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Commissioner Julie Gelfand, of the Environment and Sustainable Development Commission, holds a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, October 3, 2017.

Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

Only five of 12 provinces and territories have targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, and only two are on track to hit those goals with domestic reductions, a report from Canadian auditors-general said Tuesday.

Federal, provincial and territorial auditors worked together to assess Canada’s response to climate change, both in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions (GHGs) and adapting to the changing conditions. Quebec did not participate in the study.

Of those provinces and territories that were included, only New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have climate targets for 2020 that they are likely to achieve through domestic action, while Ontario is relying on a cap-and-trade system that includes emissions reductions from outside the province.

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“On the basis of current federal, provincial, and territorial policies and actions, Canada is not expected to meet its 2020 target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions,” the report said. “Meeting Canada’s 2030 target will require substantial effort and actions beyond those currently planned or in place.”

At the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, then Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper set a goal of reducing GHGs by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. At Paris in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged Canada would reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Catherine McKenna is defending the government’s climate policies after a new audit said Ottawa and the provinces lacked clear plans to adapt to climate change. The environment minister called the report “backwards looking.” The Canadian Press

Despite the presence of a federal goal that relies in part on provincial action, nine of 13 provinces and territories have no GHG targets for 2030, including Alberta, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The federal government is expected to introduce legislation this spring to establish a federal “backstop” that would impose a carbon tax in provinces that refuse to establish their own levy or cap-and-trade policy, or that fail to meet federal standards for their system. The federal carbon tax plan is vigorously opposed by the Saskatchewan government and conservative opposition parties in Ontario and Alberta, where elections loom.

The federal and provincial governments are also pursuing a host of other policies, including the phase-out of coal-fired electricity; efforts to encourage energy efficiency and fuel switching in buildings, and policies aimed at reducing reliance on gasoline and diesel in transportation. All those approaches drive up costs for businesses and consumers, depending on whether they succeed in cutting their energy use.

In the report released Tuesday, the auditors also found that federal, provincial and territorial governments are not adequately preparing for the changes that global warming will bring, including changing rainfall patterns with droughts and more frequent severe storms, melting Arctic sea ice and tundra, and higher sea levels.

”It is important for governments to systematically assess their risks in order to adapt to the changes to come and to allocate resources to the most pressing concerns,” the auditors said.

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