The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act: A Legislative Placebo?

On June 30, 2021, Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a news release announcing that Bill C-12, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act had received Royal Assent, and had therefore become the law in Canada.[1] The headline of the news release was: “Government of Canada legislates climate accountability with first net-zero emissions law.”

Generally speaking, a new law is necessary only if the absence of such a law will create or perpetuate a serious societal problem. My commentary on this legislation will explore both the need for this new law and what it is likely to accomplish.


Historically, laws have generally been written to make mandatory, in effect, certain generic requirements, e.g., do this, don’t do this, or pay this tax or fine. In this century, particularly with the rise of social media, governments have realized that most journalists read media releases and Twitter, not statutes. And the public reads what journalists write. This has led to the enactment of some statutes which are more like public relations statements than useful laws.

More of our laws now contain lengthy rhetorical preambles, vague or circular definitions[2], little substantive content and glowing descriptions in media releases and Ministers’ speeches about what these laws are supposed to accomplish. The objective is to make the public feel good about their government’s good intentions. Such a law could be described as a “feel-good law,” a legislative placebo rather than an effective piece of legislation.

The well-known placebo effect causes many of the test patients who receive a placebo in drug clinical trials to feel better because of their expectation that they would feel better. It is this effect that has been used by politicians in recent years to create the illusion that essentially symbolic, useless or even harmful legislation will be beneficial. This commentary will explain why Bill C-12 (hereafter, the “Accountability Act”) is essentially placebo legislation, with a potentially harmful effect.


After summarizing the targets and commitments in the legislation the government’s news release emphasizes that “The Act also provides accountability and transparency…” in a variety of ways, e.g.:

  • Requiring an emissions reduction plan, a progress report, and an assessment report for each target to be tabled in both Houses of Parliament and made available to the public.
  • Requiring the Minister of Finance to prepare an annual report respecting key measures that the federal government has taken to manage its financial risks and opportunities related to climate change.
  • Requiring the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, at least once every five years starting no later than the end of 2024, to examine and report on the Government of Canada’s implementation of measures aimed at mitigating climate change.[3]

The news release also quotes the Minister as saying “We promised to legislate net-zero emissions by 2050 and put in place legally-binding targets, and yesterday we delivered on that promise…”

How merely reaching an emissions target (which cannot be measured, only estimated, with a lot of judgment) can be legally binding, who is bound by it, and how that can be enforced is unexplained.


“The purpose of this Act is to require the setting of national targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions based on the best scientific information available and to promote transparency and accountability in achieving those targets, in support of achieving net-zero-emissions in Canada by 2050 and Canada’s international commitments in respect of mitigating climate change.”[4]


1. Setting of National Targets

The Harper government set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets as part of government policy, without any legislation. Until recently, these targets were accepted by the Trudeau government, also without any legislation. What changed? Why is this legislation being enacted now? It cannot be because emission reduction targets suddenly require legislation.

It is probably for two political reasons. First, because the legislation will make it more difficult for future governments to reduce, or to fail to meet the legislated targets. If another political party becomes the government it will have to amend the legislation — a highly visible process — to reduce the targets. And second, because enshrining something in legislation will stimulate lawsuits or judicial review applications seeking to enforce the government’s compliance with its own targets.

Amending or repealing the law, which any future government could legally do, would encounter high-profile political opposition, making it a vote loser. Thus, the legislation is cleverly designed to bind successor Parliaments politically, even though constitutionally one Parliament cannot bind its successor. Any future government that failed to pursue the target would be accused of failing to care about the planet and Canada’s environment. One purpose of the law is to attempt to cast the net-zero target in stone.

Through carbon taxes and other nationally applicable regulatory measures, Ottawa can effectively force provincial policies to contribute to its target, and penalize provincial policies that fail to do so. As the failed provincial litigation against the carbon tax[5] has demonstrated, even without the legal power to bind provinces to its target, the federal government can use economic carrots and sticks to control both provinces and their legal creations, municipalities.

An increasing number of court cases see environmental advocacy groups, sometimes representing children[6], arguing that challenges to government climate policy are justiciable, and therefore, should be decided by judges. These lawsuits seek to compel governments to carry out the advocated climate policies to meet the targets. Once these targets are legislated such litigation — the private enforcement of public laws — becomes a lot easier.

