Electric vehicles, methane controls, and carbon capture storage are among the cornerstones of the 2030 climate plan that Environment and Climate Minister Steven Guilbeault is getting set to release at the end of this month, Bloomberg Green reports.
The specifics in the plan will show that the country’s 2030 goal of reducing emissions 40 to 45% from 2005 levels is not just “pie in the sky,” Guilbeault told Bloomberg late last week. He maintained that existing elements of Ottawa’s climate program, like carbon pricing and a 2030 coal phaseout, will already deliver a 36% reduction, but “a lot of heavy lifting” will be needed to get the country above the 40% threshold.
(The Bloomberg story also marked something of a milestone in monikers for the cabinet minister once labelled the Green Jesus of Montreal. The U.S.-based news agency headlines Guilbeault as “Trudeau Environment Czar”.)
But Guilbeault’s 36% figure hasn’t convinced the Montreal-based Institut de l’énergie Trottier (Trottier Energy Institute), which issued an analysis last week that declared the 40 to 45% target unreachable. Yesterday, Academic Director Normand Mousseau told The Energy Mix the measures Ottawa has introduced so far will deliver a 13 to 16% emissions reduction at best.
In his interview Thursday, Guilbeault wouldn’t say how much program funding he was looking for in Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s budget later this month, Bloomberg says. “But he conceded more is needed,” adding that Canada will soon be issuing C$5 billion in green bonds, its first-ever attempt to tap that source of finance.
“There’s no way we get there without investing year after year,” Guilbeault said, and it won’t be done with government funds alone. “There’s no government that can fund the transition on its own.”
Last week, the Trottier Institute laid out a series of new measures it says Canada will need, just to cut emissions by about 25% this decade. The institute advised Ottawa to concentrate on getting the building blocks and measurable indicators in place now to hit a net-zero target by 2050.
“Given the short time to 2026 and 2030, technological, technical, and human constraints, as well as the lack of drive to transform prevalent in most governments and institutions across the country, we estimate that Canada can at best reduce its overall emissions by 25 to 35% over the next eight years,” wrote Mousseau and IET research associate Simon Langlois-Bertrand—or less, given the lack of momentum in many of the sectors a successful federal plan would have to count on.
“I can be as ambitious as I want” in setting targets, Mousseau told The Mix last week. But “on the ground, nobody is ready to do what is needed to get to 2030 or 2050. Nobody is planning the investments. Nobody wants to increase production of clean energy. It’s not there. It’s not in the plans. So there are huge barriers to this transformation.”
That means the amount of money in Freeland’s budget will be less important than how it’s spent, and how effectively the push to cut carbon is integrated across federal departments and agencies, Mousseau said.
“It’s a question of regulations. It’s a question of getting things done. And the budget has to align behind the plan. We’ve been spending billions of dollars with zero success, with zero transformative result. So what’s important to me is the plan, and how you align it.”
In his Bloomberg interview, Guilbeault talked about methane controls as “a very good way to reduce emissions quickly,” range anxiety as an issue to be addressed on the way to faster EV uptake, and high oil prices as a complex moment that won’t necessarily lead to new exploration. “Higher oil prices would in theory stimulate production, although that’s not what we’re seeing,” he said. “The flip point of that is it hurts people at the at the pump.”
He added that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology “makes a lot of sense”, not just for oil and gas, but for other energy-intensive industries.
“We’re doing it with steel, we’re doing it with aluminum, we’re doing it with cement, we’re doing it with transportation,” he told Bloomberg. “We’re putting in place regulations, but we’re also putting in place investment incentives. So either you believe in a just transition, or you don’t. But I don’t agree with those who say, well, it’s okay to help all the other sectors except the oil and gas sector.”
With Freeland widely expected to introduce a wide-ranging CCS tax credit in her budget, Mousseau said the Trottier Institute’s 25% target by 2030 would mean mandating a 60% emissions cut for oil and gas, then leaving it to the industry to figure out how to get there.
“They should pay for it themselves,” he said. “They’re sitting on $60 billion in cash at the moment, so I won’t a shed a tear for them. If they want to go ahead, let’s go ahead,” with the government reserving its funding for other measures that need public support.