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National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy
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Geared for Change: Energy Efficiency in Canada?s Commercial Building Sector

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Geared for Change: Energy Efficiency in Canada?s Commercial Building Sector

"Canada?s commercial building sector can achieve significant GHG emission reductions through new energy efficiency measures."

Joint report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC)

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National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC)



  • In the absence of any policy intervention, carbon emissions from the commercial building sector in Canada are forecasted to grow to 207% above 2008 levels by 2050.
  • The policies and programs contained in the government?s Turning the Corner plan and Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions, together with a price on carbon and an additional suite of targeted policy instruments, are projected to decrease growth in emissions by 73 MtCO2 per year by 2050 compared to the business-as-usual case. This represents an 89% reduction in emissions from the ?do nothing? scenario.
  • CO2 emissions stay below 2008 levels before 2030, but then begin to rise again even with the proposed policies in place.
  • Mandatory regulations requiring minimum performance standards for all new buildings are required in order to prevent a rise in CO2 emissions in the long term and to reach the proposed 2050 target of 53 MtCO2 or 66% below the business-as-usual scenario in 2050.


  • Energy efficiency technologies exist that can reduce GHG emissions from the commercial building sector, but barriers to their use and wide-spread adoption are in place and must be overcome.
  • A comprehensive package of policy recommendations is required if the commercial building sector is to achieve targeted emission reductions through increased energy efficiency.
  • This includes:
    • Applying a market-wide price signal on carbon;
    • Adopting specific regulations such as new building codes, minimum performance standards for buildings and equipment, and mandatory energy labeling;
    • Targeting subsidies and financial incentives such as accelerated capital cost allowances and technology funds;
    • Utilizing information programs to drive voluntary actions for energy efficiency by building owners and tenants.
  • A comprehensive, time-sequenced policy pathway from 2009 to 2050 is being recommended to the federal government by the NRTEE and SDTC, demonstrating what specific actions need to be taken when, in order to achieve targeted GHG emission reductions from Canada?s commercial building sector.

Commercial Buildings Profile

  • There are more than 440,000 commercial buildings in Canada (approximately 672 million m2 of commercial floor space).
  • They account for 14% of end-use energy consumption and 13% of the country?s carbon emissions.
  • Space and water heating accounts for 65% of energy used in commercial buildings in Canada.
  • Natural gas accounts for 52% of the energy used by the sector and electricity accounts for 36%.