Managing the energy transition: Pathways to Canada’s net-zero future

Jason Dion, Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

Rating: High school and post-secondary

Summary: Markham interviews economist Jason Dion of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices about his new report, “CANADA’S NET-ZERO FUTURE: Finding our way in the global transition.”

Related links:

  1. CANADA’S NET ZERO FUTURE: Finding our way in the global transition – executive summary
  2. CANADA’S NET ZERO FUTURE: Finding our way in the global transition – full report
  3. Biden win a big opportunity for Canada’s clean energy sector – video interview with Dr. Sarah Hastings-Simon, University of Calgary
  4. Biden electrifying US govt fleet of 640,000 vehicles. Tipping point for EV adoption? – video interview with Joel Levin of non-profit PluginAmerica
  5. New innovation minister an opportunity for new innovation ideas – video interview with Robert Asselin, Senior VP, Policy at the Business Council of Canada
  6. Decarbonizing the things we make and build – green industrial policy – video interview with Rebecca Dell, director of the Industry program for the ClimateWorks Foundation
  7. Want a lithium industry in Alberta? Legal, regulatory issues must be fixed first – video interview with Brady Chapman, law firm MLT Atkins
  8. Canada missing opportunities to develop EV manufacturing? – video interview with Joanna Kyriazis, senior policy advisor, Clean Energy Canada
  9. Removing CO2 from atmosphere is getting closer: Carbon Engineering begins building innovation centre – video interview with Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering
  10. Policy, technology change key drivers of Canada’s energy transition – article from the Canadian Energy Regulator

This interview has been lightly edited.

Markham Hislop: Welcome to another episode of Energi Talks, the podcast where we discuss global energy issues and trends with experts from around the world. In this episode, I’ll be talking to economist Jason Dion of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices about a new report on Canada’s net-zero future finding our way in the global transition.

Now I have to tell you that I’m very excited about this report, and I’ll tell you I’m excited. I’ve been involved in reporting and analyzing and discussing the global energy transition since 2013ish. And one of my takeaways from all of those conversations is that energy transitions are very poorly understood – Vaclav Smil notwithstanding – amongst even policymakers and executives and people in the energy industry. They don’t have a good concept of how energy transitions work.

And it’s complicated with this energy transition because the global energy system is so big. It’s so complex that getting our arms around it, having a structure to the conversation so that we can take it apart and understand how it works and where it’s going – that’s very, very difficult. What your study has done at the national level, the Canadian economy is put structure around that conversation.

Is that a fair takeaway from your study?

Jason Dion: Yeah, I think it’s, it’s a great way of framing our objectives with this study, which was to drive a more concrete and informed conversation around what the future might look like. I think parts of that transition are things that we can sort of wrap our arms around. We know what a lot of it will look like, but there’s a lot we don’t know.

And so this study was really designed to embed and unpack the role of uncertainty in that long-term transition and to acknowledge there are parts of it that we’re not sure exactly how it will play out. That doesn’t mean it’s a black hole. It’s not just a void. You know, we can say there are a number of possibilities. There are multiple possible net-zero futures. And we’ve been careful to unpack those and all the potential barriers we might hit along the way.

There’s nothing’s easy when it comes to this,

Markham Hislop: I’ll add another wrinkle to that. Long-time readers and listeners have heard me say this many times: if energy transitions are a 50-year process, then roughly 20 to 30 years in you’re going to get a decade of really intense disruption. And I’ve interviewed energy experts from around the world who agree that the 2020s is going to be that decade of disruption in this energy transition.

Would you agree with that observation?

Jason Dion: Yeah, I think we’re feeling a lot of that uncertainty and disruption and dislocation. I think people want a concrete sense of what it means to get to net-zero to get there in terms of our climate change goals. And we don’t always have a clear picture of what that looks like yet because a number of things are in flux and in play.

I think that’s exactly right that we’re likely to still be feeling a lot of that disruption and dislocation in the years ahead, but that it might start to resolve itself as we move a little further out. So our report has lots to say about how we navigate that uncertainty. I think that’s right, I think that is the moment that we’re in.

Markham Hislop: Now in this conversation, we’re going to roughly follow the structure of your study. So first of all, we’re going to talk about the big picture, the way you framed the issue. Then we’re going to talk about the eight key findings of the study and finish up with the four recommendations.

Let’s start with the way that you frame the path to net-zero, and they would be policy choices, technology innovation, and then factors beyond domestic control – again talking about that uncertainty global market shifts, changing energy demand, those things. As a small trade-oriented country, Canada doesn’t have a lot of control over those.

