Chapter 4: Emissions reduction targets and implications for an energy strategy

Below is a summary of Chapter 4, which includes sections on ECCC’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, ECCC’s Mid-Century Long-Term Low-Greenhouse Gas Development Strategy, and key considerations for a long-term energy plan. You can download the full summary, the full chapter or the full study via the links on the right.


Canada has committed to a 30% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 and targets an 80% reduction by 2050. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) projects, however, that emissions under measures announced by provincial and federal governments as of November 1, 2016, will be just 0.7% below 2005 levels in 2030. Included in this projection are a 71% reduction in emissions from electricity generation, an 8% reduction in transportation emissions and a 5% reduction in emissions from waste. Offsetting these reductions is a 47% growth in emissions from the oil and gas sector, and a 6% to 11% growth in emissions from heavy industry, buildings and agriculture. Figure ES10 illustrates emissions for the NEB’s reference oil and gas production scenario, including the Alberta oil sands emissions cap, and the 2030 and 2050 emissions-reduction targets. To meet the 2030 target, non-oil and gas sectors must contract 49% from 2015 levels and then contract a further 71% from 2030 levels by 2040, when the oil and gas sector would constitute 76% of Canadian emissions. Clearly, the constraint imposed by growing oil and gas production, even with the Alberta oil sands emissions cap, will make meeting Canada’s emissions-reduction goals extremely difficult and likely impossible.


The federal government maintains that growing oil and gas production and meeting emissions-reduction targets are mutually compatible goals. It offers the “Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change” (pan-Canadian framework) as a plan to meet 2030 targets, and the aforementioned mid-century strategy to meet 2050 targets.

The pan-Canadian framework provides a number of initiatives for reducing emissions, but it does not quantify the impact of each. Furthermore, it assumes an unspecified amount of reductions will be met with purchases of “international cap and trade credits” and appears to have double-counted potential reductions from announced measures as of November 1, 2016. For example, the ECCC reference case projection of near-zero emissions reductions by 2030 includes “measures taken by federal, provincial and territorial governments as of November 1st, 2016,” yet the pan-Canadian framework projects 89 megatonnes of reductions from the ECCC projection from “announced measures as of November 1st, 2016” along with buying emissions credits. The pan-Canadian framework also appears to have double-counted the impact of the coal phase-out, given that it was already included in the ECCC reference case projection.

In contrast to the pan-Canadian framework, the mid-century strategy provides more detail on the projections of energy consumption by fuel in 2050. The six scenarios offered provide a range of projections, the average of which is illustrated in Table ES1.


Three of the six scenarios in the mid-century strategy require purchases of carbon credits to make up 15% of the 2050 reduction, and two of them only achieve a 67% reduction by 2050. On average, electricity would provide 53% of delivered energy in 2050, compared to 17% at present, through a 152% ramp-up in total generation—meaning 47% of delivered energy would have to come from other sources. New generation capacity would cost in the order of $1.45 trillion. These scenarios illustrate well the scale of the problem. The prospect of building dozens of new nuclear reactors and dozens of new large-scale hydropower dams seems highly unlikely, for environmental, economic and, in the case of nuclear, fuel-supply and waste-disposal reasons.

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