broadcaster, a leader in producing and distributing Canadian content, meeting regulatory obligation reports to Parliament and CRTC.

CBC wrote about the Paris Agreement and key deliverables such as a carbon-neutral target after 2050 but before 2100 (Dec. 12, 2015) and how satellite data from NASA illustrates increasing carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere (Dec. 16, 2016).

Content Samples:

CBC reports on limiting temperature rise to 2 C, helping poorer nations—Paris Accord.
CBC looks at satellite data, in documenting the changing face of our warming planet.  

Contact: CBC, P.O. Box 500 Station A, Toronto, On M5W 1E6, 1-866-306-4636 Quirks & Quarks,
Blog: Bob McDonald, email

Print Media

The Hill Times is an independently owned political newsweekly based in Ottawa. Policy briefings and coverage of public policy issues help readers to understand political shifts and federal politics. The Hill Times wrote about the Paris Agreement importance given we are rapidly speeding towards 450 ppm (Dec. 20, 2016) and that climate change is the issue of the century and federal environment commissioner recommendations (Oct. 10, 2016).

Content Samples:

Hill Times looks at Paris Accord a year later, and a new framework on climate change.
Hill Times discusses role of federal departments for sustainable development goals.

Contact: The Hill Times, 246 Queen Street, Suite 200, Ottawa, On, K1P 5E4; Tel: 613-688-8838
Ross Dickson, one of three publishers can be reached at
Editor Kate Malloy can be reached at

Online Media

The National Observer is an online publication with news and in-depth reports on under-covered Canadian stories involving climate, energy, business, culture and politics. Also covers sustainability, resilience and renewable energy transition. The National Observer wrote about the Paris Agreement with respect to Canada working harder given the real threat of climate change (Feb. 7, 2017), and an “historic” pan−Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change (Dec. 10, 2016).

Content Samples:

Observer discusses options to share research, increase reducing our carbon footprint.
Observer looks at strategy to reach the 2030 goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Contact: Elizabeth McSheffrey, national investigative reporter; Tel: 604-336-1936
Email:; Website:

Canada Subnational Best Practices


The Province of British Columbia (BC)—BC has long been a leader on climate change. In 2007, a Climate Action Charter with the province and the Union of BC Municipalities, committed to carbon neutrality by 2012 including municipal GGE reporting. As of 2013, 182 of 190 municipalities (96%) had signed on. In 2008, a Climate Action Revenue Incentive program (revenue neutral), equivalent to 100% of what local governments paid as carbon tax came into effect. This was separate to other grant sources.

A world-leading Climate Action Plan began in 2008, foundational for large-scale change in reaching a target to reduce GGE 6% below 2007 levels by 2012. This included more than $1 billion in programs and tax incentives to encourage cleaner choices. Additional GGE targets are a 33% reduction by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Results have included transit development, green infrastructure, i.e., community energy systems, building retrofits, fuel efficient fleet vehicles and hydro projects.  Along with California, BC was first to implement a low carbon fuel standard.

Since 2012, BC continues to invest in innovation and infrastructure to reach its 2050 target. $1.9 billion is being directed to: $50 million in clean energy/technology; $831 million for clean transportation; $300 million for transportation infrastructure; $24 million to energy efficiency of homes and businesses; and $704 million for clean electricity infrastructure. Recent policies include carbon neutrality for health authorities and post-secondary institutions. These actions are expected to reduce annual GGE by up to 25 million tonnes below current forecasts by 2050 and 66,000 jobs over ten years. A Climate Leadership Plan (launched 2016) adds sector-specific and international initiatives such as The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition; and Under 2 MOU.

