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press release

Environmentalists demand a law to stop Canada’s cycle of broken climate promises

June 16, 2020

Report outlines recommendations for a new Canadian Climate Accountability Act

For immediate release: June 16, 2020

Toronto – A coalition of six environmental organizations – Ecojustice, Climate Action Network Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, Équiterre, Environmental Defence and the Pembina Institute – are urging the federal government to introduce and pass climate accountability legislation at the earliest possible opportunity.

In a new report, and accompanying policy brief, the groups outline a framework – informed by international best practice – for a new Canadian Climate Accountability Act.

While the federal government has committed to exceeding Canada’s 2030 goal under the Paris agreement and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, it has yet to provide details on how it will reach these targets other than through the use of emissions milestones, also known as carbon budgets.

The groups say strong climate accountability legislation is required to ensure those aspirational goals translate into real and tangible emission reductions that tackle the climate crisis. To date, Canada has missed every greenhouse gas reduction target ever set by the federal government since it started setting climate targets 30 years ago. 

The report proposes five pillars of effective climate accountability legislation:

  • Long-term legislated GHG emissions targets for 2030 & 2050
  • Five-year national and sub-national carbon budgets, or medium-term targets
  • Five-year impact reports which set out the risks climate change poses to Canadians
  • An iterative planning & reporting system that mandates plans to meet the targets and adapt to the risks, and reports on our progress on those plans. 
  • An arms-length expert committee comprised of climate change experts, with both advisory and reporting responsibilities.

These six organizations, who are actively engaged in climate policy in Canada, have shared these recommendations with federal politicians and have urged them to incorporate the five pillars into strong climate legislation.

Julia Croome, Ecojustice lawyer and lead-author of the report said:

“Canada needs to be accountable for its climate commitments, and a legal framework can ensure that promises made under the spotlight are carried out even when that spotlight turns elsewhere.

“Other countries such as the U.K., and provincial governments in Canada like B.C. have already introduced climate accountability legislation. The federal government needs to adopt the recommendations put forward in this report and introduce a strong climate accountability law, as quickly as possible.”

Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, CAN-RAC said:

“Over 60% of voters in the last election cast their ballots for parties that promised stronger action on climate change. Yet Canada has been setting and missing climate targets for decades – it’s clear that the way we do climate action in this country isn’t working and needs to change. Jurisdictions around the world – even some Canadian provinces – are showing they take the climate crisis seriously by implementing accountability frameworks. If this government is serious about its climate commitments, it must introduce legislative and institutional mechanisms to hold current and future governments accountable to those commitments.”

Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law said:

“The COVID pandemic has shown Canadians what it means to tackle a crisis with transparency and scientific rigour. It’s time that we use that approach to tackle the climate crisis and to break Canada’s pattern of failing to deliver on our climate promises.”

Caroline Brouillette, Senior analyst – climate change, Équiterre, said:

“Simply talking about carbon neutrality by 2050 is like saying we want zero cases of COVID-19 in 2050 without taking immediate action. Our response to the climate crisis, like the current health crisis, depends largely on our ability to consistently and continuously measure and assess government policies and action, which is at the core of climate accountability legislation.”

Dale Marshall, National Climate Program Manager, Environmental Defence, said:

“Climate stability is not a “nice to have.” It is how we ensure thriving, resilient communities. For the last decade, Canada has repeatedly seen much greater economic promise from clean technology sectors than from fossil fuels, including oil and gas. As we kickstart the economy following COVID, the federal government must make climate accountability the foundation of our stimulus plans.”


Isabelle Turcotte, Director, Federal Policy, Pembina Institute, said:

“Canada has made huge strides forward with the creation of the first national climate plan. Now it’s time to get more specific with legislated targets and milestones to keep Canada on track to meet our climate commitments toward limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. A strong accountability framework will ensure governments heed scientific advice, deliver on climate commitments, provide regulatory certainty for businesses, and include an independent advisory body with a legislated mandate to advise on pathways and monitor progress toward net-zero emissions by 2050.”




Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, innovative public interest lawsuits lead to legal precedents that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.


Canada’s primary network of organizations work­ing on climate change and energy issues, Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat Canada is a coalition of 120 organ­izations operating from coast to coast to coast. Our membership brings environmental groups together with trade unions, First Nations, social jus­tice, development, health and youth organizations, faith groups and local, grassroots initiatives. For 30 years, CAN-Rac has been the only national organ­ization with a mandate to promote the interests of the Canadian climate movement as a whole, rather than any one individual organization.

West Coast Environmental Law

West Coast Environmental Law is a non-profit group of environmental lawyers and strategists dedicated to safeguarding the environment through law. Since 1974, West Coast has successfully worked with communities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and all levels of government, including First Nations governments, to develop proactive legal solutions to protect and sustain the environment.


Équiterre, an environmental leader in Quebec and Canada, offers concrete solutions to accelerate the transition towards a society in which individuals, organizations and governments make ecological choices that are both healthy and equitable. Since the beginning, Equiterre has relied on a dedi­cated team of specialists from a variety of fields. It develops projects in agriculture, transportation, fair trade, energy, responsible consumption and cli­mate change. www.equiterre.org

Environmental Defence

Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian advo­cacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities. www.environmentaldefence.ca

Pembina Institute

The Pembina Institute is a national non-partisan think tank that advocates for strong, effective poli­cies to support Canada’s clean energy transition. We employ multi-faceted and highly collaborative approaches to change. Producing credible, evi­dence-based research and analysis, we consult dir­ectly with organizations to design and implement clean energy solutions, and convene diverse sets of stakeholders to identify and move toward common solutions.