National network of scientists, engineers and social scientists examines how Canada could limit global warming while remaining economically competitive
A new report co-authored by 71 university researchers from the 10 provinces says decreased demand for fossil fuels over the coming decades could significantly reduce investment in the oil and gas sector, making the industry a less attractive and riskier business. The scholars recommend that Canada makes the shift from oil production to becoming a low-carbon energy leader.
The independent 60-page paper was written at the invitation of Natural Resources Canada by a volunteer network. Re-Energizing Canada: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Future provides independent academic input for Generation Energy, a national dialogue on Canada’s path to a low-carbon future launched by the federal government in April.
Carleton University’s James Meadowcroft was a lead author and contributed sections on the nature of low-carbon transition, the importance of a long-term low-carbon development strategy and the place of transition experiments.
“This report identifies key measures needed to accelerate the transition to a low carbon Canada,” said Meadowcroft, a professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration and the Department of Political Science.
“It highlights the importance of appropriate governance mechanisms, including co-operation between governments at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, an independent institution to monitor progress and provide advice, and wide-scale social experiments.”
The work of the academic experts highlights the importance that science and research must play in informing the public policy debate on Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy and how Canada can create affordable energy and the innovative jobs that Canadians want.
According to the scholars, Canada should accelerate its shift to a low-carbon economy by reducing energy demand through efficiency and conservation, increasing electrification and switching to low-carbon-emitting sources of electricity while progressively replacing high-carbon petroleum-based fuels with low-carbon ones.
At the outset, the authors identify governance issues as central to a successful low-carbon energy transition, emphasizing that the technologies required to begin are readily available.
“We believe that the key barriers to accelerating the low-carbon energy transition are social, political and organizational,” says McGill University Prof. Catherine Potvin, who co-ordinated the report.
The scholars conclude that “the current ambition of low-carbon policies and measures will not allow us to reach our destination––a world that will have avoided a global temperature increment greater than 2C.”
The future competitiveness and success of Canadian companies will be influenced by their readiness to engage in the low-carbon energy transition, according to the report. Financial investment will help seed the ground for innovation in the private sector, but parallel public investment and a clear sense of direction is needed.
The scholars conceive the low-carbon energy journey in three stages: preparation (2017–2020), early implementation (2020–2030) and deep decarbonization (2030–2050). The pathways to deep decarbonization — allowing Canada to be coherent with its international commitment and reduce its emissions by at least 80 per cent of 2005 levels in 2050 — start today.
The report is available at: http://www.sustainablecanadadialogues.ca/en/scd/acting-on-climate-change
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