March, 2022 – To confront the threat of a warming and increasingly volatile climate, the federal government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030 on the path to net zero emissions by 2050.

But to reach its 2030 and 2050 climate goals, Canada must shift toward the implementation of ambitious climate policies that build on the established framework.

The federal government’s first Emissions Reduction Plan for 2030 was published in March 2022. It is an important first requirement of the Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. The plan establishes an emissions reduction objective for 2026, aligned with the 2030 milestone. It is the first in what will be a series of emissions reduction plans mandated by law in future years. Crucially, the 2030 plan must be both credible and adaptive to ensure Canada can develop and implement a policy package to reach those targets.

Our report, Setting Canada up for Success: A framework for Canada’s Emissions Reduction Plans, proposes a framework for an effective Emissions Reduction Plan that draws on the Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, international best practices in stocktaking, policy expertise from the Institute’s Expert Panels, and the Institute’s experience in independent policy assessment.



The report outlines three elements that will help ensure an Emissions Reduction Plan can credibly deliver greehouse gas reductions consistent with Canada’s climate ambitions.

As a first level of credibility, the Emissions Reduction Plan must identify, as per the Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, national milestones consistent with an emissions pathway to net zero by 2050.

This should include transparent modelling and analysis that defines a technologically achievable emissions pathway to the milestone. The emissions pathway should be stress tested to increase the robustness and credibility of emissions projections by illustrating how planned actions fare under different scenarios. And the plan should include emissions pathways by sector. 

A credible Emissions Reduction Plan should identify federal, provincial, and territorial policy measures capable of delivering on the milestones or objective.

Policy measures need to be detailed, specific, and concrete. The plan should include transparent analytics that demonstrate the contribution of policies to milestones. And the plan should stress test the policies and implementation risks to reduce uncertainty and ensure that the expected emissions reductions are robust.

A credible Emissions Reduction Plan would support governance processes to take stock, update, and course correct, adjusting for uncertainty and updating policy on a routine basis consistent with changing circumstances and new information. The Plan would embrace an iterative process by design.

The Emissions Reduction Plan should look backwards as well as forwards to assess the outcomes of policy measures. It should identify data needs for tracking progress and filling gaps, and report on emissions accounting risks. It should also consider other aspects of policy performance such as cost-effectiveness and impacts on Indigenous peoples, vulnerable populations and overall competitiveness.

 Post-script: Following the release of the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, the Climate Institute followed up this report with an independent assessment of the first Emissions Reduction Plan to determine whether it is sufficient to achieve the 2030 target. 

The Institute later issued another independent assessment in December 2023 of the federal government’s progress report on the Emissions Reduction Plan. 

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