There are many pathways to clean power. We have the solutions to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future. What is missing is not human ingenuity or technology. What is missing is the political will to leap forward. A recent report, Zeroing in on Emissions: Canada’s clean power pathways – a review, by the David Suzuki Foundation lays out ten doable steps to take Canada to zero carbon emissions by 2050 as climate scientists say we must do. (Editor intro)
How to Zero Out Carbon
This report undertakes an extensive review of global and Canadian decarbonization models and studies. It highlights ten technically feasible strategies, actions and considerations that a wide range of experts agree will be front and centre in any effective effort to zero out Canada’s emissions by the middle of this century, as science on climate change says is required. (excerpt from the report)
The 10 steps include:
- Accelerate clean power, with provinces and utilities moving to “aggressively dial down” electricity system emissions until they reach zero;
- Do more with less energy, recognizing that energy efficiency offers the best return of any energy investment;
- Electrify just about everything, including space heating and transportation;
- Free heavy industry from emissions by decarbonizing existing industrial processes;
- Switch to renewable fuels for sectors like aviation, marine, and heavy transportation that won’t be easily electrified;
- Mobilize investment dollars away from carbon-intensive sectors and towards the clean economy;
- Level the playing field between polluting and cleaner energy through incentives and government price signals;
- Reimagine our communities to maximize the role of “complete, compact, livable communities” in the transition;
- Focus on what really matters by embracing measures of human well-being over purely economic calculations like GDP;
- Bring everyone along by managing the transition and supporting vulnerable workers and communities.
A Litmus Test
Together, these strategies are a litmus test for credible climate plans, according to the Zeroing in on Emissions report.
The report says the 10 strategies show that “deep reductions in emissions are possible while maintaining our quality of life. Although the transition will require considerable effort by industry, government, and people living in Canada, modelling results show that, in general, households and the business sector will face manageable costs, especially as improved energy efficiency and cleaner production deliver a range of ancillary benefits like improved air quality and health. Cleaner energy and fuel sources also create less air, water, and land contamination than alternatives.”
The transition to a clean energy platform “also provides opportunities for technological innovation, as well as employment and economic opportunities in the growing cleantech sector,” the report notes.
Zeroing in on Emissions however includes a very large caveat. Policies and government actions that “shift investment toward the clean economy” are urgently required to fully capitalize on emerging opportunities. “Delay will be costly. Power plants, industrial boilers, buildings, transportation infrastructure, and heavy machinery have long operational lifetimes—some of the plant and equipment built in the 2020s will still be in use in 2050. If investments continue in GHG-intensive infrastructure and equipment, the cost of meeting Canada’s climate targets will increase.”
The purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5b and the recent approval of its expansion for $7.4b do not “shift investment toward the clean economy”. The political courage to leap forward is missing. (Editor’s comment)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.