New report lays out seven policies to steer Canada toward a low-carbon economy



TORONTO — Canada must ensure there are broader changes to our economy beyond carbon pricing alone if the country is to move toward a low-carbon economy, says a new report released today by the Mowat Centre and the Broadbent Institute.

The two think tanks say that in the lead-up to next month’s UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, Canada’s new federal government must articulate a broad and clear agenda that recognizes climate change is a fundamental global threat demanding Canadian leadership.

According to Rick Smith, Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute, a price on carbon is a necessary first step, but won’t be enough.

“Although carbon pricing is a core policy idea gaining ground at provincial and federal levels, we need broader policy changes to support a lower-carbon economy,” he said. “First, the price on carbon would have to jump too quickly to create the changes in behaviour needed in the short term. Second, while carbon pricing is likely the most efficient economy-wide measure to address GHG reductions, there are many specific instances of market failure that carbon pricing fails to address.” 

In the report titled Step Change: Federal Policy Ideas Toward a Low-Carbon Canada, Mowat and the Broadbent Institute outline seven preliminary policy ideas in addition to carbon-pricing that could help the federal government steer Canada toward a low-carbon economy:

  • Green Bank of Canada: A state-sponsored financial entity that promotes greater private-sector investment in the low-carbon economy through a variety of mechanisms, such as credit enhancements, guarantees, project aggregation and securitization.
  • Tax Code Retrofit: A suite of changes to the tax code in favour of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other sustainable technologies, supported by a phase-out of remaining fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Accelerated Coal Phase-Out: Amendment to the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-Fired Generation of Electricity Regulations, to accelerate the phase-out of remaining coal-fired power plants.
  • Green Building Compact: A packaged suite of federal energy efficiency and renewables policies, including a revamp of codes and standards, a National Deep Retrofit Program, and a renewable heating program.
  • ‘Lead by Example’ Mandate: A suite of ambitious initiatives for federal facilities and institutions, including on heat and power, transportation, and institutional investing.
  • Clean Transportation Strategy: A packaged suite of policies pertaining to transportation, including a progressive Vehicle Emissions Tax, a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, and a revamp of infrastructure spending and transfer criteria to include GHG goals.
  • Bio Strategy: A suite of policies promoting best practices in the agricultural and forestry sectors, from cross-compliance with existing funding programs to voluntary initiatives in farming practices.

The package of policy approaches is designed to complement emerging carbon pricing approaches with more aggressive policy, regulatory and legislative tools.

“This report lays the foundation for a national conversation about how to systematically address climate change that needs to happen immediately with the new federal government,” said Paul Sommerville, Executive Director of Mowat’s energy research hub.

“We believe the measures outlined here will attract support of the large majority of Canadians that believe we must do more to address climate change,” he added. “Getting behind the package of policy measures outlined here would send an important signal of our commitment to the international community.”

The report is available online at or

The release of the report coincides with an event in Ottawa on Tuesday evening with internationally acclaimed author and scientist Tim Flannery. On the eve of the UN climate change summit, Flannery will discuss his new book, Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis, at the event hosted by the Mowat Centre and the Broadbent Institute.


For more information, contact:
Scott Perchall, Mowat Centre, 416-356-5720
Sarah Schmidt, Broadbent Institute, 613-857-2814