The Hon. Mary Polak, MLA, Minister of Environment (Climate Leadership Plan, 2016)
Mail: Room 112, Parliament Buildings, Victoria BC V8V 1X4
Telephone: (250) 387-1187


Vancouver—Vancouver is committed to its Greenest City Action Plan (GCAP) (2011), a strategy to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. In 2015, at the halfway mark and with 80% of actions completed, staff identified more than 50 new actions in collaboration with over 300 internal and external advisors adding to the original suite of 125 priority actions. The result was a new road map to being the greenest city globally. Reduction pathways have included energy efficient buildings, district energy, local food, transportation and vehicle changes, reduced landfill waste and clean electricity. As of 2016, examples of target results include:  climate and renewables – reducing community-based GGE by 33% from 2007 levels, so far a decrease of 15% since 2007. Green buildings—all buildings constructed from 2020 on to be carbon neutral in operations, and a reduction of GGE in existing buildings by 20% from 2007 levels, results being a 20% decrease since 2007. Green transportation—reducing average distance driven per resident by 20% from 2007 levels, results were a 27% decrease. In November 2015, a renewable strategy was endorsed for 100% of Vancouver’s energy to come from renewable sources before 2050. Also, a priority action of the Green Plan is an adaptation strategy (2012) integrating climate change into planning, design and emergency management to prepare for climate change impacts.

Lloyd Lee, Monitoring and Reporting Planner
Mail: Vancouver City Hall, Sustainability Office, 453 West 12th Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4
Telephone: (604) 873-7000

Toronto—Toronto’s Climate Change Action Plan (2007) set bold targets based on 1990 levels of 22 million tonnes of GGE per year, of 6% by 2012, 30% by 2020, and 80% by 2050. Budget allocations include: $42 million to conservation measures, $20 million for renewable projects and $22 million to retrofit City facilities. This was followed by a Climate Adaptation Strategy (2008) and a Sustainable Energy Strategy (2009). Toronto surpassed its 2012 target with a 15% reduction in 2011.

Since 1996, the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) partnered with Toronto on over 2,500 projects to eliminate the equivalent of 683,000 tonnes of GGE. Retrofits to City buildings have reduced energy intensity by 25% since 2006. To achieve a target of 80% by 2050, a focus will be will on the use of electrified transit networks and in connecting buildings to low-carbon thermal networks. As of 2012, the City had cut emissions by 49% against 1990 levels through building retrofits, collecting methane from landfills, installing solar PV systems on City properties, connecting City buildings to Deep Lake Water Cooling systems and planting thousands of trees. Also in 2013, a Carbon Credit Policy began.
Results in 2015 alone included 77 BBP projects saving 69,400 tonnes of GGE/year, 47 eco-roofs, a Home Energy Loan Program for low-interest loans, 22 sites reducing peak consumption by 6.79 MW for the province’s Demand Response program, LED retrofits in 27 arenas, a savings of  $160,000, and 89% waste diversion from the City’s 11 largest buildings. Toronto is a member of C40, 100 Resilient Cities and the Compact of Mayors.

Mark Bekkering, Implementation and Support, Environment & Energy Division
Mail: Toronto City Metro Hall, 55 John Street, Toronto, M5V 3C6
Telephone: (416) 392-8556

Learn More

BC has been a leader in Canada on climate action and carbon taxes that are revenue neutral. Read more at

Vancouver will be the greenest city in the world by 2020. See how at and

Toronto, Canada’s largest city, follows Vancouver in innovation to reach GGE reduction. See

Canada Leaders and Opponents

Government Official
The Hon. Catherine McKenna
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON

McKenna’s environment portfolio is responsible to lead federal Government efforts in combating climate change and protecting the environment.  She oversaw the Canadian delegation at the COP21 Paris Agreement and supported a 2C threshold as a minimum for countries to endorse, asking for 1.5 C in the final accord and a 5-year review process.


Climate Program Advocate                  
Catherine Abreu
Executive Director, Climate Change Network Canada – Réseau action climat Canada (CAN-Rac Canada)

Catherine has recently joined CAN-Rac to help lead a coalition of more than 100 organizations to advance climate solutions. Responsibilities include collaborative action, communication, policy development, and coordination with the membership. She is the main spokesperson. She is advocating effectively for stronger Canadian targets for the Paris Agreement, attending COP22 to respond to climate impacts and policies (nationally and internationally) and explore opportunities to collectively work on this issue.

