Canadians want action on climate change. We want our government to not just commit to doing its part to fight climate change, but also to deliver on that commitment. As a nation we have missed every greenhouse gas reduction target set by the Canadian government prior to the current 2030 target. This happens, at least in part, because the broader public can find the technical details and the long time-frames involved in climate leadership confusing, and governments can accordingly get away with failing to plan or live up to its plans.
That’s why countries around the world are establishing the same types of accountability measures used in financial planning – budgets, independent audits, long- and short term plans, etc. – to address climate change. Notably, the United Kingdom through its 2008 Climate Change Act, has managed to reduce its greenhouse gas reduction targets to 38% below 1990 levels (equivalent to its 1890 levels).,
It’s time to break the cycle of empty target-setting in Canada.
That’s why Climate Action Network Canada has been leading the charge for a Canadian Climate Accountability Act since 2016 . We sent Prime Minster Trudeau and his Minsters a letter outlining our plan for such an act in 2018. We know it’s absolutely possible to reach Canada’s current goal of reducing GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 . We also know the 2030 target does not represent our fair share of addressing global climate change and that Canada needs to do more. Climate Action Network Canada estimations of Canada’s fair share contribution suggests we should be reducing domestic emissions by 60% below 2005 levels by 2030 while increasing our contribution to international efforts so as to achieve the equivalent of 80% reductions below 2005 levels outside of national borders. We’ve thought hard about what this means for Canada’s climate plan, and how we can improve on the solid backbone of the federal government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth.
We have scored some big wins since 2016. In 2018, the Canadian government allocated $20 million to support the creation of an expert climate institute for Canada, now launched as the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices. And during the 2019 election, the Liberals, who went on to win the election, promised to enshrine new Canadian climate goals in law.
We have a lot to say about what those laws should look like in order to ensure Canada never misses another climate target. In partnership with 5 member organizations and allies – Ecojustice, West Coast Environmental Law, Environmental Defence, Équiterre and the Pembina Institute – we have conducted a detailed review of the scholarship and evidence from a number of other jurisdictions. This research demonstrates that domestic climate accountability legislation is a key means to consolidate political support for climate agendas, to provide the framework for implementation of the Paris Agreement and for assessing progress, as well as to enable ratcheting-up of ambition going forward.
We have identified 5 pillars of a Canadian Climate Accountability Act. Read our brief for more detail!
 Canada, in signing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, agreed in principle that (as a Developed Country) it would “take the lead” to “protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.” (Article 3(1)). Under the Kyoto Protocol, in 1997, Canada committed to reduce its emissions by 6% relative to 1990 levels. In 2007 the Canadian government committed to reduce its GHG emissions by 20% relative to 2007 levels by 2020, but this was rolled back to a 17% reduction relative to 2005 levels by 2020 in the Copenhagen Agreement. It is virtually impossible for Canada to meet either of these targets in the next two years, and government has simply stopped talking about them. Canada’s 2016 GHG emissions of 704 MT were approximately 3.8% below 2005 levels, 5.5% below 2007 levels and 16.7% above 1990 levels.
 Carbon Brief, “Analysis: UK Emissions in 2017 fell to levels last seen in 1890” (March 7, 2018), available at: https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-uk-carbon-emissions-in-2017-fell-to-levels-last-seen-in-1890
 Canada also had laws requiring some accountability in relation to our Kyoto Protocol targets, but then withdrew from the Protocol and repealed that legislation before taking the steps necessary to institutionalize accountability and achieve our targets. Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, S.C. 2007, c. 30, repealed by S.C. 2012, c. 19, s. 699. Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, which passed by the House of Commons in 2010 but was defeated in the Senate, would have created similar accountability structures for Canada’s post-Kyoto greenhouse gas targets.
 Still Minding the Gap: An Assessment of Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Obligations. Deep Decarbonization Pathways Team. 2016. 1 https://climateactionnetwork.ca/2016/04/26/still-minding-the-gap/
 Alina Averchenkova, “Legislating for a low carbon and climate resilient transition: learning from international experiences,” (January 2019) Elcano Policy Paper at p. 7.