Press release

Federal/provincial actions move Canada closer to 2020 target for GHG emissions reductions

November 5, 2011

WINNIPEG—November 6, 2011—The International Institute for Sustainable Development estimates new federal regulations combined with provincial actions will achieve nearly half the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions Canada has targeted under the Copenhagen Accord.

"Many Canadian GHG emitters are facing carbon costs consistent with emitters in the European Union and at levels well above competitors in the United States," said David Sawyer, IISD climate change and energy director and author of Mind the Gap: The State-of-Play in Canadian Greenhouse Gas Mitigation.

The Canadian Government is implementing policies that reduce GHG emissions by regulating new and modified coal-fired power facilities and through vehicle efficiency standards in order to meet its target of a 17 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005 by 2020.

The Canadian government isn't acting alone to reduce GHG emissions. "The emerging federal GHG emission mitigation policy builds on what is happening at a provincial level," Sawyer said.

"The federal and provincial governments are delivering reductions that jointly put Canada on track to achieve nearly half of its 2020 emissions reduction target," he said, adding that existing policies are already delivering 30 per cent of the target and the new measures should deliver a total of 46 per cent.

"Closing the remaining 54 per cent gap in Canada's target will be challenging and require a rethink on how we approach policy design, which has until recently focused on carbon pricing policies rather than performance-based regulations preferred by the Canadian government."

IISD's Mind the Gap paper provides new modelling to measure the impact of Canadian efforts to reduce GHG emissions, outlines five principles to guide policy development in a regulatory environment and offers three options Canada can consider to help it reach its target.

The first option suggests Canada can regulate all existing sources of carbon emissions, rather than just new or modified sources. It can also look at establishing a domestic offsets system and expand Canadian use of international offsets that take advantage of the relatively low-cost reductions available internationally.  

"While it isn't currently politically feasible to implement a national carbon pricing policy, it will eventually be necessary in order to the deliver cost-effective reductions required to meet Canada's longer-term aspirations for GHG emission reductions," Sawyer said.

The report, Mind the Gap: The State-of-Play in Canadian Greenhouse Gas Mitigation, is one in a series of papers on the subject of Regulating Carbon Emissions in Canada. Please also see the commentary:State-of-Play in Canadian Federal and Provincial Greenhouse Gas Mitigation.

For more information please contact David Sawyer by email or Nona Pelletier, IISD manager, public affairs at +1 (204) 958-7740, mobile: +1 (204) 962-1303, or email

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.