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Effective action on climate change

Long-term goal

A low-carbon economy contributes to limiting global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and supports efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius

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Why is this issue important

Climate change is a critical global problem that could affect future generations' ability to meet their basic needs. Greenhouse gas emissions have the potential to warm the planet to levels never experienced in the history of human civilization, with far-reaching and unpredictable environmental, social, and economic consequences.

The effects of climate change are already being felt across Canada. We are seeing rising sea levels, more frequent and severe wildfires and pest outbreaks, erosion of coastlines, and more extreme weather events such as storms and heat waves. More and more often, climate change is also being identified as a key driver of serious infectious diseases. Recent events—such as flooding in New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec in 2019, the spread of Lyme disease into eastern Canada, the British Columbia wildfires in 2017 and 2018 and the Alberta Fort McMurray wildfires in 2016—demonstrate the risks we face.

Indigenous peoples on the land face disproportionate impacts, such as reductions in sea ice and snow cover which disrupt travel routes and reduce access to country foods in the North. This is worsened by warming rates that are faster in Canada's north than in the rest of the country.

Effective action on climate change means transitioning to a low-carbon economy—we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions while increasing our prosperity by realizing the opportunities in emerging markets such as renewable energy and clean technology.

While reducing emissions is necessary to help lessen the severity of climate impacts in the future, we also need additional efforts to build resilience to these impacts. Adaptation is key in addressing climate change, and is about making smart, informed, forward-looking decisions that take future climate conditions into account. Effective adaptation measures can save lives, minimize damages, and lower costs over the long term for individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments.

The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

By avoiding the worst impacts of climate change and harnessing clean growth, transitioning to a low-carbon economy represents significant opportunities for Canada and the world.

The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change was adopted on December 9, 2016, as Canada's plan to take ambitious action to fight climate change, build resilience to a changing climate, and drive clean economic growth.

A landmark achievement, the Pan-Canadian Framework is the first climate change plan in Canada's history to include joint and individual commitments by federal, provincial and territorial levels of government, and to have been developed with input from Indigenous peoples, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and Canadians from across the country.

Pricing carbon pollution

Putting a price on carbon pollution is central to the Pan-Canadian Framework. It is the most efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support clean innovation and growth.

The pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution gives provinces and territories the flexibility to develop their own carbon pollution pricing system and outlines criteria that all systems must meet to ensure they are stringent, fair and efficient.

Leading on zero-emission vehicles

Budget 2019 proposed strategic investments that will make it easier and more affordable for Canadians to choose zero-emission vehicles—helping people to get from place to place, improving air quality and cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. These include:

  • funding to deploy new recharging and refueling stations in workplaces, public parking spots, commercial and multi-unit residential buildings, and remote locations
  • working with auto manufacturers to secure voluntary zero-emission vehicle sales targets to ensure that vehicle supply meets increased demand
  • introducing a new federal purchase incentive of up to $5000 for eligible vehicles with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of less than $45 000
  • supporting businesses' adoption of zero-emission vehicles by making these vehicles eligible for a full tax write-off in the year they are put in use

Canada in the world

Taking action on climate change supports the 2030 Agenda and its global Sustainable Development Goals—in particular SDG 3, Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 7, Affordable and Clean Energy; SDG 9, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production; SDG 13, Climate Action; SDG 14, Life Below Water; SDG 15, Life on Land; and SDG 17, Partnerships for the Goals. It also supports specific SDG targets, as well as other international agreements and initiatives.

For details on how this goal supports international action, see Annex 3.

Connections with other FSDS areas

Climate change affects our ecosystems, our livelihoods, our safety and security, and our health. Many FSDS goals and targets relate directly to climate change action and support the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework. In particular:

  • building a cleaner energy system and investing in clean technology will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and help us transition to a low-carbon economy
  • investing in resilient infrastructure, and developing and updating building codes and standards, will help lessen the potential economic, environmental and social impacts of climate change
  • to do our part to mitigate climate change, we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the resilience of our own operations
  • taking action on climate change can help mitigate impacts on coastal and marine areas such as changing sea levels, ocean chemistry, temperature and marine life
  • climate change is affecting the health of lakes and rivers by potentially affecting nutrients, pH and temperature, and putting pressure on Canada's water resources
  • sustainable agricultural practices can increase carbon sequestration in soil and lessen food insecurity, especially in the north
  • actions related to forests and other ecosystems can provide natural solutions to climate change and protect communities from climate change impacts and extreme weather
  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting adaptation can prevent negative impacts on the health and well-being of Canadians as well as on air quality

Our partners

Partners, including provinces, territories and Indigenous peoples, are at the forefront of action on climate change. Provinces and territories are working with us to implement the Pan-Canadian Framework and have made significant progress, including by implementing carbon pricing systems, increasing clean electricity production, taking steps to increase energy efficiency requirements for new buildings, and encouraging adoption of zero-emission vehicles.

