How Canada performed on the global stage at COP27

As the COP27 negotiations come to a close, the image of the Great White North is less about green landscapes or initiatives — instead, a new report shows Canada is lagging far behind on tackling emissions.

According to this year’s Climate Change Performance Index published during the COP27, Canada ranks 58th out of 63 countries when it comes to protecting the climate, even trailing behind China and the U.S. in the “Very Low” category. Canada is not alone. Twelve of the G20 countries also received a very low rating from the CCPI.

The report was released in the final week of COP27, and it wasn’t the only knock against Canada’s record during the conference. The Canadian pavilion hosted several events where oil and tar sands lobbyists were invited, which also saw demonstrations and walkouts.

Oil lobbyists were well represented overall at COP27: 636 were found among the delegates — more than last year in Glasgow. And there is plenty of criticism to go around the globe, as evidenced by Climate Action Network’s popular Fossil of the Day awards.

However, Canada did make some progress on two broad issues negotiated during the COP27: emissions reduction and climate finance.

Emissions reduction

Canada’s most recent climate targets are ambitious: to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 and to reach net-zero by 2050.

Experts have pointed out that these targets are insufficient to reach the objectives of the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 C, especially given Canada’s plans to increase oil production by five per cent by 2030.

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CCPI Low Rankings

Canada ranks 58th, among the worst countries on climate protection, assessed in four categories: GHG Emissions, Renewable Energy, Energy Use and Climate Policy. (Source: CCPI Germanwatch)

At last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he would impose a ceiling on fossil fuels. This year, the Joint Declaration from Energy Importers and Exporters on Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Fossil Fuels was signed by Canada, the United States, Great Britain, the European Union, Japan, Singapore, and Norway. The latter is also a major oil and gas producer but, unlike Canada, profits are reinvested in sustainable development projects.

The UN Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities (basically, experts on greenwashing from banks and corporations, chaired by former Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna) published detailed recommendations on actions that have to be taken in the private sector to tackle emissions.

Canada also issued a Global Carbon Pricing Challenge, calling on countries to adopt policies that make polluters pay. India requested that a resolution to phase down all fossil fuels (and not just coal) be added to the final statement that will be agreed to by all parties, but Canada appears to be holding off negotiations on that point as of Friday.

UPDATE (Nov. 21) In the final statement about Canada's achievements at the COP 27 on Monday, Minister Guilbeault reaffirmed a will to reduce fossil fuels, stating: "Canada also fought hard so that the world did not backslide on the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies and coal, still the single largest sources of CO2 emissions. Canada reiterated our commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2023, two years earlier than the G20 commitment."

Climate finance

The countries responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions, including Canada, had pledged to compensate developing countries, which are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The promise of $100 billion a year to help these countries was tabled in 2009, but the objective was never achieved. Negotiations on this issue, and an additional envelope for loss and damage, were at the heart of the discussions at COP27. In this regard, Canada is doing better, but not yet reaching its objectives.

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Delivering Canada’s National Statement, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault reiterated the pledge for climate finance.

“Together, we committed to reach our $100 billion climate finance goal by 2023. Canada is delivering on its $5.3 billion Climate Finance Commitment," he said.

Proposed by Germany and adopted unanimously by G7 countries, the Global Shield aims to tackle the loss and damage issue via risk finance and insurance.

In Canada’s Climate Finance Plan, $7 million is dedicated to the Global Shield Financing Facility, along with $5 million for improving access to climate finance, a total pledge of $24 million for developing countries.

As with most COP, it’s clear that progress is being made, but not fast enough. Funds to help developing countries are hard to come by and many experts agree that countries' reduction targets are not ambitious enough to limit global warming to 1.5 C above the pre-industrial average.

Eyes are now turning to COP15 on biodiversity, which will be held in Montreal from Dec. 7-19. Many hope that a resolution will be adopted to safeguard global biodiversity as significant as the Paris Agreement.