News Release

REF NO.: 95

SUBJECT: Report examines how Canada could act to limit global warming while remaining economically competitive

DATE: May 29, 2017

Memorial University sociologist Mark Stoddard has contributed to a report calling for Canada to make the shift from being an oil-producing country to becoming a low-carbon energy leader.

Co-authored by 71 university researchers from all 10 provinces, the report suggests that decreased demand for fossil fuels over the coming decades could significantly reduce inward investment in the oil and gas sector, making the industry riskier and less attractive.

“With its uniquely vast endowment of renewable energy resources, Canada can seize the global low-carbon energy transition as an opportunity to build a major new economic engine for the country,” states the volunteer network of scientists, engineers and social scientists who compiled the 60-page report.

The independent paper, written at the invitation of Natural Resources Canada, was developed to examine how Canada could transition to low-carbon energy systems while remaining globally competitive. Re-Energizing Canada: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Future, provides independent academic input to Generation Energy, a national dialogue on Canada’s path to a low-carbon future launched by Natural Resources Canada on April 21, 2017. The work of the academic experts in the context of Generation Energy highlights the important role science and research must play in informing the public policy debate on Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. It is an important contribution to the range of views and opinions on how Canada can create the affordable energy and innovative jobs Canadians want.

According to the scholars, Canada should accelerate its shift to a low-carbon economy by reducing overall energy demand through energy efficiency and conservation, increasing electrification and switching to low carbon-emitting sources of electricity and progressively replacing high-carbon, petroleum-based fuels with low-carbon ones.


Governance issues central to a successful transition

At the outset, the authors identify governance issues as central to a successful low-carbon energy transition, emphasizing that technologies needed to begin the low-carbon energy transition are readily available.

“We believe that the key barriers to accelerating the low-carbon energy transition are social, political and organizational,” said Prof. Catherine Potvin, McGill University, 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 2?C.”

A successful low-carbon energy transition will require all levels of government to increase their capacity to deliver guidance, support and mobilize initiatives. In the past, Canada has successfully undertaken other journeys of great magnitude, including adopting universal health care and launching social security. The report states the decarbonization journey is of equal importance.


Competitiveness of companies linked to low-carbon transition

According to the report, the future competitiveness and success of Canadian companies will be influenced by their readiness to engage in the low-carbon energy transition. Financial investment will help seed the ground for low-carbon energy innovation in the private sector, but parallel public investment and a clear sense of direction is needed.

“To stimulate the energy transition, it is important to develop measures focusing not only on energy supply, but also on energy demand,” said Dr. David Layzell, University of Calgary.

Offering citizens and companies a range of attractive low-carbon options that improve quality of life can accelerate the energy transition. Such options are facilitating access to rooftop solar panels and rapid, safe and comfortable public transportation.


Laying out pathways

The scholars conceive the low-carbon energy journey in three stages: Preparation (2017-20), Early Implementation (2020-30) and Deep Decarbonization (2030-50).

Developing a common vision for the future and designing novel institutions to implement the low-carbon energy transition are the key elements of the preparation phase.

With these in place, early implementation should allow Canadians to make decisions about the best future energy mixes in different regions of the country. To accelerate the low-carbon energy transition, the scholars recommend integrating energy policy into a broader “low-carbon development strategy” that can use Canada’s unique endowment in renewable energy and growing market for low-carbon technology as a major new economic engine for the country.

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 – began Friday, May 26. Advancing towards decarbonization demands continuously identifying where and how emissions could be rapidly reduced, shaping policy approaches accordingly and continuously adjusting the policy framework to accelerate decarbonization.

Though the scale of the global challenge may seem enormous, more and more individuals, communities, industries and governments are stepping up to the task of meeting this goal. In the long-term, global demand for low-carbon energy is expected to climb while global demand for fossil fuels peters out. Planning and support measures put in place well in advance could ensure that the transition will be smooth and beneficial for workers and communities.

The report is available here.

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