Climate Program Opponent
Hon Brad Wall
Premier of Saskatchewan

Wall, as the Premier of Alberta, sees little evidence carbon taxes work. He is the major opposition voice on a federal carbon tax. He does agree though that Saskatchewan will contribute to national emissions reduction targets. His province’s effort involves a billion dollar carbon capture and storage program to date. His recommendations in a recent White Paper include asking for innovation and adaptation, and dropping the $2.65 billion in climate financing for developing countries, instead using it for climate research.

Provinces hold policy levers on climate action thus agreement may prove challenging for the federal government if some disagree.


Learn More
Read how Trudeau has restarted the federal-provincial dialogue on climate change. Visit
See McKenna’s challenge to move to a low-carbon economy a month after an election. Visit
See Wall’s argument vs feds saying carbon pricing cannot vary much among provinces. Visit
See Saskatchewan’s white paper on climate change – a different discussion

Canada Leading Research Study

Research Study: “Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Developments, Prospects, and Reductions,” Government of Canada, Parliamentary Budget Officer, April, 2016

A recent April 2016 report on emissions, prepared by the Government of Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) entitled Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions:  Developments, Prospects and Reductions, is an important climate change research study with implications for Canada’s strategy for the Paris Agreement. It offers an independent analysis to Parliament of emission trends in our economy; and, speaks to cost risks on matters over which Parliament has authority. This research was requested by Parliament to assist them in formulating a proposed course of action on climate change.

Study description, findings and implications for Paris Agreement policies and programs in Canada

Prior to the Paris Accord, countries submitted their post-2020 plans to reduce GGE to a) inform their country’s parliamentary debate as well as, b) achieve their country’s long term objective in the global negotiations. Canada’s target was set at a 30% reduction of emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. The study states that Canada could significantly lower emissions by  (a) reducing emissions from coal use and (b) improving fuel-efficiency of vehicles. The study recommends more detailed analysis and forecasts of the contributions of managed forests, in removing GHGs. The study also suggests that oil and gas price projections will result in a stopping of oil sands growth.

The study states that a 30% emissions reduction target means removing more than the equivalent of all emissions from today’s cars and trucks. Actions so far by various levels of government, though substantial, do not achieve this target. The study suggests that what is required is a price for abating CO2 emissions of about $100 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This impact would expect to increase the price of a litre of regular gasoline by about 24 cents for vehicles.

The PBO study indicates that Canada contributed less than 2% of global CO2 emissions in 2010, making it a small player on a world scale, i.e., in its electricity-generating sector, relying on hydro and in Ontario on nuclear power. However, this conceals that Canada is a producer and user of fossil fuels. Each sector has increased its capacity to produce goods with fewer emissions. Thus Canada’s level of emissions are expected to increase only slightly by 2030 while its intensity of emissions will continue to decline.

The study also notes there are significant risks in a large-scale move to lower emissions including `a patch-work’ of abatement programs across different sectors and regions that may lead to unnecessarily higher costs. For instance, coal regulation and auto efficiency standards have implicit carbon prices associated with them, introducing new measures such as compounded costs. As well, standard abatement measures could have an uneven impact across regions, thereby undermining pricing consensus. Another concern is ‘carbon leakage.’  If energy costs increase in Canada through carbon pricing, will production move to other countries with less stringent regulations?

Not surprisingly the PBO study sees the bulk of reductions coming from the highest emitters—oil and gas production and distribution, transportation, and electricity generation. A key area with considerable potential is carbon capture and storage although there are varying projections of the costs involved.

Why the study is important to Canada

Canada has formally ratified the Paris agreement. The PBO study assumes that there is a need to reduce emissions and discusses the measures to get there. Change will impact the economy as non-GHG sources of energy are currently more costly than cheap coal, natural gas or oil products. The PBO study indicates that with carbon pricing to meet 2030 targets, cost to income per capita could be between 1 and 3%, relative to where wages would be in the absence of carbon pricing. The cost to Canada’s economy of allowing a temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius or more could be substantial as well.

