Canada can get its energy system on track to meet its targets under the Paris Agreement and “zero out carbon pollution” by mid-century by adopting a menu of 10 technically feasible options to cut carbon emissions, the David Suzuki Foundation concludes in a report issued last week.
“Responding to the urgency of climate change can feel overwhelming, but our research confirms we have the solutions and strategies needed to drive national actions and innovations to meet our climate commitments,” report author and DSF climate solutions policy analyst Tom Green said in a release. “Now, we need to build consensus on a thoughtful, widely-supported plan to speed up the energy transition.”
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The report sets out a three-year Clean Power Pathways project to build support for dramatic cuts in energy-related GHG emissions by mid-century. “These 10 strategies are a litmus test that all climate plans during the 2019 federal election should be held accountable to,” Green said. “Actions such as pricing and limiting carbon pollution, prioritizing electrification with clean energy sources, and accelerating industry investment in zero-carbon solutions must be part of any credible climate plan in 2019.”
The 10 steps include:
• Accelerating clean power, with provinces and utilities moving to “aggressively dial down” electricity system emissions until they reach zero;
• Doing more with less energy, recognizing that energy efficiency offers the best return of any energy investment;
• Electrifying “just about everything”, including space heating and transportation;
• Freeing heavy industry from emissions by decarbonizing existing industrial processes;
• Switching to renewable fuels for sectors like aviation, marine, and heavy transportation that won’t be easily electrified;
• Mobilizing investment dollars away from carbon-intensive sectors and towards the clean economy;
• Levelling the playing field between polluting and cleaner energy through incentives and government price signals;
• Reimagining cities to maximize the role of “complete, compact, livable communities” in the transition;
• Focusing on “what really matters” by embracing measures of human well-being over purely economic calculations like GDP;
• Managing the transition and supporting vulnerable workers and communities to be sure to “bring everyone along”.
The report says the 10 strategies were based on past decarbonization studies in Canada and around the world, and 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 off fossil fuels “also provides opportunities for technological innovation, as well as employment and economic opportunities in the growing cleantech sector,” the report adds. “While some businesses, such as furnace manufacturers, may face falling sales and revenue if they do not adapt, others, such as heat pump manufacturers, will see rapid growth in opportunity.”
All of that will depend on policies that “shift investment toward the clean economy,” the report adds, warning that “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.”
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