Coalition of Canadian scholars makes proposals to de-carbonize Canada’s energy

Wind Turbines

By Arman Kazemi

March 26, 2015

Canada’s electricity could be 100 per cent low-carbon by 2035, according to a new report by a coalition of Canadian scientists, engineers and economists.

The study, Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, tapped the expertise of over 60 Canadian scholars. Released last week, it outlines concrete policy approaches the federal government could take to reduce carbon emissions in Canada’s economy.

At the top of the list is the implementation of a national carbon tax or cap-and-trade system like those already in place in B.C. and Quebec.

Introduced in 2008 by then-B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, the carbon tax was North America’s first revenue-neutral tariff on carbon pollution.

But the tax in BC along with other provincial initiatives, like Ontario’s total elimination of coal power from its grid, form a “piecemeal” policy environment within a “federal leadership vacuum that leaves Canada without a coordinated strategy,” according to the Vancouver Sun.

That’s why the report calls for a concerted federal effort, including steps to “eliminate all direct and indirect subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.”

The push to develop a regulatory framework that is “coherent with the transition to a low-carbon society” ties into the report’s third actionable recommendation to have all national policy align with “planning at the regional and city levels to ensure maintenance and new infrastructure investments are consistent with the long-term goal of decarbonizing.”

Such initiatives would include innovative and evolving urban design models, a “revolution” in electrified transportation (including EV infrastructure and expanded public transport), as well as nationwide transmission capacity allowing provinces with advanced renewable infrastructure like B.C. and Quebec to sell power to their neighbours, thus taking “full advantage of Canada’s low-carbon energy potential.”

According to the report, Canada does indeed have potential, with 62 per cent of the country’s energy capacity coming from renewable sources (mostly hydro), and another 15 per cent coming from nuclear. Only 23 per cent of Canada’s energy supply comes from fossil fuels.

By the report’s own estimation, Canada is capable of reaching a 26 to 28 per cent reduction of 2005 green-house gas levels by 2025, and up to 80 per cent by 2050.

The timing of the report coincides with the upcoming federal election in which the environment is likely to be a contested issue, as well as the pending climate summit in Paris next December.

“We could be the world leader,” head author Catherine Potvin told the Globe and Mail after the report’s release. “That’s a very important message for Canadians to understand. This is within reach.”