Deep Decarbonization Pathways Reports released

POLICY PRESCRIPTIONS FOR A DECARBONIZED ECONOMY
The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project is a consortium of energy researchers from the 16 countries which are the world’s largest GHG emitters. In mid-September, the DDPP released a  Synthesis Report and 16 country studies, outlining policy directions for long-term (to 2050). The Canadian report identifies six decarbonization pathways under three main themes: Deepening Current Trends, Encouraging next generation technologies; and Structural Economic Pathways, for which the report simulated oil price scenarios of $114, $80 and $40 per barrel in current dollars in 2050. The Canada report recommends “regulations that strengthen existing policies for buildings and transport sectors, a cap and trade system to drive abatement in heavy industry, and finally a complementary carbon price on the rest of the economy that returns revenues to reduced income and corporate taxes”. All DDPP reports will be tabled at the COP21 meetings in Paris in December.

Displacement in the Energy Industry: Fossil Fuels have “Lost the Race”; Wind Power Growing; Coal Workers Displaced

Analysis presented at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance annual summit in New York on April 14 was titled: Fossil Fuels Just Lost the Race Against Renewables: This is the beginning of the end (April 14). Bloomberg states that the shift occurred in 2013, when the world added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity, compared with 141 gigawatts in new plants that burn fossil fuels.

More statistics and a forecast are presented in a White Paper, Medium-term outlook for US power: 2015 = deepest decarbonization ever (April 8). And an International Energy Agency (IEA) press release in March states that global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years in which there is a drop in GHG emissions that was not tied to an economic downturn. “Preliminary IEA data point to emissions decoupling from economic growth for the first time in 40 years” (13 March, 2015). The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to expanding reliance on renewables in China and energy efficiency improvements in OECD countries. China alone added 23 GW in wind power, almost half the world’s new wind installation capacity in 2014, according to the Global Wind Energy Market Report 2014 by the Global Wind Energy Council. Canada ranked 6th in new wind installations in 2014 and now ranks 7th in cumulative installed capacity in the world. Canada also appears in the report regarding the use of green bonds to finance wind power, illustrated by  the case of Northland Power.
 
Duke University researchers used input output modelling to measure job loss, gains, and displacement in each sector of the electricity sector in “Employment Trends in the U.S. Electricity Sector, 2008-2012” in the journal Energy Policy in March (access restricted). They report that the U.S. coal industry lost more than 49,000 jobs, while the natural gas, solar and wind industries together created nearly four times that amount.  

 

Climate Action Policy Prescriptions for Canada

Two sets of recommendations were recently released: on March 18, by a new academic collaboration, Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD); and on March 19, in the Alternative Budget published annually by the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis. The Sustainable Canada Dialogues document, Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, and a french-language version,  Agir sur les changements climatiques, are characterized  as “a scholarly consensus on science-based, viable solutions for greenhouse gas reduction”.

Sixty academics from across Canada combined to urge policymakers to adopt a long-term target of at least an 80% reduction in emissions by mid-century. “In the short-term, we believe that Canada, in keeping with its historical position of aligning with US targets, could adopt a 2025 target of a 26-28% reduction in GHG emissions relative to our 2005 levels”. Policy recommendations include, most immediately: Either a national carbon tax or a national economy-wide cap and trade program; elimination of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry; and integration of sustainability and climate change into landscape planning at the regional and city levels so that maintenance and new infrastructure investments contribute to decarbonizing.

The paper also advocates establishment of East-West smart grid connections to allow hydro-producing provinces to  sell electricity to their neighbours; energy efficiency programs, and a “transportation revolution”. The Acting on Climate Change document will be followed by a special issue of Alternatives Journal magazine, to be released on March 27, to include more detailed articles by 20 of the SCD participant authors. Sustainable Canada Dialogues, launched in September 2014, is partnered with three institutions in Panama, and “proposes to advance sustainability education, research and social dialogues in Panama and in Canada”.

The second statement of recommended climate policies appears in the CCPA Alternative Budget for 2015, Delivering the Good. The Alternative Budget, like the government budget statement that it shadows, covers the full range of economic and social issues facing Canada. It also includes a section on the Environment and Climate Change, which states: “The best current budget opportunities include implementing a price on greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon tax; not subsidizing liquefied natural gas (LNG) or hydraulic fracturing (fracking); protecting Canada’s public lands and species at risk; and supporting power storage through accelerated expense write-offs, electric vehicles through fast-charging recharging stations in high-demand areas, and public transit and energy efficiency home retrofits”. A National Harmonized Carbon Tax should be implemented immediately, at $30 a tonne (the current level in British Columbia), increasing to $200 a tonne by 2020. More than half of the HCT revenues should be used to provide a Green Tax benefit for individuals and the remainder transferred to the provinces to fund “climate change abatement measures”. It is estimated that the carbon tax would generate annual revenue of $16 billion, with the Green Tax Refund incurring a net annual cost of $8.8 billion (p. 28).   Is the time finally right for serious consideration of Canada’s climate change policies? As Environmental Defense reported on March 9, NDP, Liberals and Greens agree on an Approach to Assess Carbon Pollution Reduction. Calling it “a step in the right direction”, the blog describes the February 19 debate in the House of Commons around Bill C-619, the Climate Change Accountability Act, a private members bill introduced by NDP Matt Kellway in June 2014. NDP, Liberals and Greens are now on record as supporting the Bill’s accountability measures and the target of  domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions to at least 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

Clean Energy Canada Moves to Simon Fraser University

Clean Energy Canada, formerly a project of Tides Canada, announced on March 2 that it will become a new program within the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. The Centre for Dialogue states that “uses dialogue to generate non-partisan and constructive communication around difficult topics. We partner with government, business, and community groups to explore critical issues that impact the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of our communities”. Merran Smith, Director of Clean Energy Canada, has been named a Fellow within the Centre and will continue to lead the program, which aims to accelerate Canada’s transition to a clean and renewable energy system.

Grid Parity for Solar and Wind Energy

According to the Global Wind Energy Outlook published by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International, wind power alone could supply as much as 19 percent of global electricity needs by 2030, and 30% by 2050, given policy support. The economics of wind and solar production are leading the way: see an overview of recent studies relating to grid parity of solar and wind energy, including the October report by Deutsche Bank analyst Vishal Shah, and a New York Times article. The Deutsche Bank report found that solar has already reached grid parity in the ten states that represent 90 % of U.S. solar electricity production. Wind continues to face community opposition, but a Health Canada study in November concludes that there is no evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and self-reported medical illnesses and health conditions. See the Health Canada study.