The Legal Framework for Carbon Dioxide Removal in Canada


  • Neil Craik
  • Anna-Maria Hubert
  • Chelsea Daku


Recent assessments of progress on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions suggest that efforts to reduce emissions are well below what is necessary to meet current global targets of 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models include significant amounts of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere as necessary to meet the 2 degrees Celsius target. The models assume the availability of CDR technologies to contribute to climate goals, but significant uncertainties remain regarding the efficacy, costs, scalability, environmental impacts, and broader public acceptability of these technologies. In Canada, CDR technologies are a crucial element of Canada’s long-term climate strategy towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Still, little to no national policy attention has been paid to researching, assessing, and implementing CDR measures, including the necessary legal framework in which these technologies would operate.

This article provides an overview of Canada’s existing legal framework that will apply to various CDR methods as they are developed. It examines the legal framework as it may apply to CDR measures collectively (particularly in consideration of how these technologies will be treated in Canada’s broader climate framework), and individually. It aims to take stock of existing federal and provincial rules and assess the potential gaps that will need to begin to be addressed as Canada develops CDR capacities.