It was surprising to see Lululemon being investigated for greenwashing by the federal Competition Bureau. The athletic clothing superpower is accused of making unfounded climate change claims. After announcing its “Be Planet” marketing campaign, which plays up the company’s sustainability initiatives, Lululemon doubled its greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, Canada’s National Observer’s headline, “What’s the difference between greenwashing and lying?”

That’s a really good question. It’s lucky Canada isn’t a corporation or the Competition Bureau would have to investigate a series of our national governments. The Canadian government has been making similar overblown promises about reducing emissions for decades. For instance, under the Kyoto Protocol signed by Jean Chrétien we were supposed to reduce emissions by six per cent by 2012 relative to 1990. Instead, we increased them 24 per cent by 2008.

Many countries did reduce emissions compared to the 1990 Kyoto benchmark. Take, for example, the entire EU, which reduced beyond its target, cutting emissions by eight per cent by 2012. But here in Canada, Stephen Harper, who once called the Kyoto Protocol a "socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations,” took us out of the protocol in 2011. Canada was the only country to leave.

Then, Harper signed on to the Copenhagen Accord with a promise to reduce emissions 17 per cent by 2020 from a 2005 baseline. In 2015, the Harper government even proposed a 30 per cent reduction by 2030 from the 2005 baseline. But his government’s plans to actually meet targets were assessed as non-existent. That assessment was accurate. We ended up increasing emissions by five per cent as of 2019.

So, then came the Justin Trudeau years. In response to the global agreement in Paris in late 2015, Canada committed to a 30 per cent reduction by 2030 from the 2005 benchmark. That target was the same one set by Harper that many of us thought he had no intention of meeting. But the Trudeau government was different, right?

Our prime minister even upped the target to a 40 per cent reduction by 2030. Was this a real belief in Canada’s ability to make huge changes or a cynical belief we weren’t going to make it anyway, so why not go big? To get an idea of the answer to that question, let’s look at the 2022 Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) report the federal government just submitted to the United Nations.

Our national emissions in 2005 were 761 megatonnes (Mt). In 2022, we show an actual reduction of 54 Mt, or seven per cent, compared to 2005. So, finally things are happening, right? Well, kind of. That was a pandemic year. Remember the Omicron wave was cresting early in the year and the convoy was ensconced in downtown Ottawa. Things didn’t get anywhere close to normal until later in the year.

So, let’s examine the area that showed the most significant reduction relative to the 2005 benchmark. That is power generation (-67 Mt). Our Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault highlighted this sector when announcing the national results. Mostly, what drove this big change was getting Ontario and Alberta off coal. In terms of GHGs associated with power generation, Ontario’s contribution to the reductions through 2022 relative to 2005 was -25 and Alberta’s was -27. Impressive.

But that gain was a one-time event; you can only get off coal once. After Ontario got off coal completely in 2014, it was showing a total emissions reduction of 19 per cent due to all the changes. That sounds like we were on a roll, well on the way to Ontario contributing to the national target of 30 per cent reduction by 2030.

It’s lucky #Canada isn’t a corporation or the Competition Bureau would have to investigate a series of our national #governments. The Canadian government has been making overblown promises about reducing #emissions for decades.

But, in fact, that was virtually the end of Ontario’s improvements. From 2015 to 2022, Ontario has accomplished a mere three per cent additional reduction and even that appears to be a pandemic effect that won’t last. Since Ontario got off coal in 2014, nothing major has happened to reduce emissions further.

If we look at Alberta's emissions, we see something even worse. In 2022, Alberta showed an overall increase relative to 2005 (19 Mt), even though it ditched coal and was still feeling the pandemic-related economic slowdown. Alberta is the largest GHG emitter in the country and is still showing an increase relative to 2005. The only good news is that it could have been worse.

The increases are happening under a government that says it really believes in climate action. But it’s hard to see how things will improve much more between now and 2030. You have to feel for Guilbeault standing up there trying to pretend these numbers are good news. But he comes from a long line of environment ministers who have had to do that.

Canada often talks a good game on climate change action but never puts the puck in the net, while often scoring on the other end instead. Would we call that greenwashing or lying? Is there really any difference?

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When it comes to climate change, Trudeau can talk-the-talk, but utterly fails to deliver on these promises made. What would be useful is a breakdown by province, who is working in the right direction, those who are not. Canadians should know which Canadian provinces are not pulling their weight and undermining reaching the targets.

I understand the idea of shaming but, ostensibly, we're all in this together (if we're not, why does Canada exist?) and it's a national shame. And it's not just Trudeau.

Does it make sense to single out, say, Alberta or Ontario when the results are, in part, abetted by a federal gov't making all Canadians pay for policies meant to appease parochial, resource-captured provincial gov'ts, such as massive subsidies to fossil industries?

If we're going to shame, then let's also create something akin to "Sunshine" lists, which publicize the salaries of public servants receiving over $100k per year, only listing profligate individual carbon emitters.

I'm not sure that will be effective.

I think the big problem is that no one, anywhere, knows an effective path to get personal buy-in to "doing what is necessary" to reduce a carbon or ecological footprint. It seems to me that we're stuck on *appealing to the better angels of our nature" and hoping for the best.

