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What should Canada be doing about climate change? 25 recommendations


The national Net-Zero Advisory Body released 25 recommendations Friday for how Canada can adjust its climate plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 — a goal that the country is not on track to reach right now, according to the report.

The report is the first of what will be an annual initiative, and is directed at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

The report covers a lot of ground, but among the recommendations are: a stronger focus on developing net-zero industrial sectors that have economic benefits in this initial stage; the launch of a council to faster facilitate the development of a net-zero electricity grid from coast to coast; actions to streamline the approval process for net-zero projects and the creation of a public-facing dashboard and independent modelling; and data centre to report on Canada's net-zero progress with more transparency.

The advisory body's final recommendation stressed that the federal government should "embed principles of the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when it makes decisions pertaining to energy sector transformation."

"With the passing of each year, we set record high temperatures and witness increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events," the report stated. "This trend will continue and worsen as long as our prosperity and well-being rely on a carbon-based economy. It is time for Canada to end this dependence and accelerate the attainment of a net-zero emissions society."

Canada's Net-Zero Advisory Body is comprised of experts from across the country, and was first formed in 2021 under the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act to deliver advice pertaining to the government's climate change plans as an independent body.


Canada has set out specific goals for emissions reductions on the way to its ultimate goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. The 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, released in November, lays out how Canada hopes to achieve the 2030 target of reducing emissions to between 40 and 45 per cent below 2005 emission levels.

In their foreword, authors noted that while Canada's 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan sets up a good foundation for Canada's climate plans, policy makers need to be considering that there are vastly different levels of momentum behind different aspects of the plan, making it unbalanced.

For instance, efforts to make vehicles more green have gained public support recently, the foreword notes, making the idea of implementing these efforts more straightforward.

But the proposed cap on emissions from the oil and gas sector, which is still only in the earliest stage of development, is likely to encounter significantly more resistance, making implementation more difficult than the plan currently bargains for.

According to the report, "emissions from the oil and gas sector rose by 18.8 per cent between 2005 and 2019 while emissions from the rest of the economy declined by 6.1 per cent," underlining the importance of this sector in reaching even our intermediary goals on the way to net-zero.

"Without an oil and gas emissions cap, Canada is unlikely to attain its 2030 emission target," the authors wrote.


The 25 recommendations in the report are arranged into four "pillars of good governance:" making informed decisions with net-zero modelling; aligning federal mandates with net-zero goals; sharing decision-making across sectors and governments; and prompt monitoring and reporting on progress towards net-zero.

There's a clear need for better monitoring of Canada's progress on emissions reduction, the report stated, in order to identify sectors where progress is lacking and allow the public to be involved.

There are also not enough established indicators for what progress looks like within sectors and industries, the report said. In 2020-21, there were 86 federal departments and agencies that had their greenhouse gas emissions reports publicly available, but only six had "established indicators of relevance," according to the report.

Along with a net-zero dashboard, the report recommended that the government establish an independent "modelling and data centre of excellence" that would be operational by June 2024.

It also recommended that Environment and Climate Change Canada should close the two-year data lag for delivering detailed reports on greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, starting with this year's emissions.

Canada's complicated network of divided governmental responsibilities in terms of the environment has made it difficult to meet climate targets in the past, something that was noted in the 2021 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The fact that provincial and federal governments have different powers and that emissions are spread inequality across sectors makes it difficult to reduce them nationally.

This means that sectors need to start working together more to achieve net-zero emissions. Adopting their own net-zero mandates will put governments and corporations on a better path, the report recommended.

"The Government of Canada should direct that all federal agencies, departments and Crown corporations publicly articulate their role in helping Canada achieve net-zero emissions," the report suggested.

Working with Indigenous leaders is essential for achieving a net-zero future as well, the report said, with shared leadership a necessity.

The recommendations also focused on the need for Canada to develop a more robust and comprehensive net-zero industrial policy.

In order to secure Canada's economic success in a net-zero world, the country needs to be making smaller changes within sectors, rather than declaring sweeping economy-wide objectives, the report stated.

It recommended that the government "establish time-limited strategy tables to develop net-zero competitiveness goals and roadmaps for priority sectors," and use independent intermediaries to support these tables through advising experts in key sectors and "developing and deepening sectoral buy-in."

The report also broke down some of the economic opportunities in greener technology, such as producing and exporting low-carbon hydrogen.

Canada's energy systems are set to be a focus of change over the next few decades, as we try to decarbonize our electricity grid and shift how we heat and cool our buildings.

"We need to drastically increase the grid's capacity to accommodate electrification of industrial processes, heating, and electric vehicles," the report stated, adding in its 22nd recommendation that a Pan-Canadian Grid Council should be launched "as soon as possible to facilitate cross-sectoral, pan-Canadian dialogue on the topic of net-zero interties and grid."

According to the report, emissions did go down in 2020 in Canada by 9.3 per cent compared to 2005 levels, but since the pandemic caused such a disruption to regular activity — particularly transportation, the sector which saw one of the largest reductions. But it cautions that this can't be seen as a true sign of growth, with authors noting that there has been evidence that emissions are crawling back up to pre-pandemic levels.

To achieve the emissions reductions Canada is aiming for in 2030, just seven years away, the country still needs to reduce the equivalent of all emissions from the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia combined.

The time for incremental changes has passed, the report states.

"We need to define the desired future systems now to allow sufficient time to invest and build the infrastructure — physical, social, and institutional — of tomorrow," authors wrote.

"If implemented, we are confident that our 25 pieces of advice contained in this report, in addition to the 40 pieces of advice in our submission to Canada's 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan development and our foundational 10 values and principles, will significantly contribute to Canada's development and implementation of a pathway to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050." Top Stories

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