Canada joined 36 other countries in May and submitted its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC in advance of the Paris COP 21. Canada’s INDC is noteworthy in that it contains some interesting points. First, Canada has targeted an economy-wide reduction of 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In comparison to the US INDC which sets out an economy-wide target of 26–28 percent below 2005 level in 2025, Canada’s target appears more aggressive. However, Canada has given itself an extra five years to reach this target (33 percent more time than the US), so it is arguably less aggressive. Another interesting feature of Canada’s INDC is that it allows for the use of “international mechanisms” to achieve its target. Based on the language “subject to robust systems that deliver real and verified emissions reductions”, such mechanisms appear to mean offsets or verified emission reductions. Canada has historically avoided the use of international offsets as a mechanism for reaching its emission reduction goals, so this is a departure from that approach and signals what could be the beginning of Canada joining the international emissions trading market.

In determining its GHG reduction target, Canada’s INDC makes note of the unique challenges it faces in achieving this goal: a growing population, extreme temperatures, a large landmass and a diversified growing economy with significant natural resources. It notes that despite these challenges, Canada has one of the cleanest electricity systems among G-7 and G-20 nations and one of the cleanest in the world, with almost 80 percent of its electricity supply emitting no greenhouse gases. The INDC also notes that although Canada represents only 1.6 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, it is committed to continuing to take decisive actions in concert with its major emitters to reduce its emissions through new policies in additional sectors and coordinated continental action in integrated sectors. The INDC notes that from 2005 to 2013, Canadian greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 3.1 percent while Canada’s economy grew by 12.9 percent. Lastly, although the INDC addresses the reduction of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector generally, it does not specifically address regulating oil sands-related GHG emissions, other than to say that it will focus on climate-related investments in innovative production technologies to drive further improvements in environmental performance in the oil sands and other growing sectors.