Government defendants in lawsuits are not always unhappy to be sued, and do not always defend them vigorously. If these legislated emission reduction targets are not being met, resulting in litigation, this enables the government to justify its actual achievements as realistic compared to the claims in the lawsuits. The government can also justify settling the litigation by actions such as increasing the carbon tax. Given its facilitation of lawsuits, the Accountability Act might well be nicknamed the “Come and Sue Me Act.”

2. To Promote Transparency and Accountability

The Government seeks to sell this law as adding an important element of transparency and accountability to its reporting requirements. But there is nothing preventing the Government from being more transparent and accountable without legislation.

The federal government is already committed to file reports with the United Nations (UN) every two years on all major climate change measures undertaken by federal and provincial governments. It is also required to file reports every five years on emissions reduction measures under the 2015 Paris Agreement, to which Canada is a signatory. These reports are not secret, but publicly available on the website of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Furthermore, the Commissioner on the Environment and Sustainable Development (a branch of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada) also issues periodic reports on the performance of federal departments and the government as a whole in meeting their program objectives. Although the new legislation is presented as creating transparency and accountability, that cannot be its real purpose because even without this legislation there is already complete transparency, which creates accountability.

That said, the information to be provided will be opaque on the single most important policy issue: cost. Without knowing the cost to Canadians, year by year, there is no way to judge whether the benefits to Canadians exceed our costs. The claimed benefits are the reduction in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, with the assumption that this domestic reduction will reduce the adverse effects of CO2 on the Canadian climate and weather.

The decarbonization of the Canadian economy through the accelerated elimination of fossil fuels and the electrification of all energy sources will be very costly. Yet no one knows the costs because the federal government has never published a cost-benefit analysis of Canada’s climate-related programs and expenditures. In a May, 2018 collaborative report by the federal and provincial governments’ Auditors General, they observed that no one has a complete record of all the programs in place, that the number of programs at the municipal level appears to be growing quickly, and that there is very poor coordination among governments in administering these programs.[7] How many of these programs are redundant or conflict with other programs is unknown. Similarly, no authoritative analysis has ever been done on the international competitive damage caused to Canadian industry by higher carbon dioxide taxes and higher electricity rates than other countries with which we compete.[8] The legislation and government information about it provides no estimate of how costly it will be to reach the next milestone, or who will bear the cost, or how the cost will be financed.

Of necessity, Canadians have, for almost two centuries, relied on hydrocarbons to heat and light their homes or transport themselves, their children and their food. To eliminate all of these essential sources of life in 30 years is unprecedented, with a high risk of failure. Embracing this radical change without disclosing its costs and risks is at best opaque and at worst misleading.[9] The purpose of the law is to disclose a legislated target while intentionally declining to disclose its impact on Canadian lives. This is inconsistent with the professed objectives of greater accountability and transparency.

University of Manitoba Professor emeritus Vaclav Smil is a globally recognized energy transitions authority. In his several books and articles[10] he has shown that the number of years that it has historically taken for new sources of energy to surpass just 25 per cent of energy use in a country is typically 50–70 years. It takes many more decades to become a dominant energy source. Such major energy transitions only happen when the new technology has clear advantages of cost, effectiveness and reliability over other existing technologies. Yet today, Western governments profess to believe they can legislate such a transition within 30 years without any new, fully developed and tested breakthrough in energy technology.

Professor Smil recently wrote[11]:

“The most important fact is that during those decades of rising concerns about global warming the world has been running towards fossil carbon, not moving away from it…emissions have nearly tripled in Asia, largely because the Chinese combustion of fossil fuels has almost quadrupled. As a result, global emissions of CO2 increased by more than 60 per cent since 1992, setting yet another record in 2018.

Designing hypothetical roadmaps outlining complete elimination of fossil carbon from the global energy supply by 2050 is nothing but an exercise in wishful thinking that ignores fundamental physical realities.…The complete decarbonization of the global energy supply will be an extremely challenging undertaking of an unprecedented scale and complexity that will not be accomplished – even in the case of sustained, dedicated and extraordinarily costly commitment – in a matter of a few decades.”