No one, anywhere knows what to do? And yet, other countries are doing reductions. Canada's problem is not universal, it is Canada failing to do what other countries are succeeding in doing.

And frankly, the reason is not mysterious and it's not about individuals and it's not about gosh, having no idea what to do. The reason is that Canada is a big oil and gas exporter, and our politics are strongly influenced, arguably dominated, by fossil fuel interests. We could take down coal energy production because coal was not that huge an interest, but oil and gas have much bigger lobbies and deeper pockets, and our governments have failed to acquire any independence from them. Canada is reacting to climate change more or less the way Saudi Arabia is reacting to climate change, for the same reason.

Rufus, it would help if you read to the end of a sentence. I’m also guessing you didn’t take advantage of any of those references I offered to you in comments to a different post (regarding critical minerals) last week.

I said: “I think the big problem is that no one, anywhere, knows an effective path to get personal buy-in to "doing what is necessary" to reduce a carbon or ecological footprint.”

Do you know what the magic formula is for that? It would be very useful if you did.

Air travel rebounding (Boeing and Airbus have massive order backlogs); people are still buying heavy personal vehicles and gov’ts refuse to set sufficient fuel efficiency standards; people are buying ever-bigger single-family homes and sprawl continues apace; Global North populations are still consuming way more resources than their numbers warrant (or that the biosphere and lithosphere can sustain); Global South populations are looking to catch up (or do you think an average Indian or Bangladeshi doesn’t have a right to consume resources and generate waste as much as your average Canadian does?); etc.

China has, by far, the largest installed capacity of renewable electrical generation. It’s not even close (almost 1,500 GW in 2023). The USA was second at less than 400 GW. It happens that China also has a huge installed capacity in coal generation (which is a primary reason for it being the largest GHG emitter). But, because China is the dominant “factory to the world”, rather than pointing fingers at China, every county that imports product from China must take proportional responsibility for those emissions (which can be done by accounting for embedded carbon). It’s also important to note that Canadians emit more GHGs per capita than China, India, or Russia (all of which are in the Top 10 emitters).

Yes, oil & gas have too much influence in Canadian politics. But, because we Canadians refuse to re-orient our economy, in any meaningful way, to value-added products (although, we’re really good at cars, too), we remain stuck as primarily “hewers of wood, drawers of water” and thus concede a certain amount of influence over our politics to resource industries. Oil & gas are, by far, our biggest exports in dollar terms, and over three quarters of all our exports are bound for the USA.

Take a moment, before replying, to consider another question: did I say, anywhere, that the status quo is the way things ought to be?

Ostensibly or otherwise, we are not "all in this together", and it does make sense to "single out, say, Alberta..."

According to the recently-released 2022 numbers, emissions from oil and gas production (not the consumption of them, just the production of them) is now something like 31% of call of Canada's annual GHG emissons.

Those emissions come almost entirely from Alberta, and, to a lesser extent, from Saskatchewan. (See my reply above.)

The rest of Canada is hogtied about reducing those emissions because, under sections 91, 92, and, particularly, 92A of the Constitution, the production of non-renewable energy is the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces.

Here's the link to the Constitution:

Any federal attempt to do so, such as through the long-delayed oil and gas production emissions cap, is guaranteed to end up at the Supreme Court, where the issue will be whether it is a cap on emissions (at least partially federal jurisdiction) or it is actually a cap on production (exclusively provincial jurisdiction).

When two or three provinces obviously don't give a damn about their own emissions, and their effect on Canada's emissions, and when those provinces know that they may well have near immunity to continue to emit, I have no problem with naming and shaming.

In response to Ken Love:

Ken, do you think the oil and gas industry can be shamed? How about Danielle Smith and the UCP, generally? Seems to me they don’t give a rodent’s behind (this is a family site!). Do you think Albertans have a history of repentance when (attempted) shame is directed to them from other regions? If I thought shaming might be of use in reducing emissions, I’d have no problem with it. Without noticeable effect, the wagging finger is merely virtue signaling. Are you content with being merely virtuous?

Let the court cases come, and the sooner the better. In my view, the federal gov’t has been wagged for far too long by the provinces in areas of federal jurisdiction.

Just as a reminder, as of 2019, fossil fuels provided >80% of global primary energy supply. (Down from about 87% in 1973)**. I’m all for reducing that. As fast as possible. I’m all for the shiny new TMX pipeline becoming a white elephant for lack of customers for the bitumen (my nieces and nephews won’t be pleased about paying it off for decades). I’m all for electing representatives who take seriously the need to change how our society functions to maintain an equilibrium in the human impact on the biosphere. Are you prepared to support such politicians whose efforts may result in the need for you to change your day-to-day behaviour and what, for example, your vacations may look like in the years ahead? Are you prepared to reduce your energy consumption to a level that is sustainable were all people in Canada, if not everyone on the planet, limited to that level of consumption? Do you think everyone on the planet has a right to the lifestyle that we enjoy, or are we special?


"[A] breakdown by province" is available to anyone who cares to see it, at this website:

Click on 2022, then on 1990-2022, Part 1.

See the table on p. 33.

In 2022, Alberta emitted far more GHGs than any other province. Alberta emitted 270 Mt, which was 113 Mt more than Ontario, at 157 Mt.