Sustainable Development, Canada

Tue, May 19, 2009

Country Info

When it comes to sustainable development, Canada is yet to set a leading example for the world. Although it has set carbon reduction targets, Canada is still struggling with ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon Emissions

Most industrialized countries are working on reducing their carbon emissions and so is Canada. The 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks Canada 12th with an EPI score of 86.6. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada is rated a “C” grade on environmental performance and ranks 15th out of 17 peer countries.

According to The Globe and Mail, large increases in oil and gas production have led to an alarming growth rate of greenhouse gases (GHG) in Canada. The carbon dioxide emissions rose to 747 million tons in 2007, up by 4% from 718 million tons the year before, and up 26% above their 1990 level, violating the Kyoto Protocol to cut emissions by 6%.

Policy and Regulation

The Canadian government has taken several steps toward climate change. The following are some policies and regulations that are in place for the reduction of GHG emissions.

  • Coal-fired electricity accounts for about 18% of Canada’s current GHG emissions. New government regulation will effectively phase out coal-fired power stations. Hopefully Canada will use cleaner technologies to produce electricity.
  • The Federal Court of Canada has ordered the federal government to publicly report mining pollution data from 2006 onward to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI). The lawsuit alleged that the Minister of Environment failed to report pollution data.
  • The Canadian government will fund $114 million to 8 carbon capture and storage projects in Western Canada. These projects will reduce emissions from electricity, oil and gas production, and store carbon dioxide underground.
  • The Federal Budget for 2009 has a new ‘Green Infrastructure Fund‘ of $1 billion. The fund will provide capital for carbon capture and storage technologies over the next 5 years; including $150 million for research and $850 million for the development and demonstration of “promising” technologies.
  1. Achieve medium- and long-term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets at least cost
  2. Minimize adverse impacts of achieving these targets on regions, sectors, and consumers


Some of the major steps taken by the government have not delivered its promises such as the public transit tax credit. In 2006, a public transit tax credit was established to reduce 220,000 tones of emissions per year from 2008 to 2012. An audit by Canada’s federal environment commissioner found that a scientific method for the evaluation of emissions reductions resulting from the tax credit is not in place.

Natural calamities have come in the way of Canada’s efforts of reducing carbon emissions. Canada’s ambitious carbon targets of reducing 65MT of CO2 by 2010 have been spoilt by extreme weather conditions. The country’s carbon emissions rose 20% from 1990 to 2001 due to severe heat waves, drought on prairies, ice storms and forest fires.

Toronto Star reports that most of the Green Infrastructure Fund will be spent on retrofitting an existing coal plant in Saskatchewan with carbon capture technology.


Canada’s success in improving its environmental performance has been slow. It must do more to lower greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce waste. Its government must promote economic growth without further degrading the environment.

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