Canada’s emissions down 6.7 per cent from 2005 levels, but researchers urge swift action to meet targets

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New data estimates a promising reduction of Canada’s carbon footprint, but indicates that efficient policy implementation is needed in order to accelerate the momentum.

A new report released by the Canadian Climate Institute, says emissions in the country in 2021 were up 2.8 per cent from the previous year, but down 6.7 per cent from 2005 levels.

According to the data, Canada generated 691 megatonnes (Mt) of emissions in 2021, slightly more than 2020 as a result of restrictions due to COVID-19.

These findings indicate a positive “decoupling” between economic growth and carbon emissions, the report says, as emissions per unit of economic output have dropped by 27.5 per cent since 2005. 

The researchers also found that while emissions increased 30 Mt from 2020 to 2021, improvements in decarbonization and energy efficiency meant that the net overall increase was only 19 Mt.

This indicates that with the strength of policy and market drivers, emissions were cut by 13 Mt in this time frame.

Although 2020 saw a sharp decline in economic activity due to pandemic, 2021 brought an economic rebound, and oil and gas and the transportation sectors were cited as the largest contributors to rising emissions at that time.

Understanding what the largest contributing sources of emissions are as well as the positive effect of their reduction, signals a need for swift and efficient policy implementation needed this decade to stay on track with the federal government’s 2030 Emission Reduction Plan, the researchers say.

By 2030, the feds aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the economy to between 40 and 45 per cent of 2005 levels, and by 2050, Canada aims to reduce emissions to net-zero.

In order to reach the 2030 goal across Canada, these trends in the data must accelerate in next number of critical years, the researchers write in the report.

“When it comes to cutting carbon pollution, going slowly is not an option,” said Dave Sawyer, principal economist of the Canadian Climate Institute, in a news press release.

Between now and 2030, the average annual emission intensity needs to outpace the growth in Canada’s economic activity by almost 5 per cent each year, in order to reach 440 Mt in 2030.

The year ahead will be critical, as the federal government prepares to pass major policies such as the Clean Electricity Regulation, the oil and gas emissions cap, the sales mandate for zero-emissions vehicles, and stronger methane regulations, it’s just a matter of how quickly these policies can be implemented

While these estimates from the Canadian Climate Institute were released to fill the gap in reporting on Canada’s emissions data, official emission numbers are expected to come out in Canada’s National Inventory report this Spring.

“By providing more timely data on Canada’s climate progress, we hope to support and spur on the action necessary to achieve Canada’s emissions targets and build a cleaner, more competitive and more prosperous economy,” said Sawyer.

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