Why Canada is well positioned to deliver net-zero carbon emissions

With temperatures in Canada rising at twice the rate of the global average, the damage caused by climate-related events could disrupt Canadian economies, businesses, and well-being is a much more pressing concern than in it is in other nations. This is why Canada should lead the decarbonization effort globally, blazing a trail for other nations to follow. By expediting transitions toward a decarbonized Canada—we can limit temperature rises, support a sustained, equitable and prosperous future where an economy based on innovation and lower carbon technologies puts us on a path to economic growth in parallel with being socially conscious.

The first step: cleaning our own house
Canada is currently among the world’s top per-capita emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), with upstream oil and gas production as well as transportation accounting for most of these emissions.

With an equivalent of nearly 19 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted per person every year, Canada’s emissions are more than double the average of G20 nations. And, while other G20 members have reduced their energy intensity by 12 percent over the past five years, Canada’s has barely budged. In short, we're a long way from our Paris agreement and net-zero commitments. While the country’s emissions account for just two percent of global GHGs, this is no excuse for inaction. It also undermines Canada’s position as a global leader and contributor to our fair share of emissions reductions in line with the Paris Accord.

National leadership
Climate change emerged as one of the top three issues influencing Canadians’ voters in the 2019 federal election. Federal government policies on clean growth have committed Canada to reach and maintain net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Broader political action and strong leadership underscores the unity of Canada’s climate position.

Strong support from business community
Many Canadian businesses have already made significant commitments to reducing emissions, with a growing number of major companies—including Maple Leaf Foods, lululemon, Teck Resources, Arc’teryx Equipment, Cenovus Energy, and Celestica—setting ambitious targets around their net-zero emissions.

Home-grown cleantech
Canada already has many of the tools and technologies necessary to get us to a decarbonized world. Clean technologies, clean energy, and environmental goods and services pumped $60 billion into Canada’s GDP in 2017 and provided 282,000 high-paying jobs1. The clean technology, or cleantech, sector grew by 19.4 percent from 2007 to 20171. Home-grown innovations can power our economy, helping us drop to net-zero emissions by 2050. Read our follow-up article, A potential path to decarbonization by 2050, to learn about Canada’s home-grown cleantech.

Financial services sector
Canada’s financial services sector is bringing climate risk to the table, with initiatives to define green investment, incorporate environment, social, and governance (ESG) criteria into decision-making, and disclose climate-related risks in line with Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)2 recommendations. The financial sector is driving progress toward the reassessment of asset values by looking at climate risk as an integral part of investment risk. The Bank of Canada currently lists climate change among the top concerns for the Canadian economy and is developing new models to understand the impacts of climate change on financial stability.

Rich natural landscapes, biodiversity, and ecosystems
A recent survey demonstrates overwhelming support—by nine out of 10 Canadians—for the 2020 national pledge to protect 30 percent of our land mass and ocean by 2030, with most Canadians backing investment in long-term Indigenous stewardship. Considering the scale of Canada’s natural resources, altering agricultural and forestry practices has the potential to have real effect oncarbon production, support the conservation and restoration of ecosystems, and lessen citizens’ vulnerability to food insecurity, among other benefits.

Support from Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples have been warning about changing weather patterns and loss of habitat for decades. Part of repairing relationships with Indigenous people, therefore, can be not only working together on mitigating climate change, but also to learn from ancient practices in sustainable resource management; from traditions that dictate taking from the land only what’s needed, and only what nature can replace.

Vast renewable resources
In a world eager to decarbonize, Canadian expertise in hydro generation is a big asset. It gives the country a leadership position in renewables, amongst others, and the export of Canadian know-how. Canada’s leadership and capacity in renewable energy could attract significant investment from the fast-growing global cleantech sector.

Time to act
Canada has both the human and natural capital in place, meaning the country is poised to succeed if strong leadership and effective coordination efforts across government and business can be implemented. In the process of battling the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve learned that—in collective will—Canada has the power to do things differently and yield radical change. The global COVID-19 pandemic is an economic and humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. Yet the crisis has revealed that in coherent agreement, the strength of Canadian unity has powerful potential to address threats to humanity. We must harness the same energy if we want to drive the next wave of climate change innovation. Making changes now will create a strong foundation to build both social and economic wealth in a more responsible way.

1 - This link will take you to the Government of Canada website.
2 - This link will take you to the TCFD website.

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