Most of Canada on track to miss climate change targets due to ‘underdeveloped’ policy: report

May 24, 2017

OTTAWA—Climate change policy in Canada remains underdeveloped and plagued by a wide “ambition gap” between government promises and policy action, according to a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The study, by CCPA researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, breaks down climate policy success and shortcomings federally and provincially through early 2017.

Governments across Canada are increasingly taking the issue of climate change more seriously, recently introducing the first ever pan-Canadian climate change policy framework. However, despite bold claims of sustainable economic development, policymakers have largely failed to enact programs, regulations and tax measures that would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions enough to meet international targets like those set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to the new CCPA report. 

“For all the apparent progress, Canada is still falling short on climate policy. Actions taken by governments to date do not go far enough to put us on a path to a low-carbon economy, and the country remains on track to miss our international greenhouse gas emission reduction targets,” says Mertins-Kirkwood. 

The report unearths three common themes in climate policy in Canada: 

  • A wide ambition gap exists between GHG targets set by governments for themselves and the actual policy put in place to meet them. Nova Scotia is currently the only province on track to meet its medium-term emission reduction targets.
  • Continued dependence on fossil fuels means that consumption of gasoline, natural gas and other fuels contributes as much or more to Canada’s total emission picture as extraction and processing of oil, gas and coal.
  • Governments have been slow to implement “just transition” policies, which would support workers and communities that may be negatively impacted by the move to a low-carbon economy. 

“It’s time that federal and provincial governments scale up their climate policy ambition,” says Mertins-Kirkwood. “We need to accelerate the move toward an inclusive and productive low-carbon economy, and develop a strategy to support workers and communities through the transition.”


Tracking Progress: Evaluating government plans and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 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. 

For more information, please contact Alyssa O’Dell, CCPA Media and Public Relations Officer, at 613-563-1341 x307.