The globe is facing a climate crisis. Children are protesting the inaction of adults around the world. Scientists have been telling us for decades that we must transition away from fossil fuels and develop a new low-carbon economy. Instead, politicians have been spinning their wheels through meetings at Rio, Kyoto, Copenhagen and Paris.
Canada is lagging behind most other countries in climate action. We produce more carbon emissions and use more energy per capita than all other G20 countries.
When I was at the G20 energy meetings last year I was impressed by the plans of most countries to reduce their emissions. The United Kingdom had a compelling plan that enshrined reduction targets in law, invested significant amounts of funds into renewable energy, electric vehicle infrastructure, and created thousands of new, good jobs to replace those lost in the fossil fuel industry.
China presented bold plans to create huge renewable energy projects in western China and link those to the industrial centres of eastern China with ultra-high voltage powerlines, infrastructure that would eventually serve all of Asia.
The Canadian minister reported that we’d bought an old pipeline and wanted to sell natural gas to China. China replied by saying “there’s no such thing as a clean fossil fuel.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has told us that we must create a carbon-neutral world economy by 2050. That’s only 30 years away, but it can and must be done. How can Canada do its part? We must shift our energy economy to clean electricity, while electrifying the sectors that are now using fossil fuels.
Luckily, Canada is blessed with vast amounts of clean energy, so the first step will be easier for us than for some other countries. Our hydroelectric resources have already been developed, while others such as wind, solar and geothermal have huge potential and can easily be used in concert with hydro power.
Most of Canada’s fossil fuel emissions are roughly divided between transportation, buildings, and the fossil fuel industry itself—agriculture, manufacturing and other activities produce relatively minor amounts.
Electrifying the transport sector is an obvious place to start reducing emissions. We need to provide incentives for the production, sale and use of electric vehicles so that the sector can reach a scale where costs and range are attractive to all Canadians. This is happening faster than anyone has predicted as the network of charging stations grows and people realize the long-term savings in terms of fuel and maintenance that electric vehicles offer.
Buildings are replaced over longer time frames than vehicles, so we must have a strategy that combines the construction of new net-zero buildings while doing deep retrofits on older houses and buildings. Renovation incentives are a powerful tool to drive retrofit projects, and the NDP proposes that such incentives can produce a completely energy-efficient building supply by 2050.
Where we don’t need incentives and subsidies is in the fossil fuel industry. Canada promised, along with all the other G20 countries, to get rid of such subsidies, but has been dragging its heels in carrying out that pledge.
We will need oil and gas for years to come, but our present supply is more than adequate for that purpose. World oil demand projections show a stagnant to declining trend over the next decade or two, however, those projections move to steep declines if countries get serious about their Paris climate action targets.
The future of energy in Canada—and around the world—is in clean electricity. We must redouble our efforts to make this transition, a transition that will create good jobs across the country. There have been more jobs in the clean tech sector than in the fossil fuel sector for years now, and that difference will only increase in the years to come.
And most of all, we need to listen to the young people of the world. They see too clearly that the inaction of adults is robbing them of their future.
Richard Cannings, Member of Parliament
South Okanagan-West Kootenay