Net-Zero Advisory Board debuts with a call for urgent action and real GHG reductions

Canada’s new Net-Zero Advisory Board has published its first report on a newly-launched website on July 5. The report,  Net-Zero Pathways: Initial Observations, outlines the ten values and principles that will guide the Board in its consideration of  “transition pathways”, and in turn, determine the advice it will provide to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

This Initial Observations report is written in careful and diplomatic language, but provides an insight into the thinking and approach that this advisory body will take. The five foundational values include: “Put people first”  (which calls for a just transition and  states: “ A just transition will lead to more equitable outcomes on gender, racial justice and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”).   Value #4  is “ Collaborate every step of the way”  (“Pathways must be multidisciplinary, taking into account the contributions of workers, economists, investors, engineers, entrepreneurs, social scientists, and Indigenous knowledge holders, among others. They must be grounded in the reality facing everyday, hardworking Canadians.”) and Value #5, recognizing political realities, is:  “Recognize and respect regional differences and circumstances”…. (“In many parts of the country, jobs, communities, and the economy are closely connected to GHG-intensive activities. Canada’s net-zero transition will take place in a context with tensions and tradeoffs, as well as benefits.”).

The five “design principles” begin with “Act early, and urgently”, and emphasize the need to “be bold and proactive” – pointing to the example of the recent  IEA Net-Zero by 2050 report, and stating: “the public and private sectors need to be prepared to take appropriate risks and back potential “game changers” now—both in terms of new technologies and infrastructure.”  At the same time, the report states that we should begin with known technologies – such as electrification and energy efficiency, and warns “Don’t get caught in the “net”” – stating that we must achieve actual emissions reductions, and warning “the “net” in “netzero” cannot become an excuse to allow continued emitting, growth of emissions, or slow action.”  Finally, “Beware of dead-ends” states, “While there may be interim actions that serve as bridges on the path to net-zero, some projects or activities may obscure or misdirect us from the ultimate goal or lead to inaction.”

The analysis was the result of fourteen briefing sessions with Canadian and international net-zero experts, who were identified by a scan of the net-zero literature.  Two appendices at the end of the report identify the experts and the reading list – which includes a cross-section of Canadian reports as well as international ones. The Net-Zero Advisory Board, consisting of fourteen members, was appointed by Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change on February 25, 2021, to serve as an ongoing, permanent body. One of the members is Hassan Yussuff, formerly President of the Canadian Labour Congress and now a Senator. The full terms of reference for the Board are here , and include an annual report to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

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