If, as a new article in The Conversation argues, “To really engage people, the media should talk about solutions” (May 30) , then the report published by the David Suzuki Foundation on May 29 is right on target. Zeroing in on Emissions: Charting Canada’s Clean Power Pathways argues: “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.” It is important to note that the commitment under consideration is reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent or more by 2050, and the study focuses only on energy policy, not all sectors of the economy.
The report examines academic, government and business models and studies related to deep decarbonization for Canada, with special reference to the Deep Decarbonization
Pathways Project , the Trottier Energy Futures Project and the
Perspectives Énergétiques Canadiennes . The full list of referenced publications takes up 15 pages of the report. Based on this review of expert research, recommendations are presented, in ten essential policy priorities: 1. Accelerate clean power 2. Do more with less energy 3. Electrify just about everything 4. Free industry from emissions 5. Switch to renewable fuels 6. Mobilize money 7. Level the playing field 8. Reimagine our communities 9. Focus on what really matters and # 10. Bring everyone along, which opens with a quote from Canada’s 2018 Task Force on Just Transition Report. The section states: “If well-managed, the clean-energy transition can be a strong driver of job creation, job upgrading, good jobs and reducing inequality. Conversely, a poorly managed transition risks causing unnecessary economic hardship and undermining public support for needed emission-reduction policies. Transition should be seen as part of a broader green economic development strategy that supports community economic development and diversification.” The discussion includes the issues of justice and equality, and Indigenous rights.
According to the press release, this report is meant to influence the discourse in the upcoming election: “These 10 strategies are a litmus test that all climate plans during the 2019 federal election should be held accountable to…. “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.” In addition, it lays the foundation for a three-year project called Clean Power Pathways, “to transition Canada’s energy system at a scope, scale and speed in line with the scientific consensus to avoid climate breakdown.” The report has grown out of collaborative research sponsored by the Trottier Family Foundation, which remains involved in the upcoming Clean Power Pathways research.
Zeroing in on Emissions: Charting Canada’s Clean Power Pathways is accompanied by a 4-page Executive Summary and was also summarized by The Energy Mix here (June 2).
A debate forum , Is Green Growth Possible? was hosted by the Institute for New Economic Thinking in December, consisting of papers by economists debating whether catastrophic global warming can be stopped while maintaining current levels of economic growth. The arguments are summarized for the non-economist in “The Case for ‘conditional optimism’ on climate change” by David Roberts in Vox (Dec. 31) . Economists may be interested in the full papers, which include “The Road to ‘Hothouse Earth’ is Paved with Good Intentions” and “Why Green Growth is an Illusion”, both by Enno Schröder and Servaas Storm. The authors conclude that “.. The world’s current economies are not capable of the emission reductions required to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees. If world leaders insist on maintaining historical rates of economic growth, and there are no step-change advances in technology, hitting that target requires a rate of reduction in carbon intensity for which there is simply no precedent. Despite all the recent hype about decoupling, there’s no historical evidence that current economies are decoupling at anything close to the rate required…. Without a concerted (global) policy shift to deep decarbonization, a rapid transition to renewable energy sources, structural change in production, consumption, and transportation, and a transformation of finance, … the decoupling will not even come close to what is needed.”
“The Inconvenient Truth about Climate Change and the Economy” by Gregor Semieniuk, Lance Taylor, and Armon Rezai summarizes and analyzes the October 2018 IPCC report, Global Warming of 1.5 °C. , finding it overly optimistic about global productivity growth and fossil fuel energy use, and reiterating the argument that politics are holding back climate change solutions. They conclude that “a big mitigation push, perhaps financed by carbon taxes and/or reductions in subsidies, is possible macroeconomically even if the link between energy use and output is not severed. This, however, would require considerable modifications of countries’ macroeconomic arrangements. Needless to say, military establishments and recipients of energy subsidies wield political clout. Fossil fuel producers have at least as much. Whether national preferences will permit big shifts in the use of economic resources is the key question.”
