Blog Posts | Pembina Institute

Why Canada is still at the back of the pack on climate

Published Dec. 6, 2010 by Matthew Bramley

Matthew Bramley

Canada has again finished near the bottom of the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), an annual evaluation of how the world's most polluting countries are doing on climate change. The CCPI 2011, released today, places Canada fourth-last out of the world's 57 top greenhouse gas emitters. The top three spots are left empty — to symbolize the fact that no country is doing enough — so Canada ranks 57th out of 60.

Each country's CCPI score is a composite of emissions trend over time (50%), current emissions level (30%), and national government policies (20%):

  • The emissions trend component measures progress in reducing per capita emissions since 1990 (15%), as well as the amount by which emissions have changed in key sectors like electricity and transportation, including a special element measuring progress on renewable energy (35%).
  • The current emissions level component includes three elements that measure current emissions in relation to the economy and population: emissions per unit of energy (15%), energy use per unit of GDP (7.5%) and energy use per capita (7.5%).
  • The government policies component is based on an expert evaluation of domestic national climate policies sector by sector (10%) and a country's stance on climate change internationally (10%).

For details of how these elements add up for Canada, see this summary.

The Pembina Institute again contributed this year to the evaluation of federal government policy that makes up 20 per cent of Canada's CCPI score. We released our evaluation today at the same time as the international CCPI report.

In line with the CCPI template, our evaluation rated policies on a scale of one (very good) to five (very poor). We awarded a rating of "very poor" in cases where a key policy has not yet been implemented at all; "poor" for policies that are poorly conceived and/or expected to produce only very limited emission reductions; "neutral" for policies that are appropriate but require scaling up or accelerating; and "good" for policies that appear to make a reasonable contribution to significant national emission reductions. To rate a policy "very good," it would have to be consistent with putting Canada promptly on a path to deep emission cuts (no policies received this rating).

Why does Canada continue to fare so poorly in the CCPI? On the emissions trend and emissions level components, putting it simply, Canada has very high emissions in relation to the size of its population and economy. To seriously tackle climate change, Canada would need to initiate a transformation of the way it produces and uses energy, but it has not yet done so.

On the national climate policies component, Canada scores poorly because, firstly, many current federal domestic policies are likely to be ineffective. And in some key areas, they are completely absent. For example, the federal government recently finalized its first greenhouse gas emission regulations, which apply to cars and light trucks. But it's not clear that the regulations are stringent enough to make a difference relative to what would have happened without them. Another critical example is Canada's continued lack of an emissions tax or cap-and-trade system that would put a price on emissions broadly in the economy.

Our evaluation rates Canada poorly on its international climate change stance because of the federal government's disappointing track record of actions and statements that undermine the level of ambition of international climate negotiations. For example, Prime Minister Stephen Harper opposed making climate change a priority issue for this year's G8 and G20 summits hosted by Canada. An assessment of international climate financing is a new addition to this year's CCPI evaluation, and there Canada's performance has also been disappointing: the government made a pledge of $400 million in June, which could have represented Canada's fair share for 2010. Unfortunately, Canada's commitment turned out to be mostly in the form of loans, includes little support for adaptation to climate impacts, and appears to have diverted money that would otherwise have been used to combat poverty.

Canada ranks slightly better on this year's CCPI (57th) than it did last year (59th). Unfortunately, this has little significance: last year Canada was slightly ahead of Australia and Kazakhstan, while this year those countries have slipped slightly behind Canada. The differences are small, and Canada is still last among the world's top ten greenhouse gas emitters:

 Rank 2011


 Score 2011

 Score 2010

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 Saudi Arabia




In contrast, it's interesting to note that another cold country with large oil and gas exports — Norway — came sixth in this year's CCPI (or third considering that the top three spots are empty). It's a stark reminder of how far Canada has to go.

Find more content by topic: Climate Change, Federal Action, International.

Roger Gagne — Dec 08, 2010 - 11:36 AM MT

Hi Derek,

You're right, that our oil customers burn a lot of fuel.

But we're all in this together. The question is not "Should North America import oil from the Middle East, or drill deep in the Gulf, or mine it in the tarsands?"

but rather, "How can we get off oil as quickly as possible?"

Amory Lovins, in a TED Talk titled "Winning the Oil Endgame" tosses out some ideas of how we can dramatically improve fuel efficiency in cars, large trucks, and airplanes, and some companies are doing it.

And his organization, the Rocky Mountain Institute, calculated that if the U.S. overall used electricity as efficiently as their top 10 States are already doing, they could cut coal use by 5/8.

Roger Gagne — Dec 08, 2010 - 11:28 AM MT

What's with slamming the gas plants? I think they're extremely useful as a transition to get us off of fossil fuels.

1) Less polluting than coal, less expensive and risky than nuclear.
2) Much more efficient than coal, which loses 2/3 of heat produced to the smokestack.
3) Plants can be located close to urban areas or other large loads, reducing transmission line losses.

