Canada: Climate Change Progress In 2015, COP21 And What's Next?

Last Updated: December 17 2015
Article by Tamara Farber and Kristen Vandenberg, Student-At-Law

2015 was a ground-breaking year for climate change regulation in Ontario. The province made several announcements regarding plans and strategies for how to best lower greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet targets in the coming years.


1. Ontario Joins Cap and Trade Program

On April 13, 2015, Ontario announced it will join the carbon cap and trade system under the Western Climate Initiative. The system will set a ceiling on the amount of pollution allowed from most sources within the province, with the ceiling being lowered over time to meet targets. The initial cap is set to come into force on January 1, 2017.

2. Proposed GHG Reporting Regulation Amendments

On September 14, 2015, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) proposed amendments to the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Regulation. The proposed amendments would:

  • require emitters of 10,000 tonnes or more of carbon dioxide equivalent per year to report and verify emissions data;
  • divide emission sources into those requiring reporting only and those requiring third party verification;
  • add petroleum product suppliers and natural gas distributors to the Regulation in 2016 to support the cap and trade program; and
  • add other sources to the reporting regulation including electricity imports, transmission and distribution, equipment used for natural gas transmission, distribution and storage, and magnesium production.

3. MOU regarding Western Climate Initiative

On December 7, 2015, while attending the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba Premiers and their respective environment ministers signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate their intent to link cap and trade programs in each province under the Western Climate Initiative. This means that five Canadian provinces, representing 90% of the population, will now have some form of carbon pricing mechanism.

4. Long-Term Climate Change Strategy

The Ontario government unveiled its long-term climate change strategy on November 24, 2015, setting out how Ontario intends to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 15% below 1990 levels by 2020, 37% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The cap and trade program is the main tool by which Ontario intends to meet these targets. To meet the 2020 target, the province will be expected to decrease the cap on allowable emissions by roughly 3.7% per year. The MOECC intends to take a sector-level approach to cover as much of Ontario's greenhouse gas emissions as possible.

The program purports to cover both combustion and fixed process emissions. Large or industrial emitters over 25,000 tonnes would be covered at the facility level, encompassing over 140 facilities in the province. For electricity generation, transportation fuels, and natural gas, regulations will be applied at the distributor level, if certain thresholds are met.


Canada was one of 196 countries that participated in COP21 in Paris from November 30 to December 12, 2015 with hopes of establishing post-2020 climate change targets. There was much speculation leading up to the Conference about whether any legally-binding agreement would emerge.

Notably, the French Foreign Minister invited Canada's Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, to act as one of fourteen co-facilitators to help facilitate final negotiations on the deal. Minister McKenna came out as supporting a goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, emphasizing the importance of an ambitious agreement signed by the greatest number of countries possible. This was a significant move for Canada and one that demonstrates a new commitment to real progress.

Topics receiving particular attention at COP21 included whether the target for limiting global warming should be 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, the responsibilities of developing versus developed countries in terms of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and the role of developed countries in assisting developing countries adapt to the consequences of rising temperatures.

Facilitators worked late into the night in the final days of the Conference, and on December 12, an Agreement was finalized. Notable outcomes of the Paris Agreement include:

  • Emphasis on the need to limit the increase in global average temperature to "well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels" and pursue efforts to "limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C"
  • Parties are to aim to reach peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible
  • A difference in expectations and requirements for developed versus developing countries
  • Mandatory five-year reviews of the implementation of the Agreement in the form of a "global stocktake"
  • Encouragement of developed countries to take the lead in mobilizing climate finance beyond previous efforts, and requiring the provision of financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to mitigation and adaptation strategies
  • Inclusion of transparency requirements intended to build "mutual trust and confidence and to promote effective implementation"
  • Creation of a non-adversarial and non-punitive compliance mechanism to facilitate implementation of and promote compliance with the Agreement

While the submission and review of emission reduction targets provided for in the Paris Agreement is legally binding within the United Nations framework, emission targets themselves are not. The targets are to be determined individually by nations as Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs); thus far, 188 countries have contributed INDCs to the Agreement.

Some criticisms of the Paris Agreement include the fact that it will not take effect until 2020, and that the global stocktake will not take effect until 2023. These time lags could have significant impact on the ability to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius; however, there is still work mandated in the Agreement to be done before then. This work includes engaging in dialogue and processes on mitigation and adaptation opportunities, and creating a plan to finance $100 billion USD annually by 2020 to help developing countries build capacity and move toward cleaner energy sources.

The Agreement will be open for signature at UN headquarters in New York for one year, beginning April 22, 2016. It must be ratified by at least 55 countries, representing 55% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

What's Next?

Looking to what lies ahead for Ontario, Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to speak with Premiers within 90 days of COP21 to set national targets. According to Minister McKenna, the current federal target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, made under the previous Conservative government, will act "as a floor, not a ceiling".

A draft regulatory proposal for Ontario's cap and trade program is set to be tabled in early 2016.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Tamara Farber
Kristen Vandenberg, Student-At-Law
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.