Study says Canada can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and still improve standard of living
Beacon Staff Reporter
Canada can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to a fraction of current levels while maintaining or improving living standards and quality of life, according a new report.
The study, called ‘Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios,’ is an international review released by the Trottier Energy Futures Project (TEFP).
The TEFP, a joint initiative of the David Suzuki Foundation, the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE) and the Trottier Family Foundation, is developing options for an 80 per cent reduction in Canada’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“The National Scenarios report shows that a low-carbon energy future is within our reach,” said Peter Robinson, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation.
“We will have to change the way we use and produce energy, and think carefully about how energy demand is created, but the Trottier Project is giving us a roadmap to get a tough, important job done,” he added.
“This study points to the key elements of a low-carbon energy solution for Canada,” said CAE president Richard Marceau, provost and vice-president, academic, of University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
“An 80 per cent greenhouse gas reduction is a transformative target, but Canada has always relied on its engineering expertise to meet difficult challenges.”
In the National Scenarios report, the TEFP summarizes common themes in leading greenhouse gas reduction strategies for eight countries: Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The study shows that:
- Canada and other industrialized countries have the technology to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in their energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
- The transition to a low-carbon energy future will be transformative, requiring a boom in clean-energy technologies and low-energy practices at least as significant as the post-Second World War boom in fossil fuel consumption.
- Per capita fuel and electricity consumption is about twice as high in Canada, the U.S. and Australia as it is in France, Germany, Sweden and the U.K. Yet even those countries produced scenarios that targeted 80 per cent reductions in their remaining greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
- In all the eight countries, deep greenhouse gas emission reductions will depend on major improvements in energy efficiency, greater reliance on electricity for heating, personal transportation and some industrial processes, a transition to low- or zero-carbon electricity sources and wider use of biofuels.
‘Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios’ is the first of four research reports the Trottier Energy Futures Project will release this year. The TEFP will publish its low-carbon scenarios for Canada by the end of 2013.
Meanwhile, a new report by Pembina Institute says that barring current federal policy and financing barriers, Canada’s clean technology sector is a major driver of job growth and innovation, and could be worth $60 billion by 2020.
The study ‘Competing in Clean Energy: Capitalizing on Canadian innovation in a $3 trillion Economy’ details the opportunities and challenges facing Canada in the global transition to clean energy — a market set to grow to $3 trillion by 2020.
“While meteorologists in Australia add new colours to their temperature forecast maps following record heat waves and wild fires, clean energy entrepreneurs in Europe, Asia and the U.S. are busy capitalizing on investments in decarbonizing energy systems,” says Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute and co-author of the report.
“With the Harper government’s focus set on accelerating development of Canada’s fossil fuel commodities — from oilsands to shale gas and coal — Canada is currently capturing just one per cent of the thriving clean energy market.”
With more than 700 companies, Canada’s cleantech sector grew job numbers by 11 per cent and invested almost $2 billion in research and development between 2008 and 2010. Yet venture capital investment, especially from large institutional investors, is declining from about $3.3 billion in 2000 to less than $1 billion in 2012.
And Canadian companies have landed only two per cent of clean energy patents granted in the U.S. since 2002, compared to Korea’s five per cent, Germany’s seven per cent, and Japan’s 26 per cent.
The advice of nearly two dozen Canadian clean energy thought leaders on overcoming current hurdles is remarkably consistent and includes the following as among the most important:
- Bridging capital gaps with federal financial tools
- Ongoing support for Sustainable Development Technology Canada
- Accelerating efforts to phase out remaining federal fossil fuel subsidies
- And a federal approach to pricing greenhouse gas pollution
“Canada can compete in the global clean energy economy, but the clock is ticking,” said Whittingham. “The Prime Minister was right when he said that Canada needs to be a clean energy superpower to compete in the energy of tomorrow, but he needs to get serious about it now. While we might do well as a natural resources powerhouse today, those returns could be short lived.”