Regulating Greenhouse Gases in Canada: Constitutional and Policy Dimensions

Faculty Author Type

Emeritus Faculty [Robin Elliot]

Published In

McGill Law Journal

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Canada; Greenhouse Gases; Regulation


Canada's greenhouse gas emissions have risen dramatically since the 1997 negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that rise has continued through Canada's 2002 ratification of the Protocol. Constitutional barriers to regulation have sometimes been cited as the reason for caution in regulating greenhouse gases, as well as economic dislocation. This article critically evaluates the constitutional arguments, and examines the policy considerations of various regulatory instruments that might be used to reduce greenhouse gases. We conclude that the Canadian Constitution does not present any significant barriers to federal or provincial regulation, and that policy considerations strongly favour the use of two instruments: a federal carbon tax and use of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to review federal projects that may increase greenhouse gases.