What made you pick those three things in order to frame the study?

Jason Dion: So I think it was important to right at the outset acknowledge that there are things in our control in this transition and there are things outside of our control and all of these are going to matter. They’re all going to shape it. What we really did and the way we approached this study is try to build those into the analysis.

This is scenario analysis. So we’ve looked at over 60 different scenarios where Canada gets to net-zero and we are looking at different outcomes across uncertain variables. Again, those ones that are in and outside of our control.

Across our scenarios, we’re varying assumptions around things like, what is the degree of climate policy action and the pace that’s going on in other countries as, as we undertake our own transition because that’ll matter a lot, right? In terms of the cost of technologies, what are the costs of technologies that determine how the energy transition is going to evolve? How quickly might costs come down? Will next-generation technologies prove out or not?

We have all sorts of varying assumptions. We’ve varied assumptions around what is the level of future global oil demand and global oil prices. That’s going to make a big difference for Canada with the shape of its transition, given our large oil and gas sector.

We’re also varying assumptions around if negative emissions technologies get to be a big part of the solution space, these solutions that suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store them underground. It sounds sci-fi, but you know, there are pilot projects for this already there’s movement in this direction. Will it work out? Will it play a really big role or not? So we’ve included that uncertainty in our analysis to really be able to unpack.

And this was kind of the critical thing: with this report, the 60 scenarios, rather than looking at all of them individually, which we can get a little tedious, we zoomed out and asked, given this is the larger possibility space around the net-zero transition, what’s consistent? What shows up again and again. What’s always true regardless of how the transition plays out? And where there are differences, what are the big drivers of those differences?

The answer to those questions is going to matter. It’s going to depend on our policy choices, you know investment decisions going on in other countries, climate policy in Canada and around the world. And we’ve tried to really reflect and embed all that uncertainty in the conclusions.

Markham Hislop: So we frame the, study with policy, technology, and uncertainty. Those are the three big framing items. Let’s talk about key findings. The first one is that a net-zero Canada is possible, but requires strong policy. And this is really interesting because listeners outside of Canada may not know that in mid-December, the federal government brought in a major update to its suite of climate policies.

Jason Dion: What we have in hand now, finally, is a credible plan that can get to Canada’s targets. Now I say targets because we have a 2030 target and we have that net-zero 2050 target. What we have now is a credible plan that is capable of getting Canada to its 2030 target to go the full distance to net zero is going to take more than that. That’s a multi-decade undertaking, but at last, we have something in hand that’s consistent with our ambition.

Canada, like other countries, has this perennial of missing targets. So I, and others were quite heartened to see something that could actually get there. And, and on a personal note that carbon pricing is being as a driving force in there. You know, that’s an efficient mechanism.

It’s one that I’m glad to see in there with the knowledge I have about how complex to manage a transition. A policy that relies on market forces is great. So I was personally happy to see that there are lots of ways to do it, and I think we would have been happy with any plan that could credibly get to that target. But yeah, I think we finally have something in hand that we can be confident can get Canada where it needs to go. There’s still plenty of work to do, and plenty to build on there to get to that longer-term target.

The S-curve (orange) and the bell curve for technology adoption is based upon the seminal work of Prof. Everett Rogers of Ohio State University.

Markham Hislop: The second key finding is that big transitions are inevitable. And here’s my take on this, Jason, and you can tell me what you think of it. Energy transitions in the past have been 50 to 75 years in length. If you think the energy transition in terms of the adoption S-curve, we’ve spent the past 20 years on the first part of the curve where it’s really flat.

You don’t get a lot of change during the first couple of decades while the technology is immature and developing, and then you kind of hit the inflection point in the curve, which begins to get steeper. And then that’s when you get market penetration of these new energy technologies.

And I would argue that many of the technologies that are beginning to get on that steep part of the curve had their roots in at the very least the late 20th century. I’m thinking of modern solar panels, wind turbines, the first electric vehicles like the GM EV1, the lithium-ion battery, all the many, many more technologies really got started in that period and then matured over the first two decades of this century.

So that they’re now more economic they’re competitive with, fossil fuel-based technologies. And that change is what really is the fundamental driver of this energy transition and makes it inevitable.

What’s your view?

Jason Dion: I’d certainly agree with all of that, and I might’ve broadened the frame. So when, when we talk about big transitions that are inevitable in the report, we’re thinking of not only shifts in energy systems, but larger economic shifts.

