Submission to the Mitigation Measures Working Group of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change
Across Canada, efforts are underway to expand the use of clean electricity. There is much more to do, however, to take Canada across the finish line to a 100% renewable energy system. Canada’s pathway to deep emissions reductions, consistent with those required by the Paris Agreement, requires the country to move away from fossil fuels and towards clean electrification of the economy. Done right, this electrification pathway offers huge job creation potential and will help build healthy and resilient communities across the country.
The federal Government has a role to play in facilitating the creation and implementation of a pan-Canadian electrification strategy. A pan-Canadian electrification strategy should build on successful provincial efforts to transform their electricity systems. This strategy would secure resilient electricity systems, fuelled by renewable energy, capable of dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, buildings, and industrial processes – while also reducing risk to Canadians from polluting facilities and climate change impacts such as more extreme weather.
In order to unlock this vision, federal climate change policies and financial resources should be directed toward a national strategy that includes roadmaps for the electrification of transportation, building energy use (including home heating), and industrial processes. The success of such a strategy will depend on enhancing the distribution of renewable generation within and between provinces from centralized (e.g. large-scale hydro) and decentralized (e.g. community-based wind power) sources, as well as growing our exports of clean electricity. National aspirational goals for renewable energy, energy efficiency and modernizing industrial processes should guide provincial actions, while keeping an eye on reliability, energy security, and convenience. Core to this strategy should be an identification of job creation and skills-development opportunities.
Developing and implementing a pan-Canadian electrification strategy requires the federal government, in partnership with provinces, territories and municipalities, to fund, regulate and set policy that achieves a cohesive vision for the electricity sector. There is a risk, given the federal intention to use infrastructure programs to accelerate sub-national climate action, that one-off disconnected projects will be approved that do not add up to the system-wide transformation required for significant greenhouse gas emissions reduction. There is an opportunity, however, to instead deploy a combination of traditional and innovative financing approaches to achieve public and private sector investments that support decarbonization.
Across the pan-Canadian climate action plan, governments must work together to achieve greenhouse gas reductions in line with commitments in the Paris Agreement and engage Canadians as part of the strategy. As with all elements of the package that will make up an effective climate action plan for Canada, federal leverage in implementing an electrification strategy depends on federal willingness to be firm in negotiations with provinces surrounding funding allocation. Funding for electricity projects must be screened using strict criteria that ensure optimization of emissions reductions, renewables integration, overall system resilience, and strategic export market opportunities.