13 Nationally Determined Committments

As noted in the Paris Agreement each signatory country must develop its own Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to reduce emissions of climate changing gases (UNFCCU, n.d.).   As the NDC is Canada’s commitment to a legally binding treaty, it is reasonable to assume some of these commitments will turn into regulations.  The Government of Canada (Canada) has published the NDC and the United Nations holds them in a publicly available registry (UNFCCU, n.d.).   The following sections reflect the document but have been shortened for brevity.  Canada’s NDC is based upon the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and the Environment.

The following is the author’s summary of the plan filed with the UN (UN, n.d.).

Canada’s Nationally Determined Commitment

Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) has a number of overarching goals established by the federal government.  Contributing to those goals are local commitments that vary with the province or territory making the commitment.  Canada has committed to:

  • Net zero by 2050
  • 40 to 45% reduction of 2005 GHG emissions by 2030
  • Reduce methane emissions by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030
  • Reduce methane emissions 75% below 2012 levels by 2030

Many plans and strategies use a concept called “pillars” to categorize the types of actions they envision. The Canadian NDC considers the following “pillars” of action including:

Cutting Energy Waste

The section or pillar, as Canada labels it, is concerned with reducing energy consumption at personal residences.  It aspires to reduce emissions by improving efficiencies.  In terms of regulatory initiatives the most interesting ones are:

  • Developing a retrofit building code for existing buildings by 2025
  • Developing a net zero building code by 2024 (Lockhart, 2022)

Clean Affordable Transportation and Power

The Clean Affordable Transportation and Power section or pillar as Canada discusses it, is about electric vehicles (EVs), infrastructure, and low carbon electricity to power them.  Some highlights from a regulatory perspective include:

  • A target for zero emission light duty vehicles by 2035 and 2050
  • A goal to work with the United States to align standards for vehicles

There are many other initiatives outlined in this pillar, but they are predominately investment rather than regulation in nature.  Investment commitments include investing in $150 million in infrastructure, mostly to provide EV public charging ports.  As of July 2022, the federal government had a target of 50,000 zero emission charging ports (Canada, 2022).  The number of ports is not included in the NDC.

The federal government has started to write the regulations to make the targets law.  They are currently under consultation (Canada, 2023).

How many ports will be needed to support the larger goals of 100% new cars being EVs by 2035? The number of chargers forecast varies but one estimate is 650,000 by 2035 (Banks, Jarratt, 2020).  Today, Canada has over 5,000 chargers according to the CAA (CAA, 2023).

Carbon Pricing

The carbon pricing section or pillar is a major strategy. Carbon pricing involves improving and continuing the current program of carbon pricing. As noted in an earlier chapter, carbon pricing was tested in the supreme court of Canada and found to be a federal responsibility.  In terms of regulatory activity the most interesting targets are:

  • Carbon pricing rising to $170 per tonne by 2030

Industrial Emissions

The section or pillar of industrial emissions this is about reducing energy consumption in industries. In terms of regulatory the most interesting goals or targets are:

  • Net zero investment tax credit
  • Reduction of methane emissions (refer to the next chapter on methane regulations)


The fifth section or pillar is perhaps the most cryptic in the author’s view. In terms of regulatory initiatives the most interesting commitments are:

  • Develop a model climate action plans for farmers
  • Protecting 25% of land and oceans by 2025 (see also the international biodiversity convention)
  • Further increasing protection of lands and oceans to 30% by 2030
  • Standardized inventory calculations based on IPCC guidance. Standards are required as otherwise calculations may result in varied reporting

Net zero by 2050

Additional to the five pillars of the NDC is Canada’s commitment to net-zero by 2050.  As an interim goal, Canada has set 2030 as the date to reduce carbon equivalent emissions by 40 to 45% below 2005 emissions.


Canada is a federation and a constitutional democracy as noted previously.  As a federation the provinces and territories have roles that will need to be in step with federal commitments in order for Canada to make its interim and final net zero goals.  Despite a proliferation of “Made in (insert your favorite province here)” climate plans, in order for Canada to meet the net zero target, all sectors and all areas will need to contribute to the plan.

British Columbia

British Columbia (BC) has set GHG targets under its Climate Change Accountability Act, SBC 2007, c 42 to be the following:

  • 40% reduction below base year 2007 by 2030
  • 60% reduction by 2040
  • 80% reduction by 2050

They also have sectorial targets and have promised to update legislation for net zero by 2050 target.  From a regulatory perspective BC also aims to achieve the following goals:

  • Establish a low carbon fuel standard
  • Support the introduction of zero emission vehicles with a Zero-Emission Vehicles Act, SBC 2019, c 29 which sets further goals
    • 26% of light duty vehicles to be no emissions by 2026
    • 90% of light duty vehicles to be no emissions by 2030
    • 100% of light duty vehicles to be no emissions by 2035
    • 10,000 public EV charging stations by 2030

Other BC targets include:

  • Industrial methane reductions of 75% by 2030
  • Virtual elimination of industrial methane emissions by 2035


