Canada could become 100 per cent reliant on low-carbon electricity in just 20 years and reduce its emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, a new study shows.
The report calls for bold policies to be adopted immediately in order for Canada to transition to a sustainable society.
“Twenty years ago Canada was a leader on the climate change file. But today our reputation on this issue is in tatters,” James Meadowcroft, political science professor at Carleton University and one of the report’s authors told DeSmog Canada. “It is time for us to get serious and take vigorous action to move towards a low carbon emission economy.”
The report is a collaboration between 60 Canadian scholars and outlines a 10-point policy framework to achieve dramatic emission reductions. At the top of the list is the need to put a price on carbon which was unanimously recommended by the report’s authors.
“While the Canadian federal government has dragged its feet on the climate issue, there is good news from many of the provincial governments,” notes Meadowcroft, the Canada Research Chair in Governance for Sustainable Development.
“But Canada needs a carbon pricing mechanism that extends from coast to coast,” he emphasised. “And there are many other initiatives we can take to fully decarbonizes the electricity system, promote low carbon transport systems and more sustainable cities.”
Other immediate goals recommended by the report include eliminating subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and fully integrating the oil and gas sector into the country’s climate policies.
Green infrastructure must also be supported and aggressive goals for low-carbon electricity must be incorporated into federal and provincial climate action plans.
These short term targets will help trigger wider climate action and reduce emissions, the study explains. Long-term goals should include decarbonising the transport sector and creating a participatory and open governance system to better engage the public.
The transition process must start immediately it emphasises: “As with other past and future major transitions, e.g. industrialization or electrification, there will be controversies and setbacks. Some economic sectors will contract as others expand. The most important aspect of Canadian climate policies is to build a sustainable future starting today.”
As part of this decarbonisation process Canada should adopt an interim target of a 26-28 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 relative to a 2005 baseline the report argues. This would be “in keeping with its historical position of aligning with U.S. targets.”
Paris Climate Conference
The aim is to use these recommendations as the basis for Canada’s planning over the next six months in the run up to the Paris COP21 climate negotiations in December. The report calls for an “intense period of consultation and policy development” until then.
“We believe that putting options on the table is long overdue in Canada and hope that our input will help governments at all levels to make ambitious and thoughtful commitments to emissions reductions before December 2015 and the 2015 Paris-Climate Conference,” the report’s authors write.
Canada has repeatedly failed to back strong climate action at past international climate conferences and has yet to submit its climate targets – known as intended nationally-determined contributions (INDCs) – for the COP21 conference, with the deadline of March 31 fast approaching.
“The time is now ripe to initiate ambitious climate change mitigation efforts,” the report states, noting that “in virtually all cases, our proposals are in line with a number of international and national analyses of viable policy options to decarbonize.”