For example, automation and the shift to a service economy. All these large forces that have been going on for years and decades underscore that the status quo is not a thing and that we need to expect and embrace change. I think even our oil and gas sector is really illustrating that, that there are larger global forces at play. That means that we can’t count on that as an engine of economic prosperity in Canada.

There are challenges associated with those larger transitions and the point being we really need to embrace change if we want to continue to be prosperous in the global economy and create opportunities for the next generation. Energy transitions are part of that.

Markham Hislop: Now, the third key finding is that Canada is uniquely positioned to capitalize on emerging opportunities. And we can think of a couple of opportunities off the top of our head, like the demand that’s emerging for metals and minerals for battery production, for instance, and Canada has many of those in its mining sector. But you also mentioned oil and gas, which I thought was interesting because that’s a sector that is really concerned about its long-term future. And that there may not be opportunities as we transition to low-carbon electricity.

What’s your take?

Jason Dion: The first thing that we’d underscore there is that I think people reflexively assume in Canada that our oil and gas sector means getting to net-zero is a much bigger challenge for us than it is for others. And that’s true. It does create some challenges certainly.

But what we point out in the report is the sector itself creates opportunities. A lot of the know-how and capacity and expertise that exists there can be really helpful for getting technologies off the ground like hydrogen production and geothermal energy, biofuel production. So there’s some alignment there.

We also, by virtue of being a large resource-rich country with a large landmass, have unique opportunities that other countries don’t have. For example, nature-based solutions that sequester carbon dioxide and land. We can do those at a scale that other countries can’t. We can be producing biofuels to a degree that could meet a lot of our own needs and export to the world.

There’s a lot of opportunities, a lot of advantages that I think we don’t often reflexively think of that are important to note. But we also are careful to highlight that that doesn’t mean that we’ll just simply get to enjoy them. The transition and the opportunities, the advantages have to be seized and action is key to our success here.

Markham Hislop: Well, I couldn’t agree more and I’ve written many columns arguing for that very thing. Let’s talk about key finding number four, which is scaling up of safe bets, which are low-risk solutions that are available today. And just to illustrate for our listeners, put electrification of transportation in that category because battery prices are dropping, electric vehicle prices are dropping. And not just in cars and trucks, but in medium and heavy-duty trucks as well – garbage trucks, delivery vans, that sort of thing. And it’s cheaper to do it with electricity than it is to use gasoline and diesel.

What are kinds of safe bets are we talking about?

Jason Dion: I’ll maybe start by defining what we think of as a safe bet since to be fair, we did invent the term. So it’s really those things that are commercially available today, where there are no major constraints or barriers to scaling them up. And these are the things that play a significant role on the path to net-zero in all of our scenarios.

No matter how that net-zero transition plays out, these technologies will be adopted in the marketplace. What that underscores is that these are things we can move forward aggressively with confidence starting today, that we don’t have to wait and see on any of this stuff. So it includes, as you mentioned, electric vehicles, also energy efficiency, equipment and upgrades, methane capture in the oil and gas sector, electric heat pumps in buildings.

There’s a number of solutions that we can act on with confidence starting today. And what’s really critical here is that that’s true, even when that next-generation stuff works out in a big way.

I think too often, we sort of think of the promise of tomorrow’s technology as a reason to take a wait-and-see approach. I think we’ve proven in this study that that doesn’t make sense because even when those things work out in a big way, these things are still doing a lion’s share of the work, especially over the next 10 years.

It’s really after that, that those other things start to play a bigger role. So the job in front of us is crystal clear. And in terms of Canada’s 2030 target, what we find is these safe bets can get us two-thirds of the way there. And in some cases as much as 90%. So they’re critical to the job in front of us. And they’re an area where the net-zero transition is not uncertain. We know these things are going to play a role, so let’s get on with it.

Markham Hislop: Now, the fifth key finding is wildcards and the role they will play. Here we’re talking high-risk, high-reward solutions, still in the early stages of development. And that gets us into innovation and innovation in this particular energy transition, across many sectors and many types of technologies seems to me to be absolutely critical to achieving net-zero by 2050, but also critical to economic success and competitiveness as the global economy changes.

Jason Dion: We really think of the wild cards as the things that could prove really critical to unlocking the deeper cost-effective reductions needed to get to Canada to its long-term net-zero target.

