Greenhouse Gas Control Policies in Canada

May 7, 2012, 1:33 pm
Source: Crs

 See also: Overview of Greenhouse Gas Control Policies in Various Countries

Overall GHG emission target

[1]In April 2007, then-Environment Minister John Baird announced that by 2020, Canada would reduce its GHG emissions by 150 million tons, or 20%, from its 2006 level. Beyond this, the government hopes to achieve a 60-70% reduction by 2050.[2] The Kyoto emission reduction targets are scored from 1990 (with a few explicit exceptions); some analysts assert that, since Canada’s GHG emissions rose 27% between 1990 and 2004, the government would be able to demonstrate far greater progress if it were able to use 2006 as its base year in the Copenhagen Agreement.[3]

Principal Policy Instruments

The government’s most recent plan for regulating industrial air emissions was announced in March 2008.[4] However, observers note that it remains indefinite. Canada’s current Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, is traveling around the country’s 10 provinces soliciting ideas on a capand- trade system. There has reportedly been a great deal of pressure on the Minister to develop a plan that will be compatible with whatever may be developed in the United States. For example, the original 2007 Canadian plan called for an “intensity target” rather than a cap. Bilateral discussions over a compatible cap-and-trade system are underway.[5] The effort at cross-border harmonization is likely due to the extensive economic integration between the two countries. The government aims to complete its policy formulation and present its formal plan before the December 2009 United Nations climate change Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen. Some observers note that the government’s ambitions might be delayed or curtailed if a snap election is called; however the prospect of such a vote is believed to be increasingly unlikely.[6]

Recognizing that the transportation sector is responsible for about 27% of GHG emissions, the Canadian government is also set to issue mandatory auto emissions regulations—essentially converting fuel efficiency into CO2 limits—and likely will seek to make its standards compatible with those set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Environment Ministry may also issue modified regulations regarding usage of ethanol. These changes would be facilitated by amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999, which, among other things, can be used to regulate tailpipe emissions and ethanol blending. Regulations have yet to be published; the ministry likely will attempt to match and harmonize its emissions standards on a continental basis.

The federal government can also use its spending power to control pollution. The government has created a climate change “ecoTrust” fund from which the provinces may draw in order to pay for programs to reduce their own GHG emissions. The last two federal budgets have also included significant funding for carbon capture and storage, including a large-scale demonstration facility. This could be one important aspect of the attempt to reduce emissions arising from some provinces’ extensive use of coal as an energy source; it also could be used for oil sands.

Covered Gases and Sectors

Although the details are still being negotiated, Canada’s regulations will likely cover the six gases included in the Kyoto Protocol. In reducing GHG emissions in Canada, the government will likely also attempt to co-reduce other pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury. Specific sectors have yet to be determined.

Allocation of GHG reductions to various sectors

The government has not yet determined the sectoral allocation of reductions, but it has calculated that 35% of Canada’s GHG emissions arise from fossil fuel production, industrial processing and manufacturing; 22% from services, residential, waste and agriculture; 16% from electricity and heat generation; and 27% from transportation.[7]

Regulations or exemptions specific to trade-sensitive sectors

Canadian government officials maintain that exemptions—if any—and regulations are yet to come, and that Environment Minister Prentice is still attempting to strike agreements with the various provinces.




caption Figure A-1. Comparison of International Fuel Economy and GHG Standards. Source: Feng An, “Revised Chart for World Standards,” Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation
(iCET) (2009). Available at



caption Figure A-2. Standardized Comparison of Select Vehicle Efficiency Standards Internationally (standards as of mid-2009). Source: Feng An, “Revised Chart for World Standards,” Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation (iCET) (2009). Available at





  1. ^ This section was prepared by Carl Ek, Specialist in International Relations, Congressional Research Service
  2. ^ Canada’s New Government Announces Mandatory Industrial Targets to Tackle Climate Change and Reduce Air Pollution. News release. Environment Canada website. April 27, 2007.
  3. ^ No Clear Environmental Champion; Canada and the United States Have Shown Varied Levels of Aggressiveness in the Fight to Combat Climate Change. Globe and Mail. July 9, 2008. See also: Canada’s Greenhouse Emissions Soaring Again: UN Report. Canwest News Service. April 21, 2009.
  4. ^ Government Delivers Details of Greenhouse Gas Regulatory Framework. News release. Environment Canada website. March 10, 2008.
  5. ^ Notes for an address by the Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., Q.C., M.P. Minister of the Environment on Canada’s climate change plan. Speech. Environment Canada website. June 4, 2009.
  6. ^ CRS discussion with Canadian government official, September 10, 2009.
  7. ^ Notes For an Address by the Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., Q.C., M.P. Minister of the Environment on New Regulations To Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Speech. Environment Canada website. April 1, 2009.

Note: The first version of this article was drawn from  R40936 An Overview of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Control Policies in Various Countries by Jane A. Leggett, Richard K. Lattanzio, Carl Ek, and Larry Parker, Congressional Research Service, November 30, 2009.


Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the Congressional Research Service. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the Congressional Research Service should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.



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