In the fall of 2006, the Canadian Government asked the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) to look at issues concerning national long-term climate change and air pollution policies. NRTEE was asked to provide advice on how Canada's greenhouse gas (GHG) and air pollutant emissions could be reduced significantly by 2050.

The NRTEE based its research on the federal government's Turning the Corner policy. In the policy, the targets for GHG were 20% below 2006 levels by 2020 and 60% to 70% below 2006 levels by 2050. The NRTEE research concluded that, with some key enabling conditions and acknowledgement of certain uncertainties and risk, the transition would be manageable. In reaching that conclusion, NRTEE had three core assumptions:

1. The overall objective of Canada's climate change policy should be to contribute to the global goal of climate stabilization;

2. Canada's medium- and long-term emission reduction targets have been defined; and

3. Canada has national environmental and economic circumstances that need to be taken into account when designing climate change and clean air policies.

Enabling Conditions for Managing the Transition

The NRTEE concluded that there need to be five enabling conditions that should be reflected in Canada's climate change policy framework in order to manage the transition to a low-emission future. They are:

  • A need to ensure Canada will work in concert with the rest of the world and that any adverse economic consequences of policy action are minimized;
  • A need for policy certainty beyond the short term, to create long-term predictability for new investment in innovation and technology;
  • An economy-wide emission price signal, complemented with regulatory policies, as the core element of a policy framework;
  • Wide deployment of low-emission technologies and specific technology policies; and
  • An integrated approach to climate change and air pollution.

Recommendations for GHG Emissions

1. Implement a strong, clear and consistent GHG emission price signal across the entire Canadian economy as soon as possible to avoid higher emission prices;

2. Institute a market-based policy that is similar to an emission tax or a cap-and-trade system or a combination of both;

3. Develop complementary regulatory policies in conjunction with the emission price signal, which would support research, development and demonstration of technologies, as well as strategic investment in infrastructure;

4. Establish a Canada-wide plan as soon as possible to better coordinate all complementary federal, provincial and territorial GHG emission reduction policies; and

5. Apply GHG emission reduction policies that incorporate adaptive management practices and have built-in monitoring and assessment mechanisms to allow for regular review to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.


The NRTEE concluded that, to better understand risk minimization associated with transitioning to a low emission society, additional policy research must be conducted. These issues include:

  • Further analysis of data gaps and modelling;
  • Policy design issues on proposed market-based instruments;
  • A "bottom-up" analysis of sectoral and regional implications of policy design;
  • Governance issues related to all levels of coordination of climate change policies; and
  • Consideration of potential benefits of addressing climate change.

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