This study offers a roadmap and has been acknowledged by Parliament. In discussion with PBO staff who wrote the research study, it was noted there is not a Parliament approval process for it, nor is it legislation. It is a respected independent opinion and parallels similar findings from Environment Canada. The Environment and Climate Change Ministry has supported carbon pricing and expects to develop consistent policies that compliment carbon pricing. This is consistent with the research study. A national carbon pricing plan for 2018 for provinces and territories to adopt a price per tonne of $10 to start, rising to $50 per tonne by 2022 was announced October 3 by our government. This is much lower than what the report recommends but it is a starting point vs having the policy fall apart.

Learn More

Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions:  Developments, Prospects and Reductions, is an important climate change research study toward Canada’s strategy for the Paris Accord.

For details, visit

Canada Emissions Reduction Policy

Canada:  Bill C-30: The Clean Air and Climate Change Act

Canada’s Clean Air and Climate Change Act has been used to support initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) and improve air quality; bring innovation to clean energy and transportation (two of Canada’s largest emission sources), improve indoor air quality, and build adaptation and international engagement strategies. Research funds for climate change regulatory actions, emissions reporting, policy development, and enforcement come from the Clean Air agenda. In 2012, stringent regulations were published to address coal-fired electricity generation GGE including the phase out of coal use.

The genesis of the Clean Air and Climate Change Act goes back to 2006 when Bill C-30 was brought forward to provide greater coherence in emissions reporting, by the Conservatives in power. Under the first-reading, no mention was made of reporting on the Kyoto Protocol.  The Notice of Intent read firm limits would not be set on greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) until 2020 or 2025 and regulations on large final emitters would not take effect until 2010. The bill was rejected by all opposition parties, thus it was not approved by House of Commons.  By agreement, it was then referred to the Legislative Committee before a second-reading stage. This allowed greater latitude in amending the bill than would otherwise been the case. As amended, it was reoriented to emphasize action to fulfill Canada’s international obligations to reduce GGEs. Bill C-30 also incorporated 3 earlier federal Acts: Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999), Energy Efficiency Act, and Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act.

Recent Policy Related Efforts

On October 5, more than 200 federal MPs voted for a Paris Accord ratification motion in the House of Commons, 81, mostly Conservative, opposed it as there was no data” that $50 a tonne by 2022 will reduce demand for high-emissions products and they say the scheme will stifle economic growth. On October 3, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced a national carbon pricing plan starting in 2018 will require provinces and territories to adopt a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system with a minimum price per tonne of $10, rising to $50 per tonne by 2022, otherwise the federal government will come up with one for them. The NDP criticized that indigenous plans were not listed and that Liberals were adopting the previous government’s targets but they supported the vote. The March Vancouver Declaration, in which Canada’s premiers agreed to look at market mechanisms for carbon pricing within their own jurisdictions was acknowledged. Two amendments from opposing parties were defeated as “dif-ferences” in how carbon pricing happens, but it is felt the majority agreed carbon pricing needed to happen. This will be the next big target to monitor. Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission stated in 2015, most provinces and the country as a whole were not on target yet to achieve the Paris commitment without provincial carbon pricing

Learn More

See Ecofiscal and Pembina reports on policies needed for meaningful reductions through strategies such as carbon pricing, regulated standards, subsidies, infrastructure spending, research and development, and voluntary initiatives,
See Canada’s commitments to the UN on climate change,
For more details on Canada’s Clean Air Agenda, and regulatory process,   clean Air act
Canada’s original signing of Paris agreement this spring when a plan was yet to be developed to meet Canada’s international target of 30% reduction in GGEs by 2030, and what the targets mean, besides a reduction of 208 million tons of GGE
See Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer’s interpretation of carbon tax impacts on the future of Canadian families, ‘Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Developments, Prospects and Reductions’, April 2016
Visit Canada’s September18 announcement pledging to enact a nationwide carbon price
See The Conference Board’s remarks on Canada’s impact in reducing emissions since the 1990’s

