Media Releases

Canadian governments must address the real climate-change challenge

May 15, 2013

Agreeing on provincial shares of the overall Canadian reduction goal

TORONTO — To reach Canada’s goal of reduc­ing green­house gas (GHG) emis­sions to 17 per cent below the 2005 lev­el by the year 2020, fed­er­al and provin­cial gov­ern­ments, led by the Prime Min­is­ter and provin­cial pre­miers, must reach agree­ment on what por­tion of the total GHG reduc­tion will be pro­vid­ed by each province, say researchers from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s School of the Envi­ron­ment. Their report is being sent to all Cana­di­an fed­er­al and provin­cial gov­ern­ments, oppo­si­tion par­ties and oth­er par­tic­i­pants in the cli­mate pol­i­cy dia­logue.
“Cana­di­an gov­ern­ments have always known that allo­ca­tion of reduc­tions was their great­est chal­lenge, but have refused to face that fact because they believed it was too divi­sive,” said lead author Dou­glas Mac­don­ald. “But expe­ri­ences in oth­er juris­dic­tions such as the Euro­pean Union show that effec­tive pol­i­cy is impos­si­ble unless the fed­er­al and provin­cial gov­ern­ments stand up to that chal­lenge.”
This is because analy­sis by Envi­ron­ment Cana­da and the for­mer Nation­al Round Table on Envi­ron­ment and Econ­o­my shows that cur­rent fed­er­al and provin­cial pro­grams will only achieve half of the tar­get by 2020. To reach the full tar­get, gov­ern­ments must dou­ble their efforts. Accord­ing to the researchers, that is impos­si­ble in the absence of a coor­di­nat­ed nation­al pol­i­cy, because each of the 11 fed­er­al and provin­cial gov­ern­ments is act­ing alone to imple­ment its own cli­mate change pol­i­cy. “No sin­gle gov­ern­ment will dou­ble its effort know­ing that it alone can­not achieve the Cana­di­an goal and with no guar­an­tee oth­er gov­ern­ments will also act,” said Mac­don­ald.
The basic prob­lem which gov­ern­ments refuse to face is that GHG reduc­tion impos­es much high­er costs upon the oil-pro­duc­ing provinces, in par­tic­u­lar Alber­ta and Saskatchewan, than upon oth­er provinces explains Mac­don­ald. Under­stand­ably, the oil-pro­duc­ing provinces are less moti­vat­ed than oth­ers, which mean their ris­ing emis­sions will under­cut action tak­en by oth­er provinces or the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. But in the absence of any sys­tem for devel­op­ing coor­di­nat­ed nation­al cli­mate pol­i­cy it is impos­si­ble to reach agree­ment on how to share emis­sion reduc­tion costs and so ensure effec­tive action in all provinces.
The U of T report draws on stud­ies of the allo­ca­tion prob­lem in Cana­da and oth­er juris­dic­tions to rec­om­mend that Cana­di­an fed­er­al and provin­cial gov­ern­ments:
1. Estab­lish a fed­er­al-provin­cial process of coor­di­nat­ed cli­mate-change pol­i­cy devel­op­ment, led by First Min­is­ters
2. Use that process to reach agree­ment on an equi­table shar­ing of the over-all cost, using mech­a­nisms such as dif­fer­ing provin­cial tar­gets or finan­cial assis­tance for those affect­ed
3. Set the new post-2020 tar­get, as Cana­da has agreed to do under the Unit­ed Nations Frame­work Con­ven­tion for Cli­mate Change 2011 Dur­ban Plat­form for Enhanced Action, at home with full agree­ment of the provinces includ­ing agree­ment on GHG reduc­tion allo­ca­tion, rather than hav­ing the tar­get set by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment alone at an inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ence.
“The present sys­tem is not work­ing,” said Mac­don­ald. “We need to do things dif­fer­ent­ly and the EU, and to a less­er extent Aus­tralia and Ger­many, offer mod­els for address­ing Canada’s need to share the cost of GHG reduc­tions in a way in which those in all parts of the coun­try believe is fair and rea­son­able. We need lead­er­ship from the Prime Min­is­ter and all provin­cial Pre­miers. They have to start work­ing togeth­er.”
The exec­u­tive sum­ma­ry and the full report Allo­cat­ing Cana­di­an green­house gas emis­sion reduc­tions amongst sources and provinces: learn­ing from the EU, Aus­tralia and Ger­many are avail­able at
The report is the result of a three-year study done by fac­ul­ty and grad­u­ate stu­dents at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, Tech­nis­che Uni­ver­si­tat Darm­stadt, Ger­many and Wagenin­gen Uni­ver­si­ty, The Nether­lands. Fund­ing was pro­vid­ed by the Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties Research Coun­cil. “We hope to start a bad­ly need­ed con­ver­sa­tion in Cana­da,” Mac­don­ald said.
For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:
Dou­glas Mac­don­ald
School of the Envi­ron­ment
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
office: 416–978-1558
cell: 647–961-0773
home: 416–686-0773
Jes­si­ca Lewis
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Fac­ul­ty of Arts & Sci­ence
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to