To be specific, it includes things like non-emitting hydrogen production and second-generation biofuels. Instead of using food-based feedstocks, like corn, making them out of stuff like switchgrass. Even negative emissions solutions, themselves stuff that pulls carbon dioxide out of the air, like I was talking about earlier.

These technologies are really, really important, but they come with some uncertainty and we see a lot of variation across our scenarios in not only whether they play a role, but the size of that role. So we need to sort of embrace that uncertainty. We can’t let it paralyze us, but the real takeaway for us when it comes to wild cards is yes, the potential is real. But they also have to go alongside those safe bets, which I think gets to our next key finding.

Markham Hislop: Before we get to the next key finding a little bit more on the wildcards. I’ve interviewed Dr. Sarah Hasting-Simons from the University of Calgary, a number of times. And part of her research is about the importance of government spending on research development and commercialization of new technologies and how even if the government spends a lot of money and that technology ultimately fails overall in the big picture, those expenditures that public funding is really key during these kinds of transitions.

Would you agree that any public money that goes into these wildcards, even the unsuccessful ones, is still worth making the investment and not taking a wait-and-see approach?

Jason Dion: Yeah. I think what we have to accept with the wild cards is that we’re going to have to embrace uncertainty. It’s not clear which of these are going to pan out in a big way. They all have potential. They are all worth pursuing.

We stopped short in the report about being prescriptive. Pilot projects, research and development, even direct public investment, a case can be made for all of these things. And we certainly say they should all be considered as part of the mix. We don’t prescribe a recipe exactly for how to drive them.

But to your bigger point, I think absolutely that a portfolio approach is exactly what’s needed. And as part of that. And so when we think about a portfolio, it’s like an investment portfolio, you’re implicitly accepting that parts of it are going to underperform, that in order to get the larger gains that come with a diverse portfolio where you’re hedging your bets, it’s going to come with some losses. And I think we need to be tolerant and accepting and even welcoming of some of those challenges and setbacks because only through that larger portfolio approach, will we be able to realize the potential of the ones that are going to work out.

Markham Hislop: So onto number six, which is safe bets and wild cards represent two distinct policy problems that are better considered in separate policy conversations. What do you mean by that?

Jason Dion: So to our mind, what we have found in this report is that safe bets and wildcards are critical to the net-zero transition, but they are different things. So safe bets are all about deployment and uptake. We need to get them out there as soon as possible. Policy that can support that includes big, strong economy-wide incentives from things like carbon pricing or flexible regulations, or even some subsidies. So you really need to just drive them and get them out there with safe bets.

With wild cards, it’s all about developing them, advancing them, getting them ready for when we need them. Now, that work can’t wait. That has to start today. And that the carbon price, those tools are helpful for that, but they might not also be enough that you might need that boost of the signal in the form of things like research and development support, direct public investment.

The things we were talking about earlier that is a really, really critical part of what it takes to drive wildcards. But too often, we’re talking past each other when it comes to these sorts of solutions that the proponents of wildcards can’t earn the trust of the proponents of safe bets. People sort of think, Oh, that’s just a distraction from the work I have to do with safe bets and the proponents of safe bets You know, don’t see eye to eye with the prominence of wildcards because the wildcard folks will say, Oh, but you’re ignoring the potential that exists over here.

Both are right. And they can’t talk past each other one, can’t be a substitute for the other. So a complete climate plan to my mind includes a plan for safe bets and for wild cards. If you’ve only got one, you’re not playing with a full hand, to sort of torture the card game metaphor to death.

Markham Hislop: Well, let’s talk about the seventh key finding, which is about negative emissions and as a special type of wild card. Why do you call it special?

Jason Dion: You can really think of it as the ultimate wild card. In our analysis, we find that it could be absolutely massive in terms of the contribution it makes.

If we could get all the technical kinks worked out, if we could drive down costs enough, if we could get this stuff deployed at scale, and a lot more “ifs” after that, it could come to be one of the most effective, and cost-effective ways of dealing with the last part of that journey to net zero.

The last reductions, the ones that are coming out of the industry sector, out of freight, out of aviation are really expensive to do directly. Those solutions could offer the opportunity to offset them through negative emissions going on elsewhere. So that’s a really promising opportunity.

There’s also evidence that we’re going to need these sorts of things in the longterm because getting to net-zero is just step one, a lot of assessments say we have to get to net negative, local emissions over the longterm.

