How exactly is Canada doing in terms of achieving the energy transition? Yesterday, representatives from Clean Energy Canada and the Pembina Institute provided an insightful webinar on Canada’s energy transition and the role of Canadian provinces. Taking place ahead of July’s annual premier’s meeting of the Council of the Federation, the discussion presented the latest research surrounding provincial climate action and called on the provinces to take more active leadership roles in the energy transition.

Clean Energy Canada’s recently released provincial scorecard report, Making the Grade, found that Canada is experiencing a heavily fragmented energy transition with consequences for household affordability and economic development.

Similarly, Pembina Institute’s forthcoming report, All Together Now: A provincial scorecard on shared responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, rates the existence and efficacy of the climate plans and measures that are being pursued by Canada’s federal and provincial governments.

Provinces make up 80 per cent of public spending and have a big impact on energy, investment and infrastructure decisions, but are they taking the right steps to build more sustainable economies?

With this question in mind, Clean Energy Canada’s vice president of policy and strategy, Rachel Doran, the Pembina Institute’s senior analyst, Sarah McBain, and the University of Calgary’s Dr. Sara Hastings-Simon discussed why provincial leadership is so important in Canada’s energy transition.

Sarah McBain is a senior analyst with the Pembina Institute’s transportation program and is based in Vancouver. 

“If governments across Canada stay the course on all the climate measures that have either already been implemented, or announced, we get very close to our international commitment of a 40 to 45 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030,” said Bain.

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“However, as you can see, we don’t quite get all the way there and so while there are very promising signs of progress here, and we do see significant emissions reductions, we still very much need further climate policy leadership in Canada to reach this 2030 goal, as well as ultimately net zero by 2050.”

Governments are showing leadership, but every province has something to teach and something to learn, according to McBain.

Ranking of climate policies from the ten provincial governments and federal government against our policy indicators

“Our assessment generally shows a high level of ambition at the federal level. It also shows that governments like British Columbia and Quebec are moving forward with comprehensive climate plans and policies. And then at the same time, our assessment shows that provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan are falling behind in preparing for a transition to a low carbon economy.

Rachel Doran, vice president, policy and strategy at Clean Energy Canada.

Doran shared key insights from the “Making the Grade” report:

  • Provinces are not doing enough to help businesses and households to benefit from the energy transition —whether it’s investing in the clean electricity grid, building out a public charging network, or setting their industries up for success in a clean energy future. Average grade is a C.
  • From coast to coast to coast, Canadians are living vastly different experiences of the energy transition. This unequal transition will increasingly see households and industries in certain provinces losing out on economic opportunities while paying more for energy.
  • Provincial clean transportation efforts are farthest behind. This has big implications for how households experience the affordability benefits of clean energy, as an EV is one of the most significant ways households save money.
  • Some of the harshest critics of federal action are doing the least to help their own citizens and businesses.
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Doran explained the four main focus areas that were used to grade the provinces on building a sustainable economy:

  • Clean Buildings: Heat pump rebates, energy efficiency/retrofit programs, building codes, home energy labelling, and low-carbon construction.
  • Clean Energy: Preparation for clean demand, pathways assessment, energy strategy, and grid flexibility.
  • Clean Industry: Clean industrial strategy, establish targets, workforce strategy, support clean skills and training, and support cleantech/decarbonization.
  • Clean Transport: EV rebates, charging infrastructure, ensure EV supply, home charging, public transport, and zero-emissions trucks/buses.

“I think it can’t be overstated how important it is that we’re increasing this dialogue about what provinces can and need to do in the energy transition,” said Doran. “There are critical levers — like electricity grids, like understanding what provincial economies will really support and what you can leverage to move into the clean economy — that are really going to be a test in the coming years of whether Canada’s able to kind of succeed and benefit or whether it falls behind.”

Dr. Sara Hastings-Simon, associate professor at the University of Calgary.

What are some things that can be done to ensure that oil and gas producing provinces are building sustainable economies while still ensuring jobs and opportunities?

“We need to confront this challenge head on,” said Hastings-Simon. “When you’re faced with an income of an industry, looking at a transition where the sort of successful transition from a climate perspective in this case would be the reduction and use of their product, you’re naturally going to see resistance to change.”

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She pointed to the debate about over exactly how much oil and gas will still be used in in a net zero future. “It’s likely not to be zero, but it will be significantly less than is used today, and I think we’re still not sort of confronting the reality of what comes with that.”

She also shared lessons learned from previous times in Alberta’s history, with reference to the growth of the oil sands, which was resisted for quite a while by what was then the conventional oil industry again, because it was seen as a threat to their business.

Hastings-Simon emphasized the need for more communication amongst government bodies, industry associations and the general public.

For further information:

  • View and download the slide deck presented during the webinar.
  • If you missed the webinar or would like to watch it again, you can do so here.
  • Read Clean Energy Canada’s provincial scorecard report, Making the Gradehere.
  • Read the Pembina Institute’s provincial scorecard report, All Together Nowhere.

Featured image credit: Getty Images


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