As the new year begins, the ambitious efforts to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions
remain. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth assessment report, the planet has warmed just over 1 C relative to pre-industrial levels due to continually rising pollution.
However, Canada has not exceeded the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5 C or two degrees. As long emissions are reduced immediately and sustainably, it is possible to maintain temperatures below 2 C.
Nevertheless, Canada’s state of extreme weather changes threatens its prosperity. From heatwaves to flooding disasters in British Columbia, Canada is still demonstrating the critical need for climate-resilient measures.
The Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) is mandated under the legislation of the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which affirms the country’s commitment in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050 while holding themselves accountable for reaching this target. Through this plan, an interim greenhouse gas objective will also be set for 2026, which serves as a midpoint check between now and 2030.
The ERP emphasizes reducing carbon-emitting vehicles, electrical grids, and agriculture through mandating zero-emissions vehicles, reducing oil and gas methane emissions by 75 per cent, transitioning to a net-zero-emitting electricity grid by 2035, among other claims. The Steven Guilbeault, minister of environment and climate change, confirms that the ERP will be established by March 2022, giving provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, and the Net-Zero Advisory Body as much time to make their submissions.
Cecilia Parsons, spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada, explains that the Act is a legally binding process in setting five-year national emissions-reduction targets and allows a scientific basis for developing reduction plans.
“It establishes the 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target as Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement emissions reduction of 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.”
The Act also sets a 10-year-ahead target for national emissions reductions for 2035, 2040, and 2045. Among other requirements, Parsons states that “each emissions reduction plan must also explain how the measures and strategies outlined in the plan will contribute to Canada achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”
Pandemic emissions reductions, according to MIT researchers, will minimally impact emissions in 2030 and beyond. Essentially, they are unlikely to significantly contribute to the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, and will necessitate greater commitment from countries to reduce emissions. The global restrictions on anthropogenic activity, such as those imposed on industrial services and transportation, have resulted in significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.
However, the pandemic only slowed down overall concentrations, so Canada’s timeline to reduce emissions by 2030 may remain unaffected.
Professor Ian Lumb, a contract faculty member within the Faculty of Science, shares that the pandemic may not be part of Canada’s current commitments.
“Perhaps, surprisingly, allusions to the ongoing pandemic are absent from the commitments dialogue thus far. In terms of climate change, even the magnitude of global lockdowns resulted in a relatively minor emissions impact,” Lumb explains.
However, Lumb claims that the resounding pandemic crisis may benefit net-zero outcomes. “Innovation is a critical requirement for our collective pursuit of a decarbonized future. Because our runway for action is an ever decreasing one, the opportunity cost of the pandemic is likely to have been a negative when it comes to the highly collaborative interaction required to develop and deliver the most innovative solutions.”
As part of the global efforts to review the impacts of climate change, Egypt is hosting the 27th session of the UN’s annual Climate Change conference in 2022. The conference will not only promote global climate change discussions but will also examine the effects of climate change in Africa, given their vulnerability to excessive heat, floods, and droughts.
While focusing on long-term recovery, COP27 will assist African countries and the most affected nations in launching climate change-mitigation efforts.