Photo: Canada's 2020 target within reach with national strategy and best provincial policies

(Credit: Chung Ho Leung via Flickr)

By Ian Bruce, science and policy manager

Here's a headline you don't often see: Canada is making real progress in meeting its climate commitments. The problem is, it is only in pockets of the country.

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As world leaders get set to wrap up the current round of climate talks in Lima, Peru, a new report from the David Suzuki Foundation finds that we already have the made-in-Canada solutions that could have met (within six per cent) our 2020 climate targets. The research findings are based on analysis conducted by Navius Research using a detailed CIMS model of Canada's energy, emissions and economic system.

But isn't Canada the shameful climate laggard consistently in the bottom ranks of international performance reports? The same Canada that, using its own Environment Canada data, admitted it was on track to meet only half its emission-reduction commitments by 2020?

It's becoming increasingly clear that Canadian climate policy solutions are being led by the provinces and cities. Four provinces — Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta — sent environment ministers to Lima and announced a joint provincial emissions commitment.

Building on the best: keeping Canada's climate promise finds that if Canada had a unifying strategy on climate change, we could adopt best in-country policies at a national scale and make serious headway in reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the country. If we'd taken this route since 2008, instead of the piecemeal approach we've relied on, Canada could stand proudly declaring, like the U.S., that our climate change emissions target for 2020 is within reach and that we could uphold our promise.

The report finds significant opportunity for knowledge sharing and implementation of climate policy within Canada. For example, adopting best-in-Canada policies on renewable energy, staged phase-out of coal power and pricing carbon pollution in Saskatchewan and Alberta would be three times more effective in reducing carbon pollution than current policies.

Successful initiatives, including Ontario's Green Energy and Economy Act, B.C.'s carbon tax, Nova Scotia and Quebec's cap on emissions and Ontario's elimination of coal-fired power plants, have shrunk carbon pollution provincially while diversifying the economy. Ontario's proven ability to phase out coal and scale up renewable energy projects from wind, water and sun, a province that doesn't have the same quality renewable energy resources as many others, speaks to opportunities across the country for rapid transitions to cleaner energy.

Given our poor international reputation, it may be surprising to learn that we have proven solutions working right in our own backyard — and none are radical or economy-destroying.

The main obstacle to Canada keeping its climate commitments has a familiar ring: Leadership and coordination is needed at the national level by the federal government.

Ideas are powerful. Ottawa needs to change course and encourage solutions across Canada.

Carbon pollution reductions by tonnes

December 12, 2014

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