Photo: Breaking down Canada's long-awaited climate action plan

(Credit: Gord McKenna via Flickr)

By Ian Bruce, Director of Science and Policy, David Suzuki Foundation

This past year has had highs and lows for climate action.

Before Canadians head off to enjoy eggnog and holiday cheer, we wanted to provide some additional context to the federal climate action plan (the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change) released on December 9 in Ottawa.

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This is a major milestone in Canada's history. For the first time, Canada has built the foundation of an effective national climate plan that, if fully implemented, would put the country within striking distance of meeting our 2030 greenhouse gas target. This is a huge step for Canada's response to climate change, but our country must strive to do better.

Why? First, we have the weakest 2030 emissions target of any G7 country, and the national plan is still shy of meeting Canada's Paris commitment. In addition, recent pipeline approvals threaten to slow progress. Clearly, more effort is needed in 2017. But, despite the shortcomings, it is worth celebrating this milestone. This achievement is the result of millions of Canadians making their voices heard in Ottawa.

As for solutions the David Suzuki Foundation and our supporters have been advocating, the federal framework delivered on many policies we put forth, including:

  • An increasing price on carbon pollution that will encourage innovation and deployment of clean energy.
  • A phase-out of coal-fired power and ramp-up of clean, renewable energy.
  • A clean-fuel standard that will cut emissions from transportation fuels.
  • Big infrastructure investments: A $47.2 billion, 11-year investment commitment to transit, electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure, and ecosystems that counteract the impacts of climate change. We will evaluate the progress toward these commitments in the upcoming federal budget.
  • A requirement to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
  • A green-building standard that will improve energy efficiency of homes and buildings.
  • A clean technology strategy, green government procurement, and solutions for waste and agriculture.
  • A review mechanism to hold parties accountable for implementing the plan.

Positive things that fall short:

  • The framework acknowledges the importance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and Indigenous traditional knowledge. However, fossil fuel infrastructure projects have recently been approved despite flawed processes and opposition from numerous Indigenous groups.
  • The framework includes a ratcheting tool that could increase the ambition of our emissions reduction target, but it is not guaranteed.
  • The plan calls for the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 but fails to outline scheduled decreases that could be made in the near term.


  • Approvals of long-lived carbon infrastructure projects such as the Kinder Morgan and Line 3 pipelines and Pacific NorthWest LNG project that, if built, will contribute to increased emissions from the oil and gas sector, acting against Canada's ability to uphold its Paris climate commitment.
  • The plan is missing a zero-emission vehicle standard to increase the availability and share of low- and zero-emission cars. However, the federal government has set a 2018 timeline to develop an electric vehicle strategy.

Following a year of political turmoil around the world, it is nice to end on what is generally a positive note in Canada. Together we have made significant progress this year while renewable technologies have continued to become more efficient and affordable.

Our work will continue in 2017 as we advocate for a clean, sustainable future for Canada. Solutions to put Canada on that course exist. We look forward to having you along with us.


December 14, 2016

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