Finally, in “Conditional Optimism: Economic Perspectives on Deep Decarbonization”, author Michael Grubb takes issue with Schröder and Storm, saying that their papers rely on historical data and rates of change, and thus are characterized by a “pessimism about our ability to change what matters fast enough. ” Grubb states that this “may be emblematic of a growing trend in energy-climate economics, of what we might term historical futures analysis.” He lays out a technical economic critique and suggests four fundamental principles for his own “conditional optimism”, which relies on analysis based on the rate of displacement of carbon intensive energy supply by the growth of alternate sources.
In June, the Columbia Institute’s Centre for Civic Governance released the first annual progress report on the 18 federal and 24 provincial/territorial policies that it had identified in its 2016 report, Top Asks for Climate Action: Ramping Up Low Carbon Communities . The 2016 report focuses on local government issues and the policy support they need from the federal, provincial and territorial governments in the areas of capacity building, funding, buildings, transportation and smart growth. The 2017 Report Card credits the federal government for some accomplishments – such as establishing a national price on carbon – and highlights nine key areas where “room for improvement” remains. These are: 1) establishing scientific GHG targets that will meet Paris Agreement commitments; 2)Establishing a mechanism that will guarantee new infrastructure spending that won’t lock Canadians into a high carbon path; 3) Moving faster on eliminating fossil fuel subsidies; 4)Providing more robust tools for retrofitting homes and commercial buildings; 5)Providing all communities with energy, emissions and natural capital baseline data; 6) Prioritizing transit and active transportation over auto-only infrastructure; 7) Giving priority to community and Indigenous -owned renewable energy projects to advance energy democracy in Canada; 8) Developing a national thermal energy strategy; 9) Helping local governments transition to low carbon fleets. A June 5 article in the National Observer summarizes the report, and provides response from the federal government.
A second new report, Re-Energizing Canada: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Future , takes a more academic approach, but includes many of the same issues. The report, published by Sustainable Canada Dialogues, is the product of input from Canadian academics and First Nations, establishes a framework of our energy system, and examines the important issues in Canadian energy policy with statistics and analysis. The report identifies governance issues as central to a successful low-carbon energy transition, and states: “we believe that the key barriers to accelerating the low-carbon energy transition are social, political and organizational.” Many of its recommendations relate to governance structures needed for policy harmonization. Re-energizing Canada was Commissioned by Natural Resources Canada in Fall 2016, and published by Sustainable Canada Dialogues, a Canada-wide network of over 80 scholars from engineering, sciences and social sciences. It is an initiative of the UNESCO-McGill Chair for Dialogues on Sustainability and is housed in Montreal.
“A New National Prize: Making Clean Energy the Next Oil Sands” by Clare Demerse and Dan Woynillowicz appears in the September October issue of Policy magazine. The article distills the findings of the UN-backed study, Pathways to Deep Decarbonization, in which research teams from 15 countries, including Canada, proposed strategies for national energy reform that will allow us to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees.
The Demerse/Woynillowicz article summarizes the overall findings and focuses on the Canadian findings, including that by 2050, wind and solar sources could comprise 27% of Canadian electricity generation, up from 2% today. The article concludes by proposing two simple policy changes to kick off a stronger commitment to clean energy in Canada: more favourable tax treatment for power storage and solar technologies, and consumer incentives for electric vehicles. See “A New National Prize” at: http://policymagazine.ca/pdf/9/PolicyMagazineSeptember-October-14-DemerseWoynillowicz.pdf
Citing the “wave of hope” generated by the People’s Climate March, on September 21, Clean Energy Canada released its first-ever annual review, called Tracking the Energy Revolution: Global Edition at: http://cleanenergycanada.org/2014/09/21/tracking-energy-revolution-builds-surging-wave-hope/. With maps, photos and infographics, it is loaded with statistics that reveal the extent of the global shift to renewable energy by governments and businesses.