Indigenous peoples contributed to the development of the Pan-Canadian Framework and continue to be engaged in its implementation, including through distinctions-based bilateral tables and specific programs. For example, Indigenous peoples are developing community based solutions to address risks through adaptation plans, health assessments and monitoring. They are also working together and partnering with governments and businesses to demonstrate and install renewable energy systems and reduce the use of diesel-fired electricity generation in their communities.

Building resilience is an important part of the Pan-Canadian Framework, and many provinces and territories have established climate change adaptation strategies or incorporated resilience into broader climate change strategies.

Other partners also have a role to play. Municipal governments can influence about 50% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and are taking actions such as retrofitting their facilities to generate renewable energy, implementing district energy systems, and installing charging stations for electric vehicles. To support municipalities in building, resilient and sustainable cities, Budget 2019 proposed to invest $950 million to increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-unit buildings. These investments will be delivered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities through the Green Municipal Fund (see Clean Energy).

Local health authorities and municipalities are also taking steps such as implementing Heat Alert and Response Systems and flood defences to address projected sea level rise. Energy utilities and provincial energy efficiency program administrators promote highest-efficiency products and technologies to help businesses and consumers lower energy use, save on rising energy costs, and increase competitiveness.

The private sector is taking action too. Some companies are integrating climate considerations into their investment, planning, and operational decisions to improve their long-term resilience and competitiveness. Many professional associations are also working to inform and equip their members to address a changing climate in their professional practice. And more than 20 Canadian companies are private sector partners of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, which supports and encourages successful implementation of carbon pricing around the world.

Partners taking action - Edmonton's Change Homes for Climate: EnerGuide for Homes

In June 2017, the City of Edmonton launched the Change Homes for Climate: EnerGuide for Homes program to raise awareness of residential energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This included increasing the number of energy efficient actions taken by Edmontonians in their homes, such as upgrading their insulation or replacing their inefficient furnace. This initiative supports Edmonton's Community Energy Transition Strategy, which has set a goal to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions 35% below 2005 levels by 2035.

Partners taking action - Permafrost Thaw and River Erosion in Kugluk Territorial Park

The Government of Nunavut's Climate Change Secretariat and Nunavut Parks and Special Places, with Laval University's Centre d'études nordiques and POLAR Knowledge Canada, are working together to address the concerns of permafrost thaw and river erosion in the Kugluk Territorial Park. This project is addressing concerns directly raised by community members from the Kugluk Community Joint Planning and Management Committee. The goal of the project is to improve access to the land for Nunavummiut, specifically individuals and families who travel to and through the Kugluk Territorial Park and to other hunting grounds. This is a multi-year project with funding support from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada's Climate Change Preparedness in the North Program.

Responsible minister/Key departments and agencies

Minister of Environment and Climate Change, supported by a whole-of-government approach to implementation/ Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Canadian Institutes of Health Research; Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada; Department of Finance Canada; Environment and Climate Change Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Global Affairs Canada; Health Canada; Indigenous Services Canada; Infrastructure Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; National Research Council Canada; Natural Resources Canada; Parks Canada; Public Health Agency of Canada; Public Safety Canada; Public Services and Procurement Canada; Standards Council of Canada; Transport Canada

Canada's starting point

  • To measure Canada's contribution to limiting global temperature rise, we track human-caused national greenhouse gas emissions. In 2017, Canada's total emissions were 716 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Since 2005, emissions have decreased by 15 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
  • To monitor the transition to a low-carbon economy, we track Canada's greenhouse gas intensity, or emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent per billion dollars gross domestic product (GDP). In 2017, greenhouse gas intensity was 0.36 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per billion dollars GDP, 20% lower than 2005 and 36% lower than in 1990.
  • To measure adaptation to climate change, we use surveys to assess awareness and action. By 2017, 72% of communities (based on a representative sample of small, medium and large Canadian municipalities) had identified adaptation measures in their plans, strategies and reports.
  • To measure impacts of climate change, we track indicators such as snow cover, sea ice, and temperature change in Canada. The 2019 Canada in a Changing Climate Report showed that:
    • snow-cover in Canada has decreased 5-10% per decade since 1981
    • sea ice has decreased 5-20% per decade (summer) and 8% per decade (winter)
    • between 1948 and 2016, the average annual temperature in Canada has warmed by 1.7 degrees Celsius
  • The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators program provides further information on climate change in Canada.