The other sweet option with natural gas, of course, is cogeneration, which I would like to see on a far wider scale.

All this being said, I think we need to get a much better handle on shale gas and coal bed methane, which have become increasingly common means of producing natural gas. I think their impact on groundwater alone is probably enormous.

Cheryl Murray — Dec 09, 2010 - 08:59 AM MT

You say "I think they're extremely useful as a transition to get us off of fossil fuels."

Gas is a fossil fuel.

Cogens can't be used to pair with wind, so they'd be on top of the requirement for additional peaker plants. Nothing sweet about that.

Are we being serious about climate change or are we just promoting one fossil fuel over another? If all the subsidies going to all forms of energy production were instead going to conservation, we would only need a fraction of the production capacity we now have and reduce fossil consumption in real terms.

All fossil fuels need to stay right where they are: buried deep underground and at the bottom of the oceans.

Roger Gagne — Dec 09, 2010 - 05:43 PM MT

Hi Cheryl,

Don't tell me you prefer the coal.

If you genuinely want us to get off of coal, how are we to do that?

How are we to do it in Alberta, where not only are we giving $2 billion to CCS (in addition to another $1 billion or so from the feds), but we are also plowing ahead with a "massive overbuild" in transmission lines which are not intended to keep the lights on in Southern Alberta but, rather, lend themselves very well to export of electricity from large central generators, whether coal or nuclear-fired.

Generation at or close to the point of consumption reduce load on the grid. Cogeneration and, to a lesser extent, Enmax's gas-fired plants, succeed in this.

As a starting point, I really like Pembina's Greening the Grid report. Personally, I think we could do better in conservation and efficiency. Co-author Tim Weis admits that they sold solar short when they tried in late 2008 to write up a conservative, bulletproof scenario for weaning Alberta off of coal in 20 years. And I'm wary of massive expansion of cogen in the tarsands operations. But overall, I find it a hopeful and realistic document.

Cheryl Murray — Dec 10, 2010 - 05:41 AM MT

Prefer coal? Absolutely not. ALL fossil fuels should stay exactly where they are. Conservation is the answer. If all the subsidies went to conservation instead of production we could reduce carbon emmissions in real terms. How about some education too? Fossils should be treated like tobacco.

Roger Gagne — Dec 10, 2010 - 01:11 PM MT

Hi Cheryl,

Rest assured that conservation is my first priority, and a key reason why my average electricity bill is about $25 per month, and has been for many years.

It is not, however, a priority for my neighbors, or the Sheldon Chumir Urgent Care Centre downtown, or Moxie's Restaurants in Calgary, or two pubs up the hill from my place, all of which leave their lights lit up all day long under broad daylight.

But conservation and efficiency can only get us partway there. Renewables are my next favorite option, followed by cogen, and finally by combined cycle gas turbines.

Nuclear and coal, we can't get away from quickly enough for me.

Keith — Dec 11, 2010 - 03:51 AM MT

As previously noted, wind turbines (renewable) require highly inefficient fossil-fired peaker plants. So your support for cogens and combined cycle gas turbines would be on top of this requirement.

No wonder Canada is still at the back of the pack on climate change.

Fossils are an addiction. Try to get over it.

Many of my neighbours don't use electricty or fossil fuels. We can learn a few things from them without having to go to that extreme. In the meantime, wind turbines are threatening to drive them from thier land.

Roger Gagne — Dec 11, 2010 - 02:27 PM MT

Hi Keith,

How much luck have you had in Alberta selling your approach of zero tolerance for fossil fuels?

I think we can be push for pretty aggressive goals and still be realistic.

Cheryl — Dec 07, 2010 - 09:52 AM MT

Wind Plants are Gas Plants

Stop pairing wind with fossil fuels!

Derek — Dec 07, 2010 - 05:57 AM MT

Hmmmm Canada and Saudi Arabia worst for climate change. Jeeee maybe it could be because we're supplying most of the energy to the countries that CONSUME all the energy? I think Canada should be environmentally conscious. Lets raise the price of oil to $200 to other countries so that we can implement more clean practices! yeah thats it!

Christian — Dec 07, 2010 - 05:45 AM MT

Our lovely little planet will be here long after we are gone. I suspect the earth will be able to clean itself once our incredibly stunned species is gone. In order to speed the process along I am going to do everything possible to destroy the environment (campaign to bring back the Hummer, give money to Halliburton, put medicine in my toilet, hunt sharks, eat fast food, buy a jet ski, you get the idea) thus killing off humanity and giving the earth a fighting chance. Water your lawn everyday and don't forget to burn any used tires!

Don Whiteford — Dec 06, 2010 - 11:06 PM MT

Congrats to the Pembina Institute for allowing for people's comments to their blog; be those comments positive or negative to Pembina's position. That's more than I can say for, which loves to print one-sided diatribes on the whole climate change issue, but doesn't allow for any reader comment. How gutless!