Alberta has committed to the actions that will reduce its GHG emissions, but it has not made any commitments to targets reducing GHG emission levels:

  • 45% reduction of the base year 2014 methane levels by 2025
  • 30% renewables mix of electricity generation by 2030
  • Coal phased out for electricity generation in the province by a maximum of 2030
  • A cap on oil sands emissions of 100Mt per year
  • Geothermal regulations are projected

No overall commitment to reduce GHG emissions by the target years for 2030 or 2050 could be located in 2022.  The cap of 100 Mt is set in an act, Oil Sands Emissions Limit Act, SA 2016, c O-7.5.  This target was set prior to the NDC being set and had a cushion allowing for expansion from actual emissions in 2016.  At the time the regulation was published the cap would allow oilsands to expand another 47% from 2014 levels (Hussey, 2017).  To be clear it is not a reduction target, it is a growth target.


Saskatchewan’s contribution to the NDC is  published its document “Prairie Resilience”.  Some of the NDC targets include:

  • Increasing protected areas
  • SaskPower is a government owned utility and has announced targets of GHG reductions from electrical generation by at least 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030
  • reduce methane emissions in the province by over 40 per cent between 2020-2025
  • Sector specific output based performance standards on facilities emitting more than 25,000 tonnes of CO2eq per year.


Manitoba established the Climate and Green Plan Act C.C.S.M. c. C134 in 2018.  It requires targets to be set.  From a regulatory perspective:

  • modernizing building codes
  • increased biodiesel and ethanol requirements for fuels
  • review every five years

For more on Manitoba you can read its plan.


Ontario has an interesting regulatory history.  Its  Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, SO 2016, c 7 was repealed in 2018 on the election of a new government.  The Ontario government produced a “Made in Ontario” environmental plan including climate change.  The strategic plan was revised in 2022, but was not legislated.

The government has committed to an “emissions reduction target of reducing GHG emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030″. Other elements of their plan include:

  • performance standards for large, industrial emitters
  • cleaner transportation fuels
  • low-carbon hydrogen discussion paper
  • increasing the capacity of public transit network,
  • supporting clean tech and investing in retooling Ford of Canada’s Oakville  complex into a hub
    for battery electric vehicle production.
  • phasing out food and organic waste sent to landfill by 2030, reducing the amount of methane
  • advance small nuclear reactors (SMRs) as a clean energy option
  • expanding access to natural gas across the province


Quebec manages its climate actions under the Environment Quality Act, CQLR c Q-2.  Under this Act there are several regulations that pertain to climate change including how to set caps in their cap and trade system.  Additional acts include “An Act mainly to ensure effective governance of the fight against climate change and to promote electrification, SQ 2020, c 19″.  It may not be an easy translation.

Quebec has targets of reducing GHGs to 37.5% below 1990 levels by 2030.  Interestingly the Quebec government has issued an order in council to be compliant with the Paris agreement.  Quebec also has a cap and trade system for GHG linked to California (Quebec, n.d.)

New Brunswick

New Brunswick created its Climate Change Act, SNB 2018, c 1 in 2018.  As part of the Act it set targets of emissions including the following targets:

  • 14.8 megatonnes in 2020
  • 10.7 megatonnes in 2030
  • 5 megatonnes in 2050

New Brunswick issued its 2020 report on its progress. In the report progress is reported on its 118 specific commitments and it has currently achieved 34% reduction of 2005 levels of GHG emissions.  See the report here.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has established the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, SNS 2007, c 7 to manage its climate change actions.   It replaced that act with the Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act, SNS 2021, c 20.   The later act lists Nova Scotia’s commitment as :

The Government’s targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions are (a) by 2030, to be at least 53% below the levels that were emitted in 2005; and (b) by 2050, to be net zero, by balancing greenhouse gas emis­sions with greenhouse gas removals and other offsetting measures”

From a regulatory perspective an interesting component of the act is a reference to Indigenous knowledge.  The following is excerpted from the act:

“the environment and economy must be managed for the benefit of present and future generations, which is in keeping with the Mi’kmaq concept of Netukulimk, defined by the Mi’kmaq as the use of the natural bounty provided by the Creator for the self-support and well-being of the individual and the community by achieving adequate standards of community nutrition and economic well-being without jeopardizing the integrity, diversity or productivity of our environment”

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

Prince Edward Island (PEI) aims to obtain Net Zero by 2040 under the Climate Leadership Act, RSPEI 1988, c C-9.1.  PEI has a plan but believes it can reach its targets with no further initiatives, so it is unlikely there will be many new rules associated with its contribution to the NDC.


Newfoundland has set a GHG target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.  They have a government motion for Net Zero by 2050.  Newfoundland has passed the Management of Greenhouse Gas Act.   It is listed as an Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities in Newfoundland.  There is are five  supporting regulations as listed in Canlii:

An additional Newfoundland commitment is that by 2021,  98% of Newfoundland’s electricity will come from renewable energy.


