On November 19, 2020, the federal government introduced Bill C-12, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, the latest in a series of federal government initiatives aimed at satisfying Canada's obligations under the Paris Agreement, which establishes the framework for national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to attain net-zero emissions by 2050.

Overview

The main features of Bill C-12 include:

  1. the requirement to set national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for each milestone year of 2030, 2035, 2040, and 2045, culminating in a national net-zero emission target by 2050;
  2. the requirement to establish an emissions reduction plan in respect of the targets for each milestone year, which must be developed in consultation with other federal ministers having duties and functions relating to the measures that will be undertaken to achieve the applicable target, along with the requirement for progress reports no later than two years before each milestone, assessment reports no later than 30 days following each milestone date and advisory body reports issued annually; and
  3. the establishment of an advisory body, comprised of up to 15 persons whose mandate is to provide advice with respect to meeting such targets, including industry sector specific strategies, and to conduct public engagement in furtherance of achieving such targets.

Key Takeaways

For those reading Bill C-12 in hopes of understanding how Canada will actually meet its net-zero emission ambitions, disappointment awaits. And while Bill C-12 lays out myriad reports with varying frequency of delivery, the actual emission reduction requirements themselves are to come at a later date.

Nevertheless, Bill C-12 signifies the federal government's continued commitment to address, and be seen to address, climate change. It is clear that when it comes to emission reduction requirements, the federal government's pricing of carbon (Federal Carbon Pricing Backstop) was only the beginning. Certain of such additional measures are known, at least at a conceptual level, as the federal government has been developing a clean fuel standard for years, with the release of such first drafts expected to be imminent. It remains to be seen however what additional greenhouse gas emission reduction plans are on the way. However, if passed, Bill C-12 will require such plans, at least in respect of the 2030 reduction target, to be established no later than six months from it coming into effect.