“D” Grade for Canada on New Environment Report Card



Ottawa, April 21, 2016—Canada and most of its provinces perform poorly on The Conference Board of Canada’s first How Canada Performs: Environment Report Card that compares the environmental performance of Canada, the provinces, and 15 peer countries.

Overall, Canada gets a “D” grade and ranks 14th among the 16 peer countries, only the U.S. and Australia rank worse.

“Canada ranks near or at the bottom on most of the nine indicators we used to assess environmental performance. While some of Canada’s poor grades can be explained by our large land mass, cold climate and resource-intensive economy, the results clearly indicate that the environmental challenges are significant and we have a long way to go towards improving our comparative environmental performance,” said Louis Theriault, Vice-President, Public Policy.

“These  results show that Canada needs to encourage more sustainable consumption. Protecting the environment from damage is not a problem for tomorrow but a challenge for today.”


  • With 20.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per capita, Canada’s GHG emissions are very high compared to its peers; only the U.S. and Australia fare worse.
  • Most of Canada’s provinces also rank poorly on the overall environment report card: five provinces are at the bottom of the pack with “D–” grades.
  • The highest ranking province, Ontario, receives a “B” grade and places 11th out of 26 comparator regions.

Released on the eve of Earth Day, nine indicators were used to evaluate the environmental performance of Canada, the provinces and 15 peer countries. The indicators cover performance in three categories: climate change, air pollution, and freshwater management.

Climate change

Canada receives “D” grades on two of the three climate change indicators: GHG emissions and energy intensity. With 20.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per capita, Canada’s GHG emissions are among the highest of the peer countries, only the U.S. and Australia fare worse.

While Canada has reduced its energy intensity by almost 30 per cent between 1995 and 2014, it still ranks second-to-last among the peer countries. Canada receives its only “A” for low-emitting electricity generation. With nearly 80 per cent of Canada’s electricity being generated from low-emitting sources such as hydro and nuclear power, Canada does well on this indicator, but remains behind Norway, Switzerland, France, and Sweden.

Air pollution

Canada’s per capita performance on all four air pollution indicators improved between 1990 and 2014. Nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOX), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM10) emission rates have all dropped significantly over the past couple of decades.

However, Canada still has some of the highest per capita emission rates among its peers and receives two “D” grades (VOC and PM10 emissions,a “C” (NOx emissions), and a “B” (SOx emissions).

Freshwater Management

Canada is a middle-of-the-pack performer on the two freshwater management indicators. It gets a “B” and ranks 9th among the 16 peer countries on wastewater treatment and, similarly, gets a “B” grade on per capita water withdrawals, and ranks 10th out of 15 peers.

chart with grades for Canada and the provinces on environmental report card

For the first time, this year’s How Canada Performs: Environment Report Card includes the provinces in the rankings. Compared to international peers, all of the provinces rank poorly.

  • Ontario is the top-ranked province scoring a “B” and ranking 11th overall.
  • Quebec, British Columbia, and P.E.I. are “C” grade performers.
  • Manitoba ranks 19th and scores a “D” grade overall.
  • Saskatchewan, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick all receive “D–” grades and are at the bottom of the international ranking.

In this year’s environmental performance analysis, the 16 peer countries assessed, and their corresponding grades, are:

  • “A”—Switzerland, France, United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland
  • “B”—Austria, Belgium, Norway, Japan
  • “C”—Finland
  • “D”—Canada, United States, Australia

How Canada Performs is an ongoing research program at The Conference Board of Canada to help leaders identify relative strengths and weaknesses in Canada’s socio-economic performance. Six performance domains are assessed: Economy, Education and Skills, Innovation, Environment, Health, and Society.

Released today, and building on previous How Canada Performs analyses, the Environment report card is the fifth of six to be produced on Canadian and provincial socio-economic performance. To date, the Economy, Education and Skills, Health, and Innovation report cards have been published.

Watch a spotlight video on Canada’s GHG emissions.



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