It is easy for politicians in any country to seek power with promises to fight climate change that cannot be kept until long after they’re out of office. China has recently said that it will reach net zero by 2060, 40 years from now.[12] By that date, if he is still alive, President Xi Jinping will be 106 years old. By the 2050 US and Canadian target dates President Joe Biden would be 107, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 78. None of them will be leaders of their countries at these times.

3. Canada’s International Commitments

The Paris Agreement[13] has been widely misrepresented in the Western media, and therefore, widely misunderstood. It has repeatedly and wrongly been described as an international agreement to which individual nations including Canada have made binding commitments to reduce global average temperature increase to no more than 2°C, and preferably 1.5°C. The Agreement actually set no national goals for greenhouse gas emission reductions. The Agreement merely requires each of the 195 country signatories to set its own “nationally determined contribution,” which may be to increase emissions if the country so wishes — and may do. Countries are required to submit five-year plans showing what they intend to do to increase or reduce their emissions, in what number of years. Canada has made no binding international commitment requiring us to impose legal obligations for any level of greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

There is a widespread belief that if “we” all do our part, “we” will successfully keep the global average temperature increase below 2°C. That is a misunderstanding. It is based on the assumptions, so far incorrect, that, first, most of the large emissions countries of the world are intent upon reducing emissions and second, that they will forego the benefits of hydrocarbons-based economic development to follow the leadership of countries like Canada. That 2°C target was political, proposed by environmental campaigners, not scientists, and the UN adopted it as the aspirational goal of the Agreement.[14] After 2015 it very quickly became obvious, based on what countries actually committed to, that the goal cannot be reached.[15]

On examining the text of the Paris Agreement — which almost no one seems to do — it is clear that no country, not even Canada, is required by the text of the Agreement to set net-zero, or any other level of emissions, as its national goal. Each of the 195 country signatories is free to set its own “nationally determined contribution,” regardless of what other countries may or may not commit to do. And the Agreement has no mechanism for enforcement of any nationally determined contributions.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, mostly of the developed West, represent approximately one third of global emissions. They have made various reduction commitments. But the developing countries, mostly of Asia and Africa, represent approximately two thirds of global emissions. Most of these countries have promised to increase, not reduce their emissions because reductions would jeopardize their efforts to reduce the poverty of millions of their people, some eight hundred million of whom still have no access to electricity.

Since 2010, most of the CO2 emissions growth has occurred in the non-OECD countries.[16] In the plans that the developing countries have submitted to the UN, they have generally conditioned any future emissions reductions (or even reductions in the rate of increase) on large financial assistance from the OECD countries. On March 13, 2021, Pakistan’s prime minister warned[17] that developing countries would need about US$400 billion per annum in climate finance support to shift toward low carbon development pathways. Yet developed countries have thus far failed to deliver even the $100 billion a year they promised in 2016 under the Paris Agreement. India has called the West’s 2050 net-zero targets “pie-in-the-sky.” India’s energy minister said that poor nations want to continue using fossil fuels and the rich countries “can’t stop it”.[18]

At the November 2021 COP26 meeting in Glasgow, most of the world’s developing countries backed a demand for wealthy nations to channel at least $1.3 trillion in climate finance to them, annually, starting in 2030.[19] If the developed countries cannot collect the $100 billion promised in Paris even once in the six years from 2015 to 2021 how likely are they to pay $1.3 trillion every year?

China is responsible for approximately 28 per cent of global emissions in 2019 versus only 13 per cent in 1999.[20] It merely promised in Paris to peak its emissions by 2030 at some unspecified level, without indicating how long it would remain at whatever that peak level will be.[21] India, which is catching up to China, presented its nationally determined contribution as a reduction in emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is a reduction in intensity, not in tonnes of CO2.[22] This means India’s emissions can remain the same or increase as long as its GDP is increasing fast enough (thanks to fossil fuel use) to reduce emissions per unit of GDP.

When we add up and net out the nationally determined contributions, even if all of the 195 countries fully comply with their targets (which is already doubtful), the net reduction in global temperature increase by 2100 would be insignificantly small, within the range of measurement error.

There is a huge disconnect between the aspirational goal of this Agreement as presented in the media and Canadian government communications, and what the 195 signatory nations have actually said in their nationally determined contributions that they intend to do. As Nobel prize-winning economist William Nordhaus has written in the American Economic Association Journal of August 2018[23]:

“The reality is that most countries are on a business-as-usual (BAU) trajectory of minimal policies to reduce their emissions… The international target for climate change with a limit of 2°C appears to be infeasible with reasonably accessible technologies even with very ambitious abatement strategies.”