We want them for the option value in that longer-term journey, but they’re uncertain. And to place a bet on this is the kind of future that we want to buy in on to go all-in on that vision is super risky, because if it doesn’t work out, you risk locking yourself in, on a path that becomes more expensive to get off of, or that puts that net-zero target in jeopardy. So certainly we would say, it’s, it belongs in the mix. It’s something we ought to pursue, but to bet on it is a risky proposition.

Markham Hislop: I’ve heard it said in conversation that we should not hobble our economy now with things like carbon taxes, because, you know, by 2050, there’ll be technology to take carbon dioxide right out of the atmosphere. And we can just wait and benefit from that. As you say, that’s a risky bet. And if we were to wait, we might be sadly disappointed.

Jason Dion: The wait-and-see argument is problematic in the first place for the reasons you mentioned, but also it doesn’t even make sense as far as I’m concerned that the carbon price is the thing that will help support the incentives to develop those technologies. Private companies aren’t going to do this out of their own voluntary action.

The signal that the carbon price provides that we’re going to place a value on avoided or reduce carbon emissions. That’s what helps drive those and advance those technologies. Again, it’s not enough. You need other things too, but the idea that we can just wait and see for these things to work out on their own, absolutely not. You need policy to push.

Markham Hislop: So let’s talk about number eight. And I think this is really important for any Canadians listening. And that is the pathways to 2050 to net-zero emissions have far-reaching implications for the wellbeing of Canadians and not only health and other well-beings, but economic. So what we’re talking about here is that if Canada wants to continue to enjoy the prosperity it’s had in the past, and to be perhaps even more prosperous in the future, it cannot be passive in terms of how it approaches the energy transition. It has to mitigate risks. It has to seize opportunities and be aggressive about it.

Is that a fair summation of key finding number eight?

Jason Dion: Yeah, and I think it’s what it’s really doing is underscoring a point that I think most people understand intuitively that this big transition we’re talking about is much more than a technology and market transition, that this is going to touch the lives and livelihoods of people all over the country. And we need to be very conscious of that and, and build it into the design of how we’re going to go about that transition.

So not only considering the effects in the design of policies but thinking about other complementary policies that support workers that ended up dislocated, support for disadvantaged groups that might otherwise get left behind, support for low-income households that might have trouble affording some of the solutions we’re talking about, absent some support.

Really trying to hit that point home that this is a social transition, as much as it’s a market and a technology transition.

Markham Hislop: Fair point. Well, we’ve gone through the key findings. Let’s talk now about the recommendations, the core recommendations that you make in the report. Number one is that government should create incentives for the widespread deployment of safe bet solutions building on policy mechanisms already in place.

One question I have for you on this, Jason is the fact that in Canada, Canada is a very decentralized Federation. The federal government cannot simply direct provincial governments. They have split jurisdiction on many areas where that have an effect on energy transition policy, climate policy. How do you think that should be resolved?

Jason Dion: It’s a tricky part of this, right? That it’s the nature of Canada’s governance that this shared jurisdiction and, and governments not seeing eye to eye on, on how we should go about this. And even in some cases, whether we should go about this makes it a real challenge. And in terms of that governance, we can come back to some of the specifics in our recommendation three, but what I would, the way I would answer the question here is to note that, you know, so we have a federal government that is committed to hitting Canada’s climate targets that have brought in a policy consistent with Canada’s 2030 target.

And I think now it’s up to the provinces to decide how much they want to build on it. And in many ways, the ball is in their court. And I would say, I think that they should welcome the opportunity that there are plenty of ways to design and facilitate a transition that is unique to the jurisdiction We’re talking about.

Jason Dion: This net-zero transition will look different in different places. And while the federal government has provided the broad signal with that big economy, wide carbon price, there’s lots of work to do in provinces and in cities to make sure that other policies that nudge things in the direction that is going to work the best in that place are an important part of the mix.

I think we should welcome that opportunity. I think we should welcome the fact that it’s an opportunity to have a laboratory of policies. We can be trying different things at different levels, different governments. So I think we should embrace that complexity, even though it creates some challenges. And, and I’m glad to see that we are moving forward at many levels of government, with meaningful policy because absent policy, this isn’t going to happen if the market left to its own devices.

In economics jargon, is it’s an externality greenhouse gas emissions until we correct that through policy, we are not going to see the meaningful changes that we need on this front. And we’re moving in that direction. There’s still more work to do.