Canada Energy Production Trends

How Energy Production is Structured

The federal government shares responsibility with the provinces for energy, environmental protection, and trade. The main federal energy regulatory agencies are the National Energy Board (NEB) and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The NEB regulates hydrocarbons, pipelines and international power lines as well as exports of oil, gas, natural gas liquids and electricity, and imports of natural gas. The NEB also oversees approximately 100 pipeline companies in Canada. Intra-provincial pipelines (within a province) are regulated by each province and include smaller natural gas distribution lines which go directly to residences with natural gas furnaces or water heaters. Utility boards regulate transmission rates. Most provinces have a stake as operators in electrical markets. Utilities are Crown corporations operating as regulated monopolies. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act avoids duplication in regulatory activity. Ontario and Alberta deregulated their electric industry/markets over the last decade. A number of municipalities operate local distribution systems, such as EPCOR in Edmonton. Electricity reliability is coordinated at a North American level between provinces and the USA. Federal R&D energy technology priorities include: cleaner fossil fuels, clean electricity, and end use (industry, communities, etc.). Conventional gas production totals are set by the provinces and cannot exceed reserves.


Canadian electric utilities account for 92% of Canada’s total production; the remaining 8% of production is by industry for their own use, primarily mining, metal-processing, and pulp and paper. Except in Alberta and PEI, provinces play the dominant role in generating capacity. Investor-owned utilities dominate Alberta and PEI, and they play a smaller but significant role in BC, Ontario, and Newfoundland. Municipal ownership is a minor element in BC, Quebec, and PEI but is significant in Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario. Investor-owned utilities produce about 9.5%, municipalities 1.4%, and the two territories 0.2%. There are also about 364 smaller utilities; 87% are in Ontario, and most are owned by municipalities. Many don’t own generating capacity, instead purchasing power from the major utility. Several small investor-owned utilities, though, have generating capacity.


In 2014, electric utilities and industry in Canada generated 639 terawatt hours. Canada is the second largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world. BC, Manitoba, and Quebec rely predominantly on hydropower, whereas Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta use mainly coal. BC, Manitoba, and Quebec generally have better hydropower resources than wind. Wind is also along the Great Lakes and coasts of Quebec and the Maritimes. Wind is becoming predominant as a renewable resource. Solar has increased, but remains relatively small as a market. No predefined set of conventional or emerging energy sources are used in a given region; it is based more on availability.

The most important electricity source in Canada is moving water. Some provinces have moved towards a more competitive generation system with the private sector playing an increasing role, giving rise to independent power producers. Fossil fuels are the second most important source, particularly in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where several power stations are built adjacent to large coal deposits. Fossil fuel generation is also important in the Atlantic Provinces, NWT, and Nunavut. Ontario used to rely heavily on coal-fired generation; however, in April 2014, the last coal-fired generating capacity was shut down. Nuclear power is the third most important source. There are eighteen operating installations in Ontario and one in New Brunswick. Quebec shut down their plant. The industry is represented by the Canadian Electricity Association, independent power producers’ societies, and various source-specific associations.

Sources of Energy

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) reports that Canada, in 2014, was the world’s fifth-largest oil producer and fourth-largest natural gas producer, with the third-largest oil reserves, surpassed only by Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Canada produced nearly 3.8 million barrels/day (mb/d) of crude oil in 2014, of which 2.2 mb/d came from the oil sands and 1.6 mb/d from conventional, offshore, or tight oil production. Oil sand extraction creates large amounts of residual waste—tailings, a mix of water, clay, unrecovered bitumen, solvent, and dissolved chemicals, including some toxic organic compounds. Unconventional oil and gas production, such as the processing and upgrading of bitumen as petroleum products suitable for market, requires more energy and the CO2 concentration is higher. In 2013, 25% of Canada’s GGE came from the oil and gas sectors.