Regardless of what Canada does, the Paris Agreement, like its predecessor accord, Kyoto[24], is already evidently a failure.

4. What the Accountability Act Does Not Require

The Accountability Act requires the federal government to set targets and report on the extent to which it is meeting those targets. But it does not require Canada to meet the 2050 target. That means that the target is not legally binding. Nor is there any penalty set out for failure to do so. It is not clear why the Minister says that the target is legally binding.

An undated media release (which was modified on August 13, 2021) from Environment and Climate Change Canada is headed “Net-Zero Emissions by 2050.”[25] It states in carefully crafted language that “The Government of Canada is committed to moving to zero emissions by 2050.” Note that it does not say that it is committed to achieving this, but merely “moving” to it. Despite this careful use of weasel words the media coverage has been as if “moving to” means actually achieving.


This media release also mentions that in February 2021 the Government established an independent group of experts from across the country to consult with Canadians and provide the government with advice on the best pathways to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. This begs the question: why is the government enshrining in legislation a target that requires an advisory body to show it how to meet?

In explaining how net-zero is to be achieved, and the benefit of doing so, the media release states:

“Achieving net-zero emissions means our economy either emits no greenhouse gas emissions or offsets its emissions, for example, through actions such as tree planting or employing technologies that can capture carbon before it is released into the air. This is essential to keeping the world safe and livable for our kids and grandkids.”[26]

There are two problems with this paragraph: the first sentence and the second sentence.

As for the first sentence, currently there is no existing technology that would enable the Canadian economy to emit no CO2. Today, and for the foreseeable future, there are no battery or hydrogen-powered passenger jet aircraft, oceangoing cargo ships, large transport trucks or farm tractors. No one manufactures steel or concrete without massive use of fossil fuels, so the construction of the large concrete bases and tall steel towers of wind turbines entails large CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. The planting of trees is not really a long-term solution because it may take decades for them to grow to a substantial height, and, although they absorb CO2 during their growth period, when they die they decompose, releasing the CO2 they have absorbed. As for carbon capture, although it is technically feasible and being done, it is not yet economic on anywhere near the scale that would be required to offset Canada’s reasonably foreseeable emissions.[27] Our emissions will likely increase due to population growth, both domestic and through immigration. Nor is it possible to capture CO2 “before” is released into the air from the literally millions of sources of CO2 emissions in Canada — every home, every car, every office and factory would need to have some sort of carbon capture device, which does not yet exist, even on paper.

The second sentence appears to equate Canada with the entire world. If Canada achieves net-zero, will that really keep the Canadian climate, created by the emissions of the entire world, safe and livable for our kids and grandkids in Canada? Of course not. Canada represents only 1.6 per cent of global CO2 emissions, and this percentage is declining as the developing countries increase their emissions.

According to Canada’s 2021 National Inventory Report (NIR) on greenhouse gas emissions submitted to the United Nations, our national emissions in 1990 were 600 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). By 2017 they had increased to 716 MtCO2e (+19.3%) and by 2019, to 730 MtCO2e (+21.7%). Since 1990, in every year but three, Canada’s emissions have increased. As we emerge from the pandemic lockdowns further increases are likely. Canada is actually moving away from net-zero, not towards it.


The media release also seems confused about the nature of the climate change issue: it is a global collective action problem not an individual national action problem. The CO2 we emit doesn’t stay above Canada, and the CO2 other nations emit doesn’t stay out of Canada. There is no CO2 wall around the country. A molecule of CO2 is the same wherever it is emitted, and is dispersed globally by prevailing winds. Therefore, if “keeping the world safe and livable for our kids and grandkids” requires the achievement of net-zero, that would have to be net-zero for the entire world. Canada can’t do it alone. It is ignorant and misleading for our government’s media release to tell Canadians that it can, and is legally bound to do so, in order to attempt to justify unnecessary placebo legislation.


The current Liberal government in Ottawa is by no means the only one presenting placebo legislation; neither is such legislation limited to climate change. It has been enacted with increasing frequency since approximately the beginning of this century, at both the federal and provincial levels, in Canada and elsewhere. Here just three examples.

