Press release

Offsets can help Canada reduce GHG emissions while maintaining industrial competitiveness

December 18, 2011


WINNIPEG—December 19, 2011—New analysis by the International Institute for Sustainable Development identifies carbon offsets as a key opportunity to cost-effectively reduce Canada's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and achieve its stated reduction target.

"Canada's move to regulate carbon will have a cost impact on industry, and this impact will increase over time as more reductions are sought. Offsets are a cost-effective mitigation option that can help minimize adverse competiveness impacts while broadening the scope of reduction opportunities" said David Sawyer, director of IISD's climate change and energy program and lead author of Offsets and Canada's GHG Regulations: Reducing costs, improving competitiveness and lowering emissions. (See also the Summary Report.)

The report is based on new economic modelling developed to show how offsets might complement sector-by-sector GHG performance regulations as well as how they may help Canada more cost-effectively meet the target it has set for itself. IISD estimates the planned federal and provincial mitigation actions will deliver about 46 per cent of the 2020 national target, or about 103 million tonnes (Mt) of the 225 Mt needed.

The report offers a range of scenarios and discusses their impact on costs and emission reductions. It also reviews other offset programs operating in jurisdictions elsewhere in Canada as well as in Australia, the United States and Europe.

"There is substantial evidence that targeting emitters outside of the regulated sectors can significantly reduce mitigation costs and deliver other important environmental benefits," Sawyer said.

"A well-developed offsets program could deliver significant savings across the economy by offering unregulated sectors, such as agriculture and forestry, an opportunity to reduce Canada's emissions while delivering important co-benefits from ecological goods and services that provide cleaner water and improved flood mitigation."

IISD is working with leading thinkers on mitigation policy to produce a range of policy options that would complement the Government of Canada's move to regulate carbon emissions with performance-based regulations.

"The aim is to develop federal policies that set out the best way to regulate carbon emissions in a way that co-exists with provincial carbon pricing and regulatory actions, and to offer ways to achieve a national carbon mitigation framework for Canada," Sawyer said.

See Regulating Carbon Emissions in Canada for more information about this initiative.


For more information, please contact David Sawyer by email at, 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.