Canada's carbon pollution target for 2020 could have been nearly met if the country had widely implemented some successful regional policies starting six years ago, a report by the David Suzuki Foundation suggests, adding that "serious headway" is still possible.

If Canada had adopted some of these policies in all parts of the country in 2008, it would have lowered emissions by 77 million tonnes and put the country within 5.6 per cent of its goal to cut greenhouse gases 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020​, says the report titled Building on the Best: Keeping Canada's Climate Promise.

'Canada does not have plans in place to keep its promise to the world.' — Ian Bruce, David Suzuki Foundation's science and policy manager

"By adopting the strongest policies already in place in parts of the country, Canada could develop a unifying climate change strategy that would allow us to meet our international commitments and targets," Ian Bruce, the foundation's science and policy manager, said in a written statement. "Canada does not have plans in place to keep its promise to the world."

The report comes on the heels of a warning from Environment Canada that the country will only get halfway to its 17 per cent reduction goal. Canada committed to that figure in 2009 under the Copenhagen Accord.

'Serious headway' can still happen

Canada can still make "serious headway" toward this goal, according to the report, if it implements a unifying climate change strategy.

"We have made-in-Canada solutions that are proven to work," Bruce said. "By advancing the strongest policies that now exist at provincial and municipal levels, Canada can be a global leader while realizing the benefits of cleaner air, less traffic congestion, greater innovation and a diversified economy."

These solutions include:

  • Eliminating emissions from coal power by giving provinces the option to close or retrofit their coal plants with carbon capture and storage. Ontario closed its last remaining coal-fired power plant in April 2014.
  • Generating more electricity from renewable sources by encouraging provinces to increase the electricity generated from renewable energy in their jurisdictions by 23 per cent by 2020. 
  • Adopting carbon pricing nationally, mimicking B.C.'s pricing schedule. Since 2008, the province has increased the tax $5 per tonne a year. The tax would reach $70 per tonne by 2020. Quebec and Alberta have also adopted carbon pricing policies, while Ontario has recently moved in this direction.

The report calls on the Canadian government to promote these practices to all provinces and territories with a "unifying strategy."

"We have a great opportunity to implement climate solutions in Canada and to share our knowledge," Bruce said. "Canada could become an innovator and developer of clean energy solutions and export those solutions to the world."

With files from The Associated Press