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Canada’s New Nationally Determined Contribution Shows Progress but Misses Key Opportunities

July 13, 2021

Winnipeg—Canada has released a long-awaited update to its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), demonstrating greater climate ambition and representing an important step forward as the nation seeks to meet targets outlined in the Paris Agreement.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) welcomes the commitment in the NDC to advancing gender equality, social inclusion, and Indigenous reconciliation through climate action in Canada and abroad. The application of comprehensive, participatory Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) through the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of all climate policies and programs is essential. This provides a foundation for ensuring equitable benefits from investments in climate action for people of all genders and social groups, including Indigenous Peoples, racialized Canadians, youth, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.

Alongside an updated NDC, Canada also submitted its first Adaptation Communication yesterday, which affirms Canada’s commitment to developing a National Adaptation Strategy and emphasizes the growing value of nature-based solutions. This is noteworthy progress that should not be overlooked, especially as people across the country are already suffering from the impacts of climate change.

When it comes to what Canada will do to mitigate global warming, however, its new NDC falls short:

  • The document reiterates previous commitments, including the target of a 40%–45% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 and sectoral policies from the recently updated climate plan. This target is not in line with the ambition necessary to incent rapid decarbonization and a climate-safe future. Canada still lacks clear sectoral pathways and carbon budgets for high-emitting sectors—this is particularly concerning for oil and gas, whose emissions are the largest of all economic sectors in Canada and are on the rise.
     
  • The NDC also fails to address fossil fuel subsidy reform and the phase-out of public finance for fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency’s recent report emphasizes that governments must end all new funding to oil and gas to reach net-zero by 2050.
     
  • While it is encouraging to see mention of just transition in the updated NDC, there is little reference to how government will collaborate with workers and labour groups to ensure their needs are fully addressed.

As the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP 26) approaches, pressure is quickly escalating for developed countries to ramp up their ambitions on climate—not with broad brushstrokes but with detailed plans, aggressive timelines, and scaled-up financing on all fronts. Canada cannot afford to fall behind. Its updated NDC is promising, but greater commitments must be forthcoming in the months ahead.