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Despite years of lofty promises from government officials, a recent Auditors General report shows that Canada has made little progress towards its climate action goals. (Photo by crossbrain66/Getty Images)

Canada | Economy

Canada is currently failing to meet targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but businesses can still show leadership

Report says Canada will miss 2020 target by a wide margin and long-term goals are also in jeopardy

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Despite years of lofty promises from government officials, a recent Auditors General report shows that Canada has made little progress towards its climate action goals. This follows a United Nations (UN) report that says Canada is in danger of missing its 2030 Paris Agreement targets by a wide margin.

Lack of action and missed targets

Canada’s auditor generals came together in 2016 to begin a collaborative investigation into our country’s progress on climate change action, looking back over recent decades and projecting ahead towards international climate goals.

Their report, Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada—A Collaborative Report from Auditors General, was released in March 2018 and the results are concerning.

The report details a lack of cohesion and implementation of climate action both within the provinces and territories and at the federal level, which has led to a series of missed climate action targets. Several provinces and territories still don’t have any set goals for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020, or even 2030.

States the report: “Canada has missed two separate emission reduction targets (the 1992 Rio target and the 2005 Kyoto target) and is likely to miss the 2020 Copenhagen target as well. In fact, emissions in 2020 are expected to be nearly 20 per cent above the target.”

Canada on pace to miss pledged emissions reduction target

The annual UN Emissions Gap Report monitors the progress countries are making in reducing their carbon and equivalent emissions in relation to their respective 2030 targets, as agreed upon in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement on climate change, signed onto by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016, is to reduce annual emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

Released last November, the report states that Canada is well above its pledged target and that gap is expected to widen even further by 2030.

Canada insists it will meet 2030 targets

The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (PCF) was adopted in December 2016 and is the Trudeau government’s beacon of hope for Canada’s long-term action on reducing GHG emissions and meetings its Paris Agreement targets.

In response to the auditors general report, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told the CBC the federal government is “absolutely committed” to its 2030 target. McKenna, who will be hosting climate change discussions with her counterparts at the G7 Environment Ministers meeting in Halifax this week, added, “Let’s be clear…this report was looking back. It was looking at measures that were in place before we actually negotiated our federal plan.”

It’s true that the auditors general report excludes the PCF. However, independent analysis from Climate Action Tracker, a source cited repeatedly in the UN report, says Canada’s current emission reduction plans are “insufficient”, even when taking the PCF into account.

There is also uncertainty around whether all provinces and territories will buy-in to the PCF, with several already stating they plan to fight any federally imposed carbon tax. And just last month, Alberta announced it would pull out of the pan-Canadian climate framework.

What can businesses do to address risks associated with climate change?

Climate change creates material risks for organizations and businesses need to take a proactive approach to evaluating and understanding them.

CPA Canada’s primer on GHG emissions provides guidelines on how companies can establish their own emissions and reporting management systems. We highlight areas such as which questions organizations should ask themselves when building their plan and what the relevant regulatory requirements are for emissions reporting. This publication also outlines a series of roles for CPAs in supporting their organizations’ GHG emissions reduction efforts.

You can also check out our video overview of the recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), as established by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), to learn more about increasing demands from investors for enhanced climate-related disclosures.