Welcome to the Earth.Org Global Sustainability Index, where Earth.Org examines the policies and actions regarding the environment of every nation on earth. Combining the most respected global indexes on pollution, climate change, policy, energy, oceans, biodiversity we have produced an overall Global Index, which will be updated annually. This is the Global Sustainability Index scorecard for Canada.
Canada is the world’s 10th-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, exacerbating its melting permafrost fields. While two-thirds of its electricity is powered by hydroelectric dams and nuclear plants, the country has been slow to adopt other forms of low-carbon energy and cut its transport emissions. Transportation and production emissions from the oil and gas sector are the two largest sources of greenhouse gases in Canada, together accounting for roughly half of the country’s emissions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shown conflicting views regarding the climate crisis- while he has given a significant boost to Canada’s international climate funding compared to previous administrations and publicly acknowledges the urgency of the climate crisis, he also appears to prop up the fossil fuel industry, as seen in August 2018 when he announced a fresh approval of the Alberta-to-BC Trans Mountain pipeline the day after declaring a ‘national climate emergency’.
Canada is not currently on track to meet its 2030 climate goals of reducing emissions by 30%. While Trudeau has said that the country is ‘on track’ to meet this target, his own government’s reporting shows that even under a best-case scenario, total emissions will only be 19% below 2005 levels in 2030. The country generally does not have a good record on meeting emission reduction targets: it missed the 1992 Rio target and the 2005 Kyoto Protocol target (which it has since withdrawn from) and is likely to miss the 2020 Copenhagen target as well. According to Canada’s auditor generals’ report in 2018, emissions in 2020 are set to be nearly 20% above the target.
Canada is the fourth largest oil producer in the world, with 96% of its proven reserves located in oil sands. Not only do oil sands produce more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil, their extraction often involves the destruction of forests and peatlands.
However, the federal government has set a target of 90% electricity from non-emitting sources by 2030 as part of its wider climate framework, up from 82% in 2017. Further, the government announced regulations to phase out unabated coal-fired electricity by 2030.
Its national carbon pricing scheme is intended to give taxpayers back the money they pay for the tax via reductions in their tax bill or rebates and is expected to cut emissions by 80 to 90MtCO2 in 2022, or 13% of the country’s current total.
- Canada has set a federal carbon tax starting at $20 a ton in 2018, and increasing by $10 a year until April 2022 when it reaches $50. The bill also places taxes on natural gas, pump gas, propane, butane and aviation fuel.
- Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions per capita are far higher than G20 average, reaching 18.9 tons of CO2 equivalent per person in 2019. THe main causes for this are energy-inefficient buildings and strong pollution from Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the boreal forest are being cleared to tap into their rich oil reserves.
- Canada’s Paris Agreement pledges have been deemed insufficient by the Climate Action Tracker. They aim to reduce emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, which would place them at 518-557 metric tons of CO2 (MtCO2e) equivalent per year. They need to fall to 327 MtCO2e to meet 1.5°C requirements.
You might also like: Global Emissions (2016)
Biodiversity, Policy: Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G. (2019): Sustainable Development Report 2019. New York: Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
Oceans: Halpern, Benjamin S., et al. “An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean.” Nature 488.7413 (2012): 615-620.
Pollution: Wendling, Z. A., Emerson, J. W., Esty, D. C., Levy, M. A., de Sherbinin, A., et al. (2018). 2018 Environmental Performance Index. New Haven, CT: Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy. https://epi.yale.edu/
Climate Change: Climate Change Performance Index; Jan Burck, Ursula Hagen, Niklas Höhne, Leonardo Nascimento, Christoph Bals, ISBN 978-3-943704-75-4, 2019
Energy: Enerdata –World Energy Statistics – Yearbook.