Canada has 171 billion barrels of oil reserves (sufficient to maintain the 2014 production rate for 130 years), of which 166.3 billion barrels are in the form of oil sands. In 2014, Canada exported 2.85 mb/d of its crude oil (97% to USA and 3% to Europe and Asia). Alberta (77.4%), Saskatchewan (13.7%), and Newfoundland (5.7%) account for over 96% of Canadian oil production. Given Canada’s vast geography, producers in the west export to the USA, whereas the east imports from the USA and overseas. By importing, Canada outsources emissions penalties from producing oil domestically. The David Suzuki Foundation declares that emissions from oil sands production nearly tripled from 1990 to 2006 and that natural gas emissions were over 110 gCO2e/MJ in production. The largest growth was fugitive emissions from unconventional gas due to its higher levels of CO2. In Canada, unconventional gas (shale and tight oil) development has strict regulatory frameworks. Growth requires estimating future demand, pricing, and the regulatory environment. Overall, Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GGE) increases result directly from production increases.

Canada’s portfolio of energy resources involves both domestic consumption and exports. NRCan views Canada as an energy-intensive country, given its northern climate, vast territory, industrial base, and high standard of living. The provinces access different natural resources and rely on different sources of electricity generation. Quantity of consumption is based on economy, weather, geography, and geology. Canada produced 435.1 million tons of oil-equivalent (Mtoe) of energy in 2013. Fossil fuel energy production was 44.8% oil, 30% natural gas, and 8.1% coal. Renewables included hydro-electricity at 7.7%, biofuels and waste at 3%, and emerging forms (wind, tidal, solar) at 0.2%. Nuclear energy accounted for 6.2% (the primary source is uranium, of which Canada is the world’s second-largest producer). Canada is well-positioned for global growth in nuclear demand.

Leading Energy Companies

NRCan affirmed this spring that Canadian energy companies continue to expand their assets. Of some 435 companies, 59 (14%) had assets in excess of $1 billion, 214 (49%) had interests outside of Canada in 75 countries, and 166 (38%) had assets in at least two countries. Total Canadian assets were $543 billion, of which $150 billion was outside Canada. In the USA, five large companies impacted that value by $28.3 billion—Encana Corp., Enbridge Inc., Fortis Inc., Baytex Energy Corp., and TransCanada Corporation. Big oil refineries include Imperial Oil, Irving Oil, Syncrude, and Suncor. The top five utilities buying and producing clean power in 2013 were Hydro Quebec, BC Hydro, Ontario Power Generation, Manitoba Hydro, and Ontario Power Authority.

Two companies representative of Canada’s energy production sector are Fortis Inc., which is just moving into renewables (on the east coast of Canada), and BC Hydro, which generates 98% of its electricity from renewables (on the west coast of Canada).


Fortis is an international regulated electric (70%) and gas (26%) utility holding company. It also invests in non-regulated energy infrastructure (4%) in Canada (335 MW) and Belize (51 MW). Fortis has nine independent utility operations in Canada (five utilities—Fortis BC, Maritime Electric, Fortis Ontario, Fortis Alberta, and Newfoundland Power), the USA (two—UNS Energy and Central Hudson) and the Caribbean (two—Caribbean utilities and Fortis TCI). Energy sources include coal, oil, diesel, natural gas, and biofuel, with a strong emphasis on renewables in 2014.

Utility companies regulated by Fortis serve more than three million residential, commercial, and industrial customers across Canada, the USA, and the Caribbean.

Each operating subsidiary retains autonomy given its operations, jurisdiction, size, and regulatory environment. Canadian and Caribbean sites have IS0 14001 systems, and the USA utilities both have environmental protocols. During 2014, 10.3 million tons of CO2 were generated in production using fossil fuels and natural gas losses; 4.8 million tons were generated from energy purchases of $15.1 million. Future plans include energy efficiency (EE) programs, clean energy, and reduction of their reliance on coal.

Their 2015 environmental report highlights subsidiary initiatives and efforts to address emissions. During 2014, fossil fuels accounted for 86% of production and hydroelectricity accounted for 14%. Fortis’ generating assets accounted for approximately 68% of the GGE; energy purchases accounted for the remaining 32%. A significant milestone in 2015 was a 335 MW Waneta hydroelectric generation expansion in BC to power 60,000 homes a year toward BC’s Clean Energy Act. Central Hudson’s relationship with the local solar industry made it one of the top regions in the USA in 2014. Fortis has a number of customer incentives underway, has new solar and hydroelectric power projects, and is preparing utility partners to connect to the grid.