Keith — Dec 07, 2010 - 08:28 AM MT

Then why did they remove this? My eyes are getting ithcy again.....

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” - attributed to Honest Abe Lincoln.
We've been had. Hoodwinked. Duped. Conned. Fooled. The wool over my eyes is starting to itch. The ONLY way we can reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the potential devastating effects of global warming and climate change is by leaving fossil fuels right where we found them: buried underground or deep in our oceans.
Harnessing wind energy could help us achieve that goal, but ONLY if the energy produced is somehow stored so it can be used when needed; such as in a battery bank. That is not happening.
Without storing the energy produced by wind we are actually making matters worse. We are actually INCREASING our dependency on fossil fuels. That sounds pretty stupid when you first hear it, but when you look at how the electricity grid works it becomes crystal clear. Wind turbines need to be paired with fossil turbines to make it work. Supply has to match demand or the grid collapses. Only fossil fits the bill. The more wind turbines that get erected the more fossil generation we need. The hope is that “one day” we'll solve the storage issue. Problem is, if we don't, we're stuck with fossil generation because of wind energy. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.
This is wrong.
Check this out:
Robert F Kennedy Jr. - Solar Thermal and Utility Scale Wind are Gas Plants
Keith Cleveland
Ripley, ON

Julia Kilpatrick — Dec 07, 2010 - 10:19 AM MT

Hi Keith,
We welcome open discussion and comments on the issues we blog about — but not long chains of email messages posted on our comment board, which is why your last post was removed. As for your comments on wind power, there are working solutions to the challenges you point to, and many countries are already successfully generating much more of their electricity from wind power than Canada is. Within Canada, one of the areas with the most potential to replace high-polluting forms of energy with wind power is Alberta, and we recently published a guide to help Albertan landowners assess the issues and opportunities there. More details here:

Jim Krumsick — Dec 07, 2010 - 09:15 AM MT

You are correct in your assessment that wind power needs to be paired with other technology to maximize its impact on mitigating climate change, but building more fossil fuel plants is not the answer. Adoption of smart grid technology, a time of use rate system and funding development of electric cars and electric hybrid vehicles would provide an incentive for consumers to shift power usage to off peak hours. Utiltiies could vary their utility day time and night time rates based on the generation profile.

Keith — Dec 07, 2010 - 09:32 AM MT

Which is why they should not be allowed to be paired with fossils now. I guess we could use time of use rates to solve the problem: only use electricity when the wind blows, then turn off your fridge, your furnace and huddle in the dark until it picks up again.

Wind plants are gas plants.

Al of Vancouver — Dec 06, 2010 - 10:50 PM MT

I find it very hard to believe, when Canada has a much smaller population than the any other country, in my opinion, this is all scare tactics by environmental groups in order to justify their actions, just like politicians. At the current rate of Political and corporate greed, wars, perhaps it would be wise to end the human race on the planet. Politicians and the corporate greedy WORLD CLUB MEMBERS of the BILDERBERG CLUB, only care about their status and to heck with the rest of our society.
And this is my opinion.

lashbera — Dec 06, 2010 - 09:49 PM MT

I believe the fools here are the ones that do think man started climate change. How can anyone be fool enough to believe that somehow when Henry Ford fired up his first car the ice began to melt. The ice was melting many millions of years earlier and it just so happens that the fools Al Gore and David Duhzuki happened to notice the ice in its last stages of melt down and made billions brain washing people about it. One question though, How is the glacier on mount st. Hellens the fastest growing glacier on earth and why is it a growing glacier if all the climate change BS is true.

P.J. Partington — Dec 07, 2010 - 08:19 AM MT

Hi Iashbera,

Firstly, of course climate has changed in the past. The climate changes in response to forcings which alter the Earth's radiative balance. Right now, greenhouse gases are providing that forcing. In the past 150 years or so, human activity has caused the concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide to increase by nearly 40%. The consequences of this are well understood from a physics perspective, and are readily observable in the world today. If you're interested in past climatic changes and their drivers, this is a useful resource:

If you're interested in glaciers and trends in their mass balance, this graph from the World Glacier Monitoring Service provides some helpful context:

This report is also a useful resource on glaciers and climate change:



Pattrick — Dec 06, 2010 - 02:07 PM MT

What a load of crock. Climate is changing, but has mand anything to do with it, I doubt it. It is a money scam to get money out of the rich nations and give to the dctators so they can have a lavish life style. Get of this DAMN climate change crap and work for a solution . This is not the way to go. Canada is the greatest country in the world. Go after CHina and India etc and leave us to hell alone

Georrrrge — Dec 06, 2010 - 03:03 PM MT

Pattrick? Really?
This message must be from one of the trolls of the 'climate change scam' movement - to make all cc deniers look like total idiots. It looks like you can't even spell your own name!
Nobody could really be this much of a fool, can they?

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