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Canada’s 2030 climate target lines up with its peers. How will 2035 compare?

Emissions reduction targets are about leveling up climate ambition, while also accounting for differences across countries


Next year marks the 10-year anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement, which established the current global framework to combat climate change. 

At the heart of the Paris Agreement is the requirement of signatories to set nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which chart each country’s “highest possible ambition” to reduce emissions and limit global climate change. NDCs are updated every five years, with the next round due in 2025. In Canada, the federal government has committed to set the 2035 emissions reduction target no later than December 1st of this year. 

This week’s insight unpacks the current landscape of climate targets set by Canada and its major trading partners. While peer-to-peer comparisons can serve as an important motivator for ramping up international climate ambition, target setting should be rooted in each country’s unique domestic context.

How do Canada’s climate targets compare to its peers?

A direct comparison of 2030 targets shows that Canada’s goal to reduce emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels is reasonably aligned with the ambition of its peers. 

Table 1 outlines the interim targets of Canada and its major trading partners under Annex I of the Paris Agreement (OECD countries and economies in transition) for 2030, as well as targets in consideration or already implemented for 2035 and 2040. For comparability, each of these targets were adjusted to 2005 levels. 

Collectively, the EU tends to have a slightly more ambitious target aiming to reduce emissions by 55 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 (equivalent to 50 per cent reductions below 2005 levels). However, when looking at the targets for individual EU member states, Canada’s emissions reduction target ranks much more in the middle, beating some of the effort sharing targets established for EU countries like France, Italy and Spain, while also falling short of  other countries such as Germany.

Outside of the EU, Canada’s 2030 target is also closely aligned with non-EU states such as Australia and Japan, aiming for 43 and 45 per cent below 2005 emissions by 2030, respectively. However, Canada’s ambition falls short of larger economies such as the United States, who are currently aiming to halve their emissions by 2030 and who, according to recent independent analyses, are on track for deep emissions reductions by 2030.

For targets established or in consideration for 2035 and 2040, countries are leveling up their ambition. Most notably, the EU is considering a target of reducing emissions by 90 per cent by 2040, and there are already member states like Germany that have enshrined in law 2040 targets at the same level. For non-EU states, the UK and Switzerland are the only countries in the table that have already adopted 2035 or 2040 emissions reduction targets. However, the general range of considered targets across countries so far has been around a 65 to 75 per cent reduction from 2005 levels in 2035, and 67 to 89 per cent in 2040. 

While comparisons across countries can help level up global climate ambition, NDCs should also take into account each country's unique emissions reduction opportunities and challenges. Ultimately, NDCs are designed to reflect a country's highest possible ambition, recognizing that "ambition" is context specific. In the upcoming weeks, 440 Megatonnes will be releasing new analysis to help inform setting an ambitious, yet achievable 2035 target for Canada.

Arthur Zhang is a research associate with the Canadian Climate Institute.