1. BC’s “Enshrinement” of UNDRIP into BC Law

In 2019 the BC government announced, to unanimous applause in the BC Legislature, that it was the first Canadian province to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into law. Despite the all party applause in the Legislature, BC’s new law didn’t actually do that in 2019. BC’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act[28] sets out four items of work to be done in the future. This work was not completed, and barely commenced, when the new Act was being celebrated. The law enshrines nothing. It is really just a to do list. To describe this to do list as part of an enforceable, protective BC law is wrong. It makes people feel good but it doesn’t do good, at least not yet. Perhaps it will when the work on the to do list has been completed.

2. Bill C-69, the Canadian Impact Assessment Act (SC 2019, c 28, s 1) (hereafter, the IAA)

In 2012 the Harper government removed the power to make decisions about pipelines, electricity transmission lines and similar projects from the National Energy Board and transferred it to the federal cabinet. That politicized what had for decades been a regulatory decision by an expert tribunal. The 2012 Act violated the principle that whoever hears shall decide, and whoever decides shall hear. The IAA was presented as fixing the 2012 Act. However, it didn’t do that. Under both the 2012 Act and the IAA, those who hear all the evidence decide nothing; they merely prepare a report. Then, those who hear nothing decide everything.

Regrettably, the IAA did more than preserve this fatal flaw, it introduced other amendments that made the assessment process even worse. As shown in the September 2018 issue of the Energy Regulation Quarterly article titled “Federal Energy Project Reviews: Timelines in Practice,”[29] Canadian federal impact assessments under the 2012 law could take two to three times as long as assessments in the US. Typical hearings in Canada occupied from 6 to 8 years. Under the IAA the new Agency will be required to assess 20 mandatory issues (versus 12 under the 2012 Act), regardless of whether these are relevant to the proceeding before it. This almost doubles the number of mandatory issues, yet the government has legislated a hearing deadline that is much shorter than previous proceedings. It is never explained how the Agency will do twice the work in half the time. It seems more likely that unless the Minister grants multiple time extensions or provides widespread exemptions from various provisions of the Act, the process will be much longer than previously, even before the usual post-decision litigation adds a few more years. Indeed, I have suggested in testimony before the Canadian Senate that this legislation might well be called the “No More Pipelines Act.”[30]

3. The Paris Agreement

If Canada’s placebo Accountability Act is stimulated by the Paris Agreement it should come as no surprise that the Paris Agreement itself is a placebo. After the failure of previous international climate agreements the UN decided to try again with Paris. Under pressure from well-financed Western environmental NGOs on the one side, and the recognition that countries representing the vast majority of the planet’s population would not agree to dispensing with fossil fuels and condemning their millions to continued poverty, the UN chose the politically safe path. That was to pretend to do the impossible by setting a politically acceptable goal — limiting global warming to 2°C — with no known means of achieving it. That PR objective is the real purpose of the Paris Agreement.

More optimistically, even if every single country met its stated goals for 2030, how close will the planet get to the target of 2°C/1.5°C maximum warming, versus the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s estimated 4.5°C, by the year 2100? According to economist Bjorn Lomborg[31] the reduction in warming would be 0.048°C (less than 5 per cent of 1°C). Even if every nation fulfils every promise all the way to the end of this century, and there is no CO2 leakage to non-committed nations, the entirety of the Paris promises will reduce temperature rises by just 0.17°C — only 8 per cent of the Agreement’s 2.0°C target (11 per cent of the 1.5°C target). This illustrates why, in essence, the Paris Agreement is an international political placebo agreement.

Bringing the entire planet to net-zero by 2050 would require a complete global energy transition to electricity. According to the British Petroleum Statistical Review of World Energy 2020, hydrocarbons in 2019 (pre-pandemic lockdowns) accounted for 84 per cent of both primary energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions globally. “Renewables,” which includes mainly biomass (i.e., burning trees), wind, and solar energy, accounted for just under 5 per cent. How long will it take for this 5 per cent to become 100 per cent? On this issue Vaclav Smil concluded in his 2016 book Energy Transitions[32]:

“As in the past, the unfolding global energy transitions will last for decades, not years, and modern civilization’s dependence on fossil fuels will not be shed by a sequence of government-dictated goals.”

