Latest data suggests Canada’s climate policies are workingProvincial action, especially in some provinces, must rapidly ramp up

May 2, 2024

Aerial view of cement factory and smoke in chimney in industrial production area.

Photo: iStock/Onfokus

CALGARY, AB — Chris Severson-Baker, Executive Director at the Pembina Institute, made the following statement in response to the release of the 2022 National Inventory Report:

“Canada’s climate policies are starting to pay off. As we returned to more usual levels of economic activity after the pandemic, emissions in 2022 were lower than they had been in 2019. It appears the suite of measures introduced by the Government of Canada over the last several years is starting to make a notable dent in our overall emissions.

“Nevertheless, if we are to meet Canada’s 2030 targets, we need all governments and industries across Canada to participate fully in this effort. In total Canada’s emissions in 2022 were 7% lower than 2005 levels – meaning there is still a significant amount of work to do to ensure they are 40%-45% lower than 2005 levels by 2030.

“Some regions of Canada, and some economic sectors in particular, must rapidly ramp up their efforts. The NIR shows that Alberta remains the worst performer overall since 2005, with emissions rising by 7.4%. The province now accounts for 38% of total emissions in Canada. Although today’s data shows that the successful regulation of methane emissions from oil and gas production is beginning to have a positive effect, emissions from the province’s oilsands sector are continuing to grow. This is another reminder that well-designed regulations can work to reduce oil and gas emissions, and reinforces the need for a robust cap that will ensure the oilsands sector delivers on its own plans to decarbonize. This will not only help Canada meet its climate targets, but will ensure Canadian oil and gas exports are ready to compete in a low-carbon world. We continue to urge the Government of Alberta to take swift action this year, particularly on oilsands emissions. Not doing so puts the livelihoods and future prosperity of Albertans at risk, given the reliance on oil and gas royalties for government revenue.

“In 2024, climate policy is economic policy. Canadians have a right to expect their governments, at all levels, to implement policies and regulations in preparation for a low-carbon future. Leaders across Canada should be seizing every opportunity to capitalize on the benefits of the new energy economy, by reducing emissions across sectors, and ensuring that our energy systems are modern, efficient and clean. This also means supporting workers to thrive in the clean economy, through new investments in regional and workforce development, and effective policy tools to support new industries.”

Recommendations for provincial action

The Pembina Institute has identified key areas across different economic sectors where provincial governments can begin to make progress:


To meet emissions reduction targets for the buildings sector, Canada must develop a retrofit industry able to decarbonize 600,000 homes and more than 30 million square metres of commercial space each year by 2040.

To achieve this, provinces must take a leading role in the implementation of home energy labelling. For example, the Government of British Columbia is undertaking a virtual labelling system pilot this year with some local governments. A mandatory program for new and existing homes would equip consumers and other stakeholders with valuable information about a home’s energy performance, helping inform both purchase decisions and local government energy efficiency programs.


The continued phase-out of coal from Canada’s electricity generation is a good example of how clear commitments and well-designed policies can enable impressive emissions reductions. However, this progress is at risk of being undone if provinces shift instead to a reliance on unabated gas-fired electricity. Provinces must encourage investments in cleaner sources of electricity, while also adapting electricity regulations to facilitate the modernization of grid infrastructure. For example, a modernized, well-connected Alberta grid – with half its generation from wind and solar – will be reliable, more affordable, and lower-emitting than the one we have today.

In addition, since sectors such as buildings and transportation rely on clean electricity to reduce their emissions, provincial governments should have strong energy efficiency programs to maximise the benefits of a clean electricity supply. Such measures by the Government of Ontario, for example, resulted in a 15 per cent decrease in electricity demand across the province in recent years.

Oil and gas

The Government of Alberta should strengthen and legislate its Oil Sands Emissions Limit. Given the Pathways Alliance’s commitment to reaching net-zero oilsands operations by 2050, their assessment of a feasible trajectory and milestones to net-zero should be one of a range of factors that informs this process.

In addition, provinces including Alberta should update their methane regulations, ensuring they are aligned with the proposed federal target (75 per cent reduction from 2012 levels by 2030).

Pembina Institute research shows that the proposed 2030 federal cap on oil and gas sector emissions can be met almost entirely through reductions in methane and the Pathways Alliance projects. This NIR included significant updates in methane estimation that resulted in the upwards revision of historical oil and gas emissions. While these improvements are necessary to paint a clearer picture of oil and gas methane, which has been notably underestimated in the past, these revisions may need to be incorporated in draft methane regulations and considered in setting cap targets.


Provincial and municipal governments need to provide financial and legislative policies to increase the adoption of zero-emission vehicles. For example:

  • Develop zero emission sales mandates for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to build on the successful light duty vehicle zero emission sales mandates passed by BC, Quebec, and the federal government.
  • Invest in publicly accessible charging infrastructure
  • Amend the provincial and municipal building codes to require chargers be included in construction of multi-unit residential buildings
  • Offer purchase rebates, ideally tied to income (stacked on top of existing federal rebates)
  • Update procurement guidelines to require government owned fleets/vehicles to be low- or zero-emissions.



Alex Burton
Communications Manager, Pembina Institute


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