June 10, 2020

Marking the Way: How Legislating Climate Milestones Clarifies Pathways to Long-Term Goals

Source Name
The Canadian Institute for Climate Choices

Climate accountability frameworks can help bridge the gap between medium- and long-term goals and the policy action required to achieve them. They break long-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets into interim milestones. They establish clear governance structures and processes for linking milestones to policy actions. And they hold governments to account for policy implementation by requiring regular, transparent taking stock, progress reports, and—if necessary—action plans to help correct course.

Here in Canada, achieving climate goals is made more complex because jurisdiction and influence on climate- related matters overlap across provincial, territorial, municipal, Indigenous, and federal governments. In this context, adopting climate accountability frameworks could also provide forums and processes for tackling head-on the challenges and opportunities of shared jurisdiction within the federation.

Accountability frameworks are not a silver bullet. They cannot guarantee that a jurisdiction achieves its long- term climate objectives (since they cannot bind the actions of future, democratically elected governments). Nor can they sweep aside the complexity of implementing climate policies across multiple orders of government.

Nevertheless, climate accountability frameworks could help Canada to achieve its 2030 and 2050 climate targets. International and domestic experience shows that the transparency and accountability they provide can play an important role in keeping governments on track. If designed well, a national accountability framework could create institutional incentives for coordination and alignment between different orders of government.

This paper reviews experience with implementing climate accountability frameworks and explores how they can be implemented in the Canadian context. It does not focus on what Canada’s specific milestone pathway to its long-term targets ought to be. Instead, it focuses on the process for determining those pathways—and delivering on them.