As noted above, anthropogenic climate change can only be controlled through universal global action involving every country. But that raises difficult questions about doing our part. How much are others doing? How much is our part? With most other countries with large populations actually increasing their emissions even faster than we are, should Canada keep on trying to be an exception and do more, or should we also continue to do less? If the planet’s capacity for additional CO2 emissions needs to be rationed among 195 countries with different political systems and cultures how can the world do this, who does it, and by when? Protesters blocking traffic or children taking a day off school to demonstrate with placards may provide drama, but not the answers. Governments setting distant targets they have no idea how to meet simply kick the CO2 can down the road.

An abrupt transition off fossil fuels would drastically reduce living standards.[33] Painfully high carbon taxes and massive increases in sales and income taxes would be needed to fund the massive new all electric energy infrastructure to replace Canada’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels for manufacturing, transportation, heating and air-conditioning. Are Canadians really willing to do this for no net global effect, while China and others are massively increasing their emissions? If not, Western governments need to listen to William Nordhaus and Vaclav Smil and stop pretending that the Paris Agreement will fix the “climate crisis.”

On a per capita basis, pre-pandemic (2019) Canada, emitted 15.4 tonnes of CO2 per capita per year, among the highest of any developed nation, including the US.[34] By comparison, another cold country, Sweden, emitted 4.26 tonnes per capita per year,[35] less than one third of ours. It will be interesting to see how Canada is actually going to reverse this trend and go from 15.4 to zero over the next 30 years.

In 2019, Canada’s CO2 emissions were up 21.7 per cent over 1990[36]. That doesn’t look like a rapid transition to green energy.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that Canada should do nothing whatsoever about the effects of climate change. But our government should not legislate a target for a journey to an unreachable destination on an unknown route, to be paid for with large, undisclosed sums of money: yours, and your children’s, and your grandchildren’s.


Climate change, which is measured by the change in the mean global temperature, is a global concern that is neither locally caused nor locally cured. The Accountability Act, and the extensive government PR blitz promoting it, wrongly pretends that legislating the target will be a useful and effective new law for making the world livable for Canada’s children and grandchildren. Real, useful, transparent laws generally do not say, in effect, “we intend to move towards accomplishing this in under 30 years, but we have no idea how to do it or what your costs will be.” This is not so much a law as a public relations statement presented as a law.

Passing legislation about a target assures neither that Canada will attain the net-zero goal nor that the costs and benefits of attempting to do so will be justified. Does this placebo make you feel better?

* Andrew Roman is a recently retired lawyer who has contributed to the development of administrative, environmental and energy law in Canada over the past 50 years. He has recently testified before various committees of the House of Commons and the Senate on environmental issues.

Mr. Roman has appeared as legal counsel before numerous administrative tribunals and courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada. He has authored some 90 published legal articles and a book, and was an adjunct faculty member at four Canadian law schools while maintaining an active law practice from 1973 to 2017.

You can read more of Andrew Roman’s writing on a variety of energy related topics on his blog, here:

