Canada’s Nationally Determined Contribution?

Canada recently signed the Paris Agreement. Canada also submitted our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) last year. We have agreed to submit our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) later this year after consulting with the provinces. Canada's INDC was not ambitious and matched the weak targets that were set by the previous government: "Canada intends to achieve an economy-wide target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030."

I was asked what I thought the Canadian NDC should be. I replied that our NDC should be based on our carbon budget (cumulative) and not annual emissions.

The risk that we are willing to take and obviously whether we want to remain under 1.6 or 2 degrees C will change that. And as far as Canada is concerned our remaining budget depends upon how this budget is allocated on a per-capita or some other basis such as GDP.

In 2011, the IPCC estimated that the remaining global carbon budget should be less than 3,885 billion tonnes (GtCO2) for a 66% chance of keeping temperature rise below 3.1 degrees, 2,860 GtCO2 to keep it below 2.0 degrees and 990 GtCO2 below 1.6 degrees.

The IPCC used several scenarios (RCP) to come up with these estimates. RCP2.6 is the most ambitious. It projects a range of temperature increases (between 0.4 and 1.6) that are likely (66%) to occur. These temperature increases are relative to what the IPPC refers to as a reference period of 1986 - 2005 (approximately 0.6 degrees above the pre-industrial global temperatures.) 

Canada's share

Canada’s contribution to the budget can be calculated based on a number of factors.


Canada's share of the global population is 0.5%. If we use per-capita, our limits ought to be 0.005 times the numbers above: 19,425 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2); 14,300 MtCO2; and 4,950 MtCO2 respectively.

Current emissions

The budget could be shared on other principles such as a country's share of global emissions. Canada's emissions were 1.6% of global emissions in 2014 according to Environment Canada. In that case our limits would be 62,160 MtCO2; 45,760 MtCO2; and 15,840 MtCO2.

How long before we use up our budget?

Assuming these limits, how many years would it take Canada to use up our fair share? In 2014 Canada's annual emissions were 732 MtCO2e. If we assume that Canada's annual emissions will average 720 MtCO2e then I estimate the time it will take to use up our budget. Using IPCC figures which were estimated in 2011, I calculated the years since 2017 to be:


This would give us 21 years to keep temperature increases below 3.1 degrees; 14 years below 2 degrees; and zero years below 1.6 degrees. We will have used up our budget by 2017 if we want to have a hope of keeping our temperature increase below 1.6 degrees.

Current emissions

80 years to keep temperature increases below 3.1 degrees; 50 years below 2 degrees; and 16 years below 1.6 degrees. We will have used up our budget by 2032 to keep our temperature increase below 1.6 degrees.

What should Canada do if we use up our budget?

Possibly Canada can trade our emissions by giving developing countries monies to convert rapidly to renewable energies. Perhaps creating enough sustainable energy in Canada and developing countries to offset these emissions would work.

NDC recommendations

I believe that:

  • Canada’s NDC should be that we emit zero GHGs immediately in order to have a 66% probability of keeping the temperature rise below 1.6 degrees.
  • Given that it is impossible for Canada emit zero GHGs immediately then until we do we should swap our emissions with a developing country in return for paying them to convert rapidly to renewable energy.
  • We should submit an NDC based on our fair share of the carbon budget. An NDC based on annual emissions is wrong.


All of the above is my personal thoughts on the subject of Canada's share of global cummulative emissions and NDC submission. Please email any feedback to me.