Canada backsliding on climate policy in face of rising climate threats: report

June 12, 2019

OTTAWA—As Canadians from coast to coast to coast grapple with record-breaking wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events, a new report finds that many Canadian governments—at both the federal and provincial level—are moving in the wrong direction on climate policy.

The study, co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program (ACW), assesses the climate policy progress of Canadian governments over the past two years with respect to long-term greenhouse gas emission reductions.

“Overall, Canada’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate are less comprehensive and less ambitious than even two years ago,” says report author and CCPA senior researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood. “Many governments have failed to follow through on earlier promises and some have backtracked on climate policies already put in place.”

Among its findings, the report identifies two growing threats to climate policy progress in Canada:

  • A narrow public debate over carbon pricing is eroding political will for a more comprehensive climate policy approach. There are many other policies that are less controversial and can be just as effective at reducing emissions.

  • Canadian governments have been unwilling to introduce supply-side energy policies designed to restrict the production of fossil fuels, even though keeping much of our oil and gas in the ground is necessary to avoid the worst effects of global climate breakdown.

The report concludes that positive progress in provinces like British Columbia and Quebec over the past few years is outweighed by backsliding in other provinces. The new governments in Alberta and Ontario—Canada’s two biggest carbon polluters—have reversed the climate policies of previous governments, which puts Canada’s already-unlikely national targets even further at risk.

“Decarbonizing the Canadian economy is not only necessary if we are to do our part in combating the global climate crisis, but it is also eminently possible,” says Mertins-Kirkwood. “As a rich country with a large fossil fuel industry and some of the highest per-capita emissions on the planet, we have both the capacity and the responsibility to show the world how the transition to a zero-carbon economy can be done.”


Heating Up, Backing Down: Evaluating recent climate policy progress in Canada is available for download on the CCPA website.

The report is a co-publication by the CCPA and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program, based at York University and funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The CCPA is an independent, non-profit charitable research institute founded in 1980. 

For more information, please contact Alyssa O’Dell, CCPA Media and Public Relations Officer, at [email protected], 613-563-1341 x307 or cell 343-998-7575