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How Canada’s political parties are gearing up to fight climate change

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of today and therefore has become one of the major talking points of the current election cycle. Even though Canada has been making progress towards carbon-neutral energy production and electrification of road transportation, important technological, economic, and political challenges remain.​ Canada’s total GHG emissions in 2018 were 729 Mt CO2 eq and the oil and gas sector and transportation sector were the largest GHG emitters in Canada, accounting for 52 percent of total emissions (oil and gas: 26 percent, transportation: 25 percent) 

We look at what the major political parties propose to address the climate crisis during the 2021 Federal election. In particular, we focus on issues such as carbon pricing, achieving net-zero emission targets, and oil and gas production. 

Canada's total GHG emissions, 1990-2050

Source: Canadian Institute for Climate Choices (February 2021). Canada’s Net Zero Future; GACG Analysis and Visualization 

Carbon pricing 

All the parties seem to agree that there Canada needs to tax greenhouse gas emissions. The Liberals have previously proposed to gradually increase the carbon tax to $170/tonne by 2030, while the Conservatives want to set a carbon price at $20/tonne, which would increase to no more than $50/tonne. 

The Conservative Party of Canada also proposes a personal low-carbon savings account that Canadians will pay into each time they buy hydrocarbon-based fuel. The savings can later be used by households towards green purchases.  

The NDP’s plan is largely similar to that of the Liberal Party of Canada. The main difference is the previously announced by the party plan to have industrial emitters to pay for emissions exceeding 70 percent of their industry’s average as opposed to the 80, 90 and 95 percent currently in place. The party also claims it will “protect Canadian businesses who are taking action to transition to a low-carbon future” by putting in place a border carbon adjustment aimed at leveling the playing field on imports from countries that do not have a price on carbon. 

The Green Party wants to see carbon pricing increase by $25 per tonne each year until 2030. Similar to the NDP, the Green Party also wants to Introduce a ‘Carbon Border Adjustment’, to “ensure Canadian companies paying carbon taxes are not placed at a competitive disadvantage with foreign companies located in countries with no such taxes”

Net zero-emission targets 

All parties stress their commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The Liberals, if re-elected, promise to deliver on all policy and fiscal measures outlined in the Strengthened Climate Plan, implement the Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, and advance new measures to achieve a 40-45 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 2005.  

The CPC, in its platform, promises to meet the Paris climate goals and reduce emissions by 2030 and acknowledges that this can be done with the use of pricing mechanisms, yet it still argues for scrapping the currently in place carbon tax.  

NDP sets a more ambitious goal than the Liberals and intends to reduce Canada’s emissions by at least 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The Green Party’s plan sets out an even higher goal of a 60 percent reduction of GHG emissions by 2030. It should be noted that globally, Canada’s share of GHG emissions is less than 1.5 percent. Between 2005 and 2018, the amount of GHGs emitted per person decreased 13 percent from 22.6 to 19.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) per person. Over the same period, GHG per unit of gross domestic product decreased 20 percent from 0.44 to 0.35 megatonnes CO2 eq per billion dollars gross domestic product.  

Oil and Gas 

While the ruling party does promise to “make sure the oil and gas sector reduces emissions at a pace and scale needed to achieve net-zero by 2050”, in its platform, it does not say how it would address the oil & gas production.  

At the same time, the CPC says it is committed to getting the Trans Mountain pipeline built. Conservatives also want to prioritize pipelines that bring Canadian oil to export markets, implement a federal LNG Export Strategy, invest $1.5 billion in offshore rebound fund to continue the growth of Newfoundland & Labrador’s Offshore Oil Industry, introduce a Renewable Natural Gas Mandate requiring 15 percent of downstream consumption to be renewable by 2030 and establish a minimum requirement of 15 percent renewable content in natural gas by 2030.  

The NDP proposes to, “support environmental remediation and job creation by getting tough on polluters and forcing big oil companies to pay to clean up inactive wells.”   

And the Green Party wants to end all extraction of fossil fuels in Canada, including cancelling all new pipeline and oil exploration projects, ending leasing of federal lands for fossil fuel production, retiring existing licenses, and all subsidies to the fossil fuel sector. Greens also want to phase out existing oil and gas operations, require federal public investment funds to divest from fossil fuels and ensure companies are held accountable for paying for the costs of cleaning up and restoring land. 

Nuclear energy (Small Modular Reactors) 

The Liberal Party has previously tabled its plan to make nuclear technology part of the clean energy transformation. The party has also invested heavily in Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) as they see them as a way to help decarbonize heavy industry.  

Conservatives promise to invest $5 billion over the next five years to fund programs to make significant advances in various innovative sectors, including SMRs.  

Unlike the LCP and CPC, the New Democrats do not support funding of nuclear energy in Canada and instead wants to support the development of energy storage solutions to promote renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind.  

