What is Net-Zero?
To begin, let’s start off with actually defining what net-zero means. Reaching net-zero emissions means the Canadian economy will either emit no greenhouse gases or offset its emissions. Examples of off-setting include planting trees or employing technologies that capture carbon before it is released into the air.
Another term you may have heard of climate action plans is ‘carbon neutral’. Carbon neutral differs from net-zero in that, it describes the state of an entity in which the carbon emissions caused by them have been balanced out by funding an equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world.
So then, why should we be aiming for a low carbon economy? One major reason is to slow down or even potentially reverse global warming. Global warming is linked to extreme weather conditions (such as drought, heatwaves, floods, etc.). By reducing our emissions, we’re ensuring that future generations will have a habitable planet.
Another reason we should be lowering our carbon footprints towards net-zero emissions is that greenhouse gas emissions cause air pollution, which leads to respiratory illnesses like asthma.
According to the Government of Canada, air pollution costs the Canadian economy billions of dollars per year. In addition to billions of dollars lost, air pollution also has social costs in the form of lost productivity as well as loss in social welfare due to pain, suffering and death.
Emissions don’t only affect Canadians – did you know that 4.2 million people die every year as a result of exposure to outdoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organization?
In short, Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 benefits is a move towards a healthy economy as well as a better environment for everyone to live in on a global scale.
How will Canada reach its goal of Net-Zero emissions by 2050?
There are multiple ways Canada plans to reduce its carbon emissions, including:
- Signing onto the Paris Climate Agreement – Under this agreement, Canada has agreed to reduce its emissions by 30% by 2030 (relative to 2005 levels.) Overall, the Paris Climate Agreement intends “to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.”
- Passing the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act to establish an independent advisory body to provide ongoing advice to the Government as Canada charts its path to net-zero by 2050.
- Setting five-year milestone targets and emission reductions plans for each milestone target and the publication of interim and final reports on the results.
- Plans to exceed Canada’s 2030 emissions goal by introducing new carbon-reducing measures. For example, Canada is phasing out coal-fired electricity by 2030, putting a price on carbon and bringing in a clean fuel standard in 2022. According to the CBC, the clean fuel standard is expected to contribute about 15% of the more than 200 million tonnes of greenhouse gases Canada committed to eliminating by 2030 under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
- Introducing a Just Transition Act, giving workers access to the training, support, and new opportunities needed to succeed in the clean economy.
- Announcing the Hydrogen Strategy for Canada, which is a framework to cement hydrogen as a key part of Canada’s path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and make Canada a global leader in hydrogen technologies.
How far are we from our 2050 goals? Is Canada carbon neutral?
Since Canada only recently announced the new bill aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050, it’s difficult to find a set answer. If we’re only considering past information, Canada has consistently missed its stated environmental targets for over a decade according to an article from the CBC, so this new bill may be no different. With this in mind, Canada has a long way to go towards even meeting its 2030 reduction goals, much less its net-zero 2050 goals.
Currently, Canada is not carbon neutral. In the past, there have been claims that Canada’s forests are a large carbon sink that absorbs or sinks more CO2 than is emitted. Unfortunately, according to a 2019 article by the CBC, Canada’s forests haven’t been a net carbon sink since 2001. While forests and trees are indeed a carbon sink, they’re also a source of carbon emissions themselves via decomposition or forest fires.
Is Canada a large emitter?
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Canada was the 11th largest emitter of carbon dioxide in 2018, with a total CO2 emissions figure of 0.56 GT. While Canada’s emissions were quite sizeable, other large emitters like the USA and China CO2 emissions figures of 5.41 GT and 10.06 GT respectively, in 2018.
For 2018 per capita emissions ratings, Canada placed in 5th, with CO2 emissions of 15.32T. That’s 7.8 times as much emissions as India, which ranked 21st.
So, while we’re not the largest emitter, we certainly are far from being a low emissions country.
What is going to be the leading province?
Even though Alberta is typically known for its large oil supply, it may surprise you to know that Alberta actually has enough resources to be Canada’s #1 powerhouse even in a green market.
According to an article from the CBC, Alberta could overtake Ontario in terms of wind and solar generation and produce 83% of wind and solar energy as early as 2025.
In addition to this, Alberta already has enough solar panels installed to generate 60 MW of energy across the province and to prevent 40 kilotons of emissions from entering the atmosphere.
Overall, Alberta has plenty of resources available to make the switch over to a green energy market.
What are some of the main renewable energy projects in Canada?
Our post about how Coal-Fired Power Plants Affect Alberta’s Energy Market outlines some of the main renewable energy projects in Alberta, including ones created built or to be built by Capital Power, EDP Renewables Canada Ltd. and others. If you’re curious about what types of energy are being used in each province overall, you can check out our post here.
Moving on, some of the other main projects in Canada are listed below:
- Community Clean Energy Planning, Training and Implementation Planning in NunatuKavut (Newfoundland)
- Community Clean Energy Planning, Training and Implementation Planning in Haida Gwaii (British Columbia)
- Community Clean Energy Planning, Training and Implementation Planning in Kugaaruk (Nunavut)
- Community Clean Energy Planning, Training and Implementation Planning in Fort McPherson (Northwest Territories)
- Community Clean Energy Planning, Training and Implementation Planning in Kuujjuaq (Quebec)
- Power Simulator (SimP): experimentation and standardization infrastructure for smart grid technologies (Quebec)
- Advancements in environmental technologies for tidal energy development (Nova Scotia)
- Dynamic Voltage Control for the Integration of Renewables (New Brunswick)
- Canada’s Geothermal Village – “Sustainaville” GeoPark (British Columbia)
- Canadian Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Roadmap (Ontario)
Carbon Compliance: Meet Sustainability Goals
Going green and reducing emissions is something that can be done by any person and any business. If you’re wanting to lessen the impact your business has on emissions but don’t know where to start, our team at EnergyRates.ca can help. We can help you review green energy rates in your area, as well as the differences between renewable energy credits and carbon offsets and which one is right for your corporation.