OTTAWA — Canada has no immediate plans to raise its targets for cutting emissions, despite pressure from the United Nations to step it up or risk the failure of the Paris climate change agreement.
In the 2015 Paris accord, 196 countries, including Canada, agreed to set national targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions en route to preventing the planet from warming up more than two degrees Celsius on average compared with pre-industrial levels.
UN Environment Tuesday released its eighth annual emissions gap report, which says Paris signatories have thus far only committed to one-third of the cuts to emissions that will be required to achieve the goal.
Canada is one of the biggest laggards, with the UN saying that not only are Canada's existing targets too low, it does not yet have the policies in place to even meet them. The report calls on Canada and many other developed nations, including the United States, Mexico and the European Union, to step up their planned cuts or there is zero chance of meeting the two degree goal.
All countries that signed Paris are expected to produce updated targets by 2020 and the UN report says the technology is there for the world to hit the necessary cuts, it just needs the will to do it.
Asked about the report on Tuesday, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna didn't say Canada won't increase its ambition by 2020, but neither did she say Canada would.
"We've come forward with our targets now and we have a plan to meet them and we need to implement them," she said.
"We're always looking at how we can accelerate actions, but we need to be doing that in lockstep with the provinces and territories."
Canada has committed to achieving cuts to emissions to 30 per cent below what they were in 2005, which means about 523 million tonnes a year. It is at least the fourth time Canada has set an emissions target and thus far has never met one of them.
If every item in the national climate change framework is completed, Canada will still be more than 40 million tonnes from its 2030 goal.
Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, said Canada needs to "get real" about why that gap remains.
"A huge part of that is because we're still planning to develop fossil fuel resources in this country," Abreu said.
"It's time for Canadian governments to get real about having that really tricky conversation about what economic transition looks like for this country."
The UN report said if the world doesn't up its game in cutting emissions before 2030 "it is extremely unlikely that the goal of holding global warming to well below two degrees Celsius can still be reached."
"The alarming number and intensity of extreme weather events in 2017, such as hurricanes, droughts and floods, adds to the urgency of early action" the report said.
It also said the world won't achieve its climate change goals unless 80 to 90 per cent of coal reserves worldwide stay in the ground, along with 35 per cent of oil reserves and 50 per cent of gas reserves.
McKenna pointed Tuesday to Canada's joint commitment with the United Kingdom to pressure the rest of the world to phase out coal-powered electricity.
The UN says technology exists for the globe to get to the required emissions cuts and in an economically feasible way, including improved agricultural practices, adoption of energy efficiencies and renewable energy sources.
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