Maritime Electric purchases all the energy supplied by PEI provincially owned wind farms, with wind energy exceeding 24% of their energy sold in 2014. Fortis has reduced fugitive emissions at compressor stations by 10% on the BC mainland and Vancouver Island, and has improved pneumatic device efficiencies, reducing 86T of vented GGE. Central Hudson is developing an aggressive gas infrastructure program to replace leak-prone pipes. Other Fortis programs include the use of biomethane, methane gas, and biodiesel fuel for fleets; water reuse; tree planting; sulphur hexafluoride management; and a broad array of EE initiatives.


BC Hydro is a Crown corporation, owned by BC’s government and residents. The sole shareholder is the province. BC Hydro serves 95% of BC’s population, delivering electricity to approximately 1.9 million residential, commercial, and industrial clients and 4 million people overall. BC Hydro became carbon neutral in its corporate operations in 2010, along with the BC public sector.

BC Hydro operates 31 hydroelectric facilities and 3 thermal generating plants, with the bulk of generation coming from dams on the Peace and Columbia Rivers. In 2015, it generated 98% of its electricity from renewable sources. Electricity is delivered to customers through over 78,000 km of transmission/distribution lines and connects to other systems in BC, Alberta, and Washington State. Independent Power Producers (IPPs)—hydroelectric, wind, gasification and biomass generating projects—account for 25% of BC Hydro’s domestic supply. IPPs include power production companies, First Nations, municipalities, and customers that provide 19,290 GW/hr electricity/yr when BC Hydro faces a gap.

Conservation/efficiency, smart meters, maintaining and expanding generation and transmission assets, and adding supply through long-term IPP electricity purchase agreements all help to meet demand. BC Hydro has biogas, municipal solid waste, Resource Smart, and natural gas in its inventory. Options not yet in commercial use by BC Hydro are geothermal, pumped storage, wave, solar, and coal with carbon capture and sequestration.

BC Hydro is investing in the energy needs of 1.1 million more people in 20 years (4.6 to 5.7 million) and in the economic activity they will generate. Much of the assets that exist were built between 1940 and 1980. Upgrading assets includes high-voltage transmission lines, dams and power generating stations. A new project, the Site C Clean Energy Project, to finish in 2024, will provide 1,100 megawatts (MW) capacity, and 5,100 gigawatt hours (GW/hr) of electricity per year to power 450,000 homes. A second project, started in 2005, is the upgrade of flood discharge gate systems (spillway gates) and control systems at 22 facilities. BC Hydro owns and maintains 41 dam facilities in its system. Spillway gates control the water discharged from reservoirs during floods when high inflows exceed the ability of the generating units to use all the water.

Five measures categorize GGE reduction options: conservation and efficiency, fuel substitution, electrification, low carbon electricity, and offsets. BC Hydro has a range of conservation programs geared to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act. A savings equal to the needs of 425,000 homes has already been achieved.

BC Hydro reports to the province through the Minister of Energy and Mines and the following legislation, policy, and instructions: The Hydro and Power Authority Act, The Utilities Commission Act (pricing), The BC Hydro Public Power Legacy and Heritage Contract Act, and the Province’s Energy Plan. The Ministry requires a rigorous Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) submitted every five years (2013) to describe how customer needs are helping to achieve provincial GGE targets.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Diane Szoller

Canada Emission Reduction Challenges

Leading Emission Reduction Challenges: (a) Rising consumer and industrial demand for energy-intensive products and services; (b) Dependence on fossil fuels as energy sources, especially oil; (c) High energy use of government supported development policies and programs (Tar sands)


Current level of greenhouse gas emissions

As of 2014, Canada’s national inventory reported 732 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions. This amount does not include Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) emissions of 72 Mt. Energy use is highest at 81% or 594 Mt, followed by agriculture (8%), industrial processes (7%), and waste (4%).  2014 emissions were 120 Mt (20%) higher than 1990’s 613 Mt.