The Yukon has a climate change plan called “Our Clean Future: A Yukon strategy for climate change, energy and a green economy”  In the strategic plan, which is not a regulation, the plan commits to:

  • reduce Yukon’s emissions
  • reliable, affordable, renewable energy
  • adapt to Climate Change
  • a green economy

As part of the plan they have set targets including GHG emissions 30 per cent lower than they were in 2010 by 2030.   Their regulatory issues might include

  • building code updates
  • developing intensity limits for mining sector
  • requirements for zero emission vehicles to be 10 per cent of light-duty
    vehicles sales by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.

Their main act in support of climate change is the Clean Energy Act which is currently (SIC 2021) in consultation.  It has not been passed yet.  You can read more here.

Northwest Territories

Similar to the Yukon, the Northwest Territories (NWT) has developed a strategic plan.  Alone this is not a regulatory requirement.  You can read more here.  The plan has three distinct goals repeated here from the plan.

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Increasing understanding of climate change impacts occurring in the NWT
  • Building resilience and adapting to a changing climate

Currently (sic 2022) no legislated action can be found.


The government of Nunavut currently has no GHG reduction targets.  They have informational resources available on their web site.  In 2018 the Auditor General of Canada audited climate change issues in Nunavut and concluded there were strategies, but no specific implementation plans.

No regulatory activity could be found when the search was completed in 2022.

Section Conclusion

Canada’s NDC has  a clear vision, that is not clearly articulated by some provinces and territories.  The notable province is Alberta with the largest emissions and no overall targets.  With the disjointed approach where each jurisdiction makes their own rules there is opportunity for inequality and a reduction in probability that these overall targets will actually be met.

Learning Questions

  1. Can you articulate a reason that Nunavut would not have climate change targets?
  2. Articulate a reason that climate targets vary widely?
  3. Can you determine why some provinces and territories have legislated targets and others just have a strategic plan?
  4. What is the weakness of a strategic plan?


Unless noted otherwise with a citation the commitments are from:

UNFCCU. (2021). Canada’s 2021 nationally determined contribution under the Paris agreement. Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/NDC/2022-06/Canada%27s%20Enhanced%20NDC%20Submission1_FINAL%20EN.pdf

Other references in this chapter include the following:

Banks B., Jarratt E., (2022). The real story on how many EV chargers Canada actually needs. Electric Autonomy Canada.  Retrieved from https://electricautonomy.ca/2022/07/14/how-many-ev-chargers-does-canada-need/

Canada (2022). Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/pan-canadian-framework.html

Canada (2021). Canada’s Enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2021/04/canadas-enhanced-nationally-determined-contribution.html

Canada. (2023). Proposed regulated sales targets for zero-emission vehicles. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2022/12/proposed-regulated-sales-targets-for-zero-emission-vehicles.html

CAA (2023). Electric vehicles. Retrieved from https://www.caa.ca/sustainability/electric-vehicles/#:~:text=5000%2B%20charging%20stations,vehicle%20charging%20stations%20in%20Canada.

Climate Change Accountability Act, SBC 2007, c 42

Climate Change Act, SNB 2018, c 1

Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, SO 2016, c 7 – repealed

Climate and Green Plan Act C.C.S.M. c. C134

Climate Leadership Act, RSPEI 1988, c C-9.1. 

Environment Quality Act, CQLR c Q-2

Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, SNS 2007, c 7 -repealed

Environmental Goals and Climate Change Reduction Act, SNS 2021, c 20

Hussey I. (2017). Five things to know about Alberta’s oil sands emissions cap.  Parkland Institute. Retrieved from https://www.parklandinstitute.ca/five_things_to_know_about_albertas_oil_sands_emissions_cap

Lockhart, K. (2022). Making a net-zero emissions building code by 2024 a reality. Efficiency Canada. Retrieved from https://www.efficiencycanada.org/net-zero-emissions-building-code-by-2024/

Management of Greenhouse Gas Act, SNL 2018, c40

NT. (n.d.) Climate Change. Retrieved from https://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/en/services/climate-change/2030-nwt-climate-change-strategic-framework

Oil Sands Emissions Limit Act, SA 2016, c O-7.5

Quebec. (n.d.) The Carbon Market, a Green Economy Growth Tool! Retrieved from https://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/changementsclimatiques/marche-carbone_en.asp#:~:text=The%20carbon%20market%20is%20therefore,transportation%20electrification%2C%20etc.).

Saskatchewan. (n.d.). Saskatchewan’s Climate Change Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.saskatchewan.ca/business/environmental-protection-and-sustainability/a-made-in-saskatchewan-climate-change-strategy/saskatchewans-climate-change-strategy

Zero-Emission Vehicles Act, SBC 2019, c 29

UNFCCU. (n.d.) The Paris Agreement. Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement#:~:text=The%20Paris%20Agreement%20is%20a,compared%20to%20pre%2Dindustrial%20levels.

Yukon (2023) Our clean future. Retrieved from https://yukon.ca/our-clean-future


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Regulations and the Environment Copyright © 2023 by Tim Taylor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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