  1. Environment and Climate Change Canada, News release, “Government of Canada legislates climate accountability with first net-zero emissions law” (June 30, 2021), online: <>.
  2. See e.g. Impact Assessment Act, SC 2019, c 28, s 1, which has a preamble of several clauses that merely state what the Government of Canada recognizes, which would not be of any great assistance in statutory interpretation. It then goes on in the definition section, s 2, to define “Indigenous knowledge”, which is given special statutory status in that Act, as: “Indigenous knowledge means the Indigenous knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of Canada.” How will this help a regulator to determine whether the evidence to be presented by an Indigenous group’s witness at a public hearing is or is not Indigenous knowledge in the statutory sense?
  3. Environment and Climate Change Canada, supra note 1.
  4. Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, SC 2021, c 22, s 4.
  5. Reference re Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, 2021 SCC 11.
  6. See e.g. La Rose v Canada, 2020 FC 1008 (unsuccessful) and Mathur v Ontario, 2020 ONSC 6918, brought by the environmental law firm Ecojustice, was successful against Ontario’s motion to strike out the case.
  7. Office of the Auditor General of Canada, “Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada – A Collaborative Report from Auditors General – March 2018” (March 2018), online: <>.
  8. Only 27 countries have a carbon tax. The US is not one of these.
  9. The rush to achieve net-zero will create domestic and international winners and losers. For Canadians, the target will make all forms of transportation, home heating, electricity and food much more costly. This will particularly impact low income consumers and smaller businesses. At the international level, as the West reduces its purchases of coal and natural gas in international markets, it makes these fuels cheaper for China to purchase, further enhancing China’s international competitive position. In effect, the developed countries of the West are off-shoring emissions to the developing countries, resulting in little or no net planetary benefit, and thereby off-shoring production, jobs and investment. In the global economic competition the winners are likely to be the ones who reduce their emissions last and by the least. The emission reduction leaders will be the losers.
  10. See e.g. Vaclav Smil, “It’ll Be Harder Than We Thought to Get the Carbon Out” (June 2018) 55:6 IEEE Spectrum 72, online (pdf): <>. See also Vaclav Smil, “What we need to know about the pace of decarbonization” (2019) 3:2 Substantia (Suppl. 1) 13.
  11. Vaclav Smil, “What we need to know about the pace of decarbonization” (April 2020) at 2, 4, online (pdf): Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy <>.
  12. At the November 2021 COP 26 Summit in Glasgow, India went even further. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India would aim for net zero carbon emissions by 2070. While it’s the first time India has made such a pledge, the timeline is still two decades beyond the 2050 target set by the climate summit’s organizers. See Saheli Roy Choudhury, “Can India achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2070? The road is long but not impossible” CNBC (4 November 2021), online: <>.
  13. The Paris Agreement, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 12 December 2015, Can TS 2016/9 (entered into force 4 November 2016).
  14. Bjorn Lomborg, False Alarm (New York: Basic Books, 2020) at 24–25.
  15. Jeff Tollefson, “The hard truths of climate change – by the numbers”, Nature (18 September 2019), online: <>.
  16. British Petroleum, “Statistical Review of World Energy, 69th Edition” (2020), online (pdf): <>.
  17. See GWPF & BBC News, “Net Zero agenda faltering: ‘Pie in the sky’” (1 April 2021), online: NetZero Watch <>.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Matthew Dalton, “China, India and Other Developing Nations Seek $1.3 Trillion a Year in Climate Finance”, The Wall Street Journal (4 November 2021), online: <>.
  20. Hannah Ritchie & Max Roser “China: CO2 Country Profile” (2020), online: Our World in Data <>.
  21. Stephen Eule, “China’s INDC: Significant Effort or Business as Usual?” (2 July 2015), online: Global Energy Institute <>.
  22. Government of India, “India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution: Working Towards Climate Justice” (2015), online (pdf ): <>.
  23. William Nordhaus, “Projections and Uncertainties about Climate Change in an Era of Minimal Climate Policies” (2018) 10:3 American Economic J: Economic Policy 333 at 333–34, online (pdf): <>.
  24. Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 11 December 1997, 2303 UNTS. 148, 37 ILM 22 (entered into force 16 February 2005).
  25. Government of Canada, “Net-Zero Emissions by 2050” (last modified 13 August 2021), online: <>.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Jeffrey Rissman & Robbie Orvis, “Carbon Capture and Storage: An Expensive Option for Reducing U.S. CO2 Emissions”, Forbes (3 May 2017), online: <>.
  28. SBC 2019, c 44.
  29. Jonathan Drance, Glenn Cameron & Rachel Hutton, “Federal Energy Project Reviews: Timelines in Practice” (2018) 6:3 Energy Regulation Q 23, online (pdf): <>.
  30. Senate, Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, Issue No. 58 – Evidence (2 April 2019), online: <>.
  31. Bjorn Lomborg, Press release, “Paris climate promises will reduce temperatures by just 0.05°C in 2100” (last visited 10 October 2021), online: <>.
  32. Vaclav Smil, Energy Transitions: Global and National Perspectives, 2nd ed (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2016).
  33. Ross McKitrick & Elmira Aliakbari, “Energy Abundance and Economic Growth: International and Canadian Evidence” (May 2014), online: Fraser Institute <>.
  34. Hannah Ritchie, “Where in the world do people emit the most CO2?” (4 October 2019), online: Our World in Data <>.
  35. Ibid.
  36. Environment and Climate Change Canada, National inventory report: greenhouse gas sources and sinks in Canada, Catalogue No En81-4E-PDF (Ottawa: Environment Canada, 2021), online: <>.

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