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Partners for Climate Protection

Milestone 2

Setting an emissions reductions target

An emissions reduction target can be established at any time. The target is normally set, however, following the development of an emissions inventory and forecast or after the quantification of existing emissions reduction measures.

To develop a reduction target, a municipal government usually seeks the input of residents, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. Council must adopt the greenhouse gas reduction target, and the timeline for achieving it.

Why set a target?

The greenhouse gas reduction target forms the basis of a municipality's program objectives and provides a starting point from which to track progress.

There is compelling evidence that some communities could adopt aggressive targets. To slow the effects of climate change, most scientists believe that significant reductions in GHG emissions are needed. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)* believes that we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 60 per cent below 1990 levels in order to have any impact on global climate change.

*The IPCC is an intergovernmental body that provides scientific, technical and socioeconomic advice to the world community and, in particular, to the 170-plus Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

How to set an emissions reduction target

As a rule, an emissions reduction target is expressed as a percentage reduction below the quantity of emissions released in the baseline year.


  • 20 per cent reduction below 1994 levels (the baseline year) to be achieved by 2010 (the target year)

In this example, if the municipality's 1994 emissions were one million tonnes of equivalent CO2, which includes CO2, CH4, and N2O, its goal then would be to reduce total emissions from the community to 800,000 tonnes in 2010, regardless of any projected growth in emissions between the baseline and target years.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities recommends the following targets:

  • A 20 per cent reduction below baseline year GHG emissions for municipal operations within 10 years; and
  • A six per cent reduction below baseline year GHG emissions for the community within 10 years.

As participation in PCP is voluntary, a municipal government may choose to revise its target as it develops its Local Action Plan.

Requirements for Recognition

  • Provide a statement of the GHG emission reduction targets adopted by the municipal council. A council report endorsing the targets should also be provided.
Page Updated: 30/04/2018