Choosing a meeting of the Canadian Wind Energy Association for the symbolic announcement, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna committed the Liberal government to convert all of its far-flung operations—from bookkeeping and procurement to ships and aircraft—to renewable energy in less than a decade.
“Today, to show we’re leading the way, we are announcing our firm commitment to purchasing 100% renewable power for government operations by 2025,” the minister said, according to the Globe and Mail.
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“The government needs to be a key player to support the acceleration of clean growth,” McKenna added, “not only through policy, but by investing and showing leadership. We’re talking about government operations, buildings, and fleets.”
McKenna declined to estimate the cost of shifting government operations to renewable energy, but noted “the good news is [that] when you look at renewables, they’re actually becoming very cost-competitive, so I think by 2025 you will see in many cases it’s [cost] parity and there’s different sources to choose from.”
CanWEA Vice President Jean-François Nolet said the announcement “sends a clear message to investors, and this is what we need so that investors can go ahead and invest in the regions, create jobs and benefits to the local communities.”
According to the Globe, “National Defence and Public Services and Procurement Canada account for more than three-quarters of all government greenhouse gas emissions.” Fulfilling McKenna’s commitment to all-renewable operations will be particularly challenging for mobile assets like ships, aircraft, and military armour and transportation. While biofuels have demonstrated compatibility with legacy combustion engines, their supply at scale has lagged.
Meanwhile, Treasury Board President Scott Brison reinforced the announcement in the House of Commons. “As McKenna was speaking in Calgary,” the Globe reports, Brison “was announcing in Ottawa that the federal government plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.”
Brison also sketched in some of the specifics behind McKenna’s announcement. “We are creating a Centre for Greening of Government at Treasury Board that will track emissions, coordinate efforts across government and drive results,” he said during Question Period. The government’s broader plan envisages clean vehicle fleets, “green procurement”, and refurbishing the half-dozen plants that heat and cool some 85 federal buildings in the National Capital Region.
Apart from leading by example, the high-profile commitment will have little impact on Canada’s overall emissions. In the absence of a current reckoning of emissions from federal government operations, a web page last updated under the Harper government shows that in 2005, emissions traceable to the operations of 15 government departments amounted to 1.3 megatons, or about 0.17% of all Canadian emissions.