Climate Change Blog Series: Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

Climate Change Blog Series: Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

Climate Change Blog Series:
Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change


This is the fifteenth post in the Environmental Law Centre’s blog series exploring climate change law in Canada. This blog series provides updates on climate change law developments and includes insights from our related law reform research. This blog series is generously funded by the Alberta Law Foundation.



The latest Canadian climate protection policy is the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change which was announced on December 9, 2016. The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is the result of previous collaborative work between the Provinces, Territories and the Federal Government in the field of combatting climate change. Only Manitoba and Saskatchewan have decided to not adopt the Framework at this time.

With the Pan-Canadian Framework, Canada is taking another step towards the implementation of its commitments under the Paris Agreement (see our previous posts here, here and here). Canada’s emissions are projected to increase to around 742 megatonnes (Mt) in 2030. The Pan-Canadian Framework is one tool in order to lower the projected emissions to the target of 523 Mt in 2030.

The Pan-Canadian Framework is built on four main pillars:

  • pricing carbon pollution,
  • complementary measures to further reduce emissions across the economy,
  • measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change and build resilience, and
  • actions to accelerate innovation, support clean technology and create jobs.


The Framework acknowledges pricing carbon pollution as one of the most effective, transparent and efficient policy tools to achieve reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Thus, this pillar plays a central role in the policy tool. The Framework draws on the Federal Government’s development of a benchmark for pricing carbon pollution by 2018. The jurisdictions are flexible in their choice of tool and the specific design. However, the benchmark stipulates 8 required elements:

  1. The introduction of a carbon pricing regime has to occur latest by 2018.
  2. GHG emissions are priced. The goal is to price broad sources of emissions in all jurisdictions in order to enhance the tool’s effectiveness and to minimize impacts on interprovincial competiveness. The Framework stipulates that the jurisdictions should price substantively the same GHG emission sources as BC’s carbon tax does.
  3. Jurisdictions can choose which carbon pricing tool to implement, such as (a) an explicit price-based system (i.e. carbon tax, carbon levy or performance-based emissions system) or (b) a cap-and-trade system.
  4. The benchmarks stipulates increases in stringency. That means jurisdictions with an explicit price-based system should start pricing GHGs at minimum of C$10 per tonne in 2018, rising by C$10 per year to C$50 per tonne in 2022.


The stringency goal for cap-and-trade regimes is: (i) 2030 emissions reduction target equal to or greater than Canada’s 30% reduction target (ii) declining annual caps to at least 2022 that correspond to the projected emissions reductions resulting from the carbon price that year in price-based systems (at a minimum).

  1. The revenue from the carbon pricing tool will remain in the respective jurisdiction.
  2. Jurisdictions that do not meet the benchmark have to comply with an explicit price-based carbon pricing system introduced by the Federal Government.
  3. There will be a 5 year review of the overall approach/ Framework.
  4. Jurisdictions should report regularly on the outcomes of the carbon pricing system.


Complementary measures to further reduce emissions across the economy include, for example, phase out of traditional coal units across Canada by 2030. The Federal Government will determine performance standards for natural gas-fired electricity generation. Generally, the Federal Government, Provinces and Territories work together to facilitate, invest in, and increase the use of clean electricity across Canada, to build new and enhanced transmission lines and to support smart-grid technologies in order to better use renewable energy, facilitate energy storage and expand renewable power capacity.

A new approach in the field of climate adaptation and climate resilience is, for example, the Federal Government’s announcement to establish a Canadian centre for climate services in order to improve access to authoritative, foundational climate science and information. In addition, the Framework proposes to build regional adaption capacity and expertise through community-based initiatives. With respect to climate resilience, the focus will be on revising and improving building design guides and codes for residential, institutional, commercial and industrial facilities. Also, the Federal Government proposes to invest into climate-resilient public infrastructure. In addition, the partners to the Framework will invest together in infrastructure with the aim to reduce disaster risks and protect from climate-related hazards like flooding and wildfires.

The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change also calls for major common actions in clean technology, innovation and jobs. Among other things, the partners to the Framework aim to support early-stage technology, breakthrough technology and technology with the potential to substantially reduce GHG emissions.

The four main pillars do not necessarily propose brand new methods but collect and reiterate what should be done in a common effort to achieve the climate reduction target. The Framework manifests an official collaboration between the Federal Government, Provinces and Territories and provides the parties with a guideline what measures to take. As a non-binding policy paper, it is rather general in nature. The lack of specific commitments supports the impression that this Framework is merely a repetition of what has been said and proposed for a while now here and there. However, seeing things more positively, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, once it is filled with Canada-wide specific actions and legislation as proposed, has the potential to produce a much improved climate balance for Canada’s future.



The Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has been seeking strong and effective environmental laws since it was founded in 1982. The ELC is dedicated to providing credible, comprehensive and objective legal information regarding natural resources, energy and environmental law, policy and regulation in Alberta. The ELC’s mission is to educate and champion for strong laws and rights so all Albertans can enjoy clean water, clean air and a healthy environment. Our vision is a society where laws secure an environment that sustains current and future generations.

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