Emission Reduction Challenges

A recent April 2016 report on emissions from Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer states leading barriers in reducing emissions as (1) our strong dependency on fossil fuels and (2) management of our forests. Our target of 30% (208 Mt) below 2005 levels by 2030 means removing more than the equivalent of all emissions from today’s cars and trucks (including off-road vehicles), and a price for abating CO2e of $100 per tonne. Policies have begun to reduce emissions from coal use, and from improved vehicle fuel efficiency. Studies are underway on the contribution of managed forests in removing atmospheric emissions.

Major increases since 2009 in CO2e emissions have primarily been from mining, and oil and gas production (23 Mt), manufacturing (9 Mt), diesel fuel use by off-road equipment (9 Mt), and fugitive oil/gas emissions (4 MT).

Emissions overall continue to increase. Trends include: a steady increase between1990-2000 followed by fluctuations from 2000-2008, a 2009 drop, and gradual increases thereafter. Between 2005 and 2009, emissions decreased by 51 Mt (6.8%), and from 2009 to 2014, increased by 36 Mt (5.2%). Emissions have increased more than 20% since 1990 but GDP increased by 75% as well. Long term trends of fuel switching, efficiencies, technologies, population, energy prices, and economic and policy structure changes have all influenced the increase in emissions.

Last year, Tim Gray, of Environmental Defence, was quoted in a Huffington Post article as saying tar sands production, the pipelines that carry that oil, and their sky-rocketing emissions are the number one barrier to Canada finally meeting its international obligations on climate change. This past April, a National Observer’s interview with John Stone, former climatologist with Environment Canada, and vice-chair of PICC’s Working Group II, quoted him saying, “building more pipelines is scientifically incompatible with meeting climate change commitments.”


Assessment of Barriers

The Budget Officer also stated there are significant risks in a large-scale move to lower emissions. A patchwork of abatement programs (i.e., carbon pricing) across different sectors and regions may lead to unnecessarily high costs. Measures that are not sufficiently coordinated and that have regional disparity in their impacts, may not be addressed, thereby undermining a consensus. For instance, a carbon tax on fuels when vehicles are already subject to an increasing fuel-efficiency standard imposes an elevated cost on the transport sector.

Standard abatement measures may also have uneven impacts geographically. One measure across all sectors though is carbon capture and storage. A Canadian Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) report released April 26, 2016 estimates the current gap to reaching Canada’s 2020 target as 76 Mt and its 2030 target as 91 Mt.



Our new government has reversed a number of unfriendly environmental decisions made over the last decade. A gradual phase out of fossil-fuel subsidies to end-users by 2030 is desired. Letting the provinces design their own policies to meet national emissions targets, to date, has not reached national unity as each province pursues its own agenda.

The Budget Officer sees that emissions reduction needs a complex variety of coordinated approaches given the highly diverse nature of emission sources—transportation, oil and gas production/ distribution, and electricity generation from coal. Regulation has begun. DDPP recommends aligning carbon policies for long-term, cost-effective decarbonization. They recently took stock of Canada’s aspirations vs emission trajectories as a result of COP21. DDPP recommends five steps—(1) all sectors should have emissions policies, (2) tightening vehicle and building energy and emissions intensity regulations, (3) economy-wide carbon pricing, (4) decarbonized electrification, and (5) support to drive down future costs of emission reductions.

Derek Coronado of Citizens’ Environmental Alliance favors political will as the solution given that existing and pending action from Canada’s provinces, territories, and the federal government are expected to fall short of Canada’s 2030 targets. Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada sees reducing the political power of the oil industry as key to progress on phasing out fossil fuels.

–Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Diane Szoller


Useful Resources

Environment Canada, 2014. Canada’s Emissions Trends, 2014.

Environment and Climate Change Canada, 2015. National Inventory Report 1990-2014: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada – Executive Summary.

Environment and Climate Change Canada, 2016. Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2016.

Government of Canada, Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, April 21, 2016. Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions:  Developments, Prospects and Reductions. Documents/Reports/2016/ClimateChange/PBO_Climate_Change_EN.pdf

Graveland, Bill, The Canadian Press, February 6, 2015.  2015/02/06/justin-trudeau-liberals-carbon-emissions_n_6632340.html