Similarly, the Greens want to institute a ban on the further development of nuclear power in Canada focusing instead on ensuring that 100 per cent of Canadian electricity is produced from renewable sources by 2030. They also propose to create a national energy corridor for green renewable
energy by “building up the inter-ties needed to link existing provincial grids” and implement a national, non-emitting electricity grid to help the country meet its net-zero targets. 

Carbon capture 

Budget 2021 earmarked $319 million over seven years for “research, development, and demonstrations” of carbon capture technology. Another notable initiative of Liberal government is the $8 billion Net Zero Accelerator (NZA) to support projects which would enable the country to reduce its domestic GHG emissions, including a $25 million investment in a novel low-cost carbon capture technology by developed by Svante Inc.  

The Conservative plan says $5 billion will be invested in Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS). 

The NDP does not mention carbon capture in its platform, and the Green Party says it will ”recognize and act on the potential of carbon sequestration in soil and by implementing policies and programs that provide incentives for sustainably increasing organic matter (carbon capture) in the soil through regenerative practices while ensuring that these incentives are equitable, inclusive, and do not disadvantage small farmers”. 

Zero-Emission Vehicles  (ZEV) 

The LPC is committed to ensuring 100 percent of vehicles sold in Canada are zero-emission by 2035 and supporting automakers and auto-workers to produce ZEV in Canada. Thus, if re-elected, Liberals propose to invest an additional $1.5 billion in the iZev program and extend eligibility to a broader range of vehicle types, including used vehicles, to help more Canadians get into a zero-emissions vehicle. They also want to invest an additional $700 million to add 50,000 new electric vehicle chargers and hydrogen stations. The party promises to work with industry, labour, and other stakeholders to develop a requirement that at least 50 percent of all new light-duty vehicle sales are ZEV by 2030. 

Other ZEV initiatives in the LPC platform include:   

  • Provide $100 million to make sure existing buildings can install charging stations, removing a barrier to adopting a clean car. 
  • Double down to attract investments and jobs in manufacturing zero-emission vehicles in Canada through the $8 billion Net Zero Accelerator . 
  • Accelerate the Greening Government commitments to electrify the entire federal fleet of light-duty vehicles by 2030, up from our existing target of 80 percent by 2030.
  • Require 100 percent of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sales to be zero-emission by 2040, where feasible.  
  • Invest $200 million to retrofit large trucks currently on the road to cut pollution now.

The CPC’s plan includes a zero-emission vehicle mandate based on British Columbia’s, requiring 30 percent of light-duty vehicles sold to be zero emissions by 2030. It also promises to work with the U.S. to strengthen vehicle emission standards in North America. 

Other ZEV initiatives in the CPC platform: 

  • Investing in transmission infrastructure to bring clean energy to where it’s needed and ensure that our electricity grid can support the growth in electric vehicles; 
  • Investing a billion dollars in building out electric vehicle manufacturing in Canada, including investing in battery production, parts manufacturing, micro-mobility solutions and electric trucks;
  • Investing a billion dollars in deploying hydrogen technology, including hydrogen vehicles;
  • Working with the U.S. to set a standard for charging and then add mandatory charging stations or wiring required for chargers to the national building code; 
  • Working with provinces, territories, and municipalities to encourage the inclusion of a minimum number of EV charging spaces for new developments; 
  • Requiring that every building where the federal government has employees or offers services to the public and provides parking to have a charging station by 2025; and 
  • Supporting improved electric vehicle battery repurposing and recycling to lower the environmental impact of these batteries and lower the cost of vehicles on the resale market

The NDP promises to make sure that more ZEVs are built in Canada. The party says it would extend federal incentives for ZEVs and provide a tax break for working families on ZEV purchases that would go as high as $15,000 per family for made-in-Canada vehicles. The NDP also wants to expand the use of ZEVs in the public sector and freight vehicles. The party, if elected, says it would build out Canada’s charging infrastructure and help people purchasing new or used ZEVs cover the cost of installing a plug-in charger. New Democrats also propose to create a centre of excellence for research and development of ZEVs to move forward related technologies and look for further opportunities related to green hydrogen fuel cell technology.  

In its platform, the Green Party says it would ban the sale of internal combustion vehicles by 2030, exempt new and used electric and zero-emission vehicles from federal sales tax, expand the network of charging stations for EV, complete the conversion of all passenger ferries to electric or hybrid systems by 2030. The party also promises to create a national cycling and walking infrastructure fund to help support zero-emissions active transportation, develop a Green Freight Transport program in partnership with the freight industry, shipping companies and delivery businesses. 

Given the seriousness of the issues this country and the world are facing in terms of climate change. In order to reach the net-zero emission targets by 2050 the country has committed to and that all the major parties support, the new government will need to support innovative solutions and implement bold policies to ensure Canada’s prosperity and well-being.  

Read more about Global Advantage Consulting Group’s analysis of the 2021 Federal Budget here.

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