Markham Hislop: So let’s talk about the second recommendation, which is that governments should manage the risk and risks in portfolios posed by wildcard solutions through a portfolio approach. So you have mentioned that a number of times in our conversation, and I think that Canadians are not as aware as they should be of just how much, how big the innovation ecosystem is in Canada. There’s a lot of money that gets spent on research and development on commercializing new technologies. I can think of the federally funded Canadian research innovation network, for instance, which has hubs in a number of the provinces and federal government sorry, provincial governments spend a fair amount of money and thinking of Alberta, the Alberta innovates agency, and they have innovative approaches to them, such as challenges, you know, five, $5 million for teams to compete, to decarbonize natural gas that sort of thing. So do you think that the innovation ecosystem in Canada is up to this, up to the task? Does it need tweaking or maybe more funding or is it not up to the task and needs an overhaul?

Jason Dion: Yeah, I mean, I think you’re right to highlight all of the fantastic resources and effort that are going on out there, that a lot of people aren’t aware of and just to build on it. I would also notice there’s a lot of innovation going on in the private sector right now that perhaps flies under the radar. We have a hydrogen fuel cell company in Canada that is renowned around the world.

We have electric bus manufacturers in Canada that people aren’t aware of. There’s a company on the East coast that fixes carbon dioxide into concrete. That’s seeing its products used more and more globally. We have that pilot project in Western Canada with Carbon Engineering to pull it out of the air and fix it underground. So tons of innovation going on, I think, you know, others have noted that Canadian innovation and startups face this kind of Valley, the Valley of death where the early innovation is there they’re started, they’re a startup, things are happening, but getting the financing to bridge to that growth phase is a challenge.

Jason Dion: So it’s not an area I have a ton of depth on others have noted that challenge, but just in terms of the bigger picture, what I would say is, I think we’re ripe for a strategic conversation around where we want to be placing our bets. And I think some of these wild cards we’ve identified are areas that are definitely have a strong case for being part of that mix. But the next filter that we need to apply in terms of how we’re going to set priorities in terms of what we’re going to pursue. And innovation is what’s really in our comparative advantage that yes, you know, a lot of these wildcard technologies make sense for Canada, which ones make the most sense in terms of our ability to be the provider to the world, to export this stuff. It’s not a slam dunk that, you know, we can be the biofuel producer of choice or the hydrogen producer of choice there’s advantages. And do we think that we can seize those? What would it take? I think that’s the question and the filter that we need to apply and to really kind of sharpen that strategic focus in terms of where the right places are to place those big bets.

Markham Hislop: Well, let’s talk about recommendation number three, which is that governments should increase policy certainty by implementing robust climate accountability frameworks. And this is really an important issue because the federal government not long ago introduced climate accountability legislation. And I interviewed the former green party leader MP Elizabeth Elizabeth May. And she was very critical of the liberal governments legislation and said it didn’t go nearly far enough. Didn’t have short-term goals and needed more teeth to it. What’s your take on that?

Jason Dion: Yeah. so first let’s start with a bit of definitional work. So a climate accountability framework is a set of processes and government governance measures that can help keep a government accountable for its progress toward its long term targets, setting interim targets,ubeing forced to make a plan for achieving those, be accountable for missing them. Other countries have done this. And we did a study looking at experience in other countries. the federal government’s proposed bill C 12 does come up short and in certain fronts in terms of aligning with what we identified as best practices. And so I’d share many of Elizabeth May’s concerns there at the same time, perhaps not all of them that, and this is kind of full disclosure. You know, I think that people can end up disappointed when they hear about how these things actually work in practice.

Jason Dion: They tend to underwhelm. And the reason is that they often lack really kind of hard teeth in terms of the consequences of missing a target. So why do they do that? They do that because if you were to write binding legislation, a future government must do these things. You invite that future government that doesn’t want to simply repeal the legislation because you can’t bind in the hands of a future government. They can always unright the law that you wrote. What you’re trying to craft is a piece of legislation that where it’s more trouble than it’s worth to undo it. And then instead they work within its bounds. They’re held accountable through transparency mechanisms and it creates the opportunities for the public to hold them accountable. I think that limitation is sort of inherent in these frameworks. It was frankly a disappointment for me, the more I learned about them to realize that they can’t solve the problem of kind of locking in on future climate policy. That’s up to voters. They can help with that. And they’re a key piece of the puzzle and why we recommend them as a way of kind of undertaking this longer-term journey. And even the managing uncertainty that comes with those wild cards as part of that portfolio approach. So a key piece of the puzzle, but certainly not something that’s going to singlehandedly get us there.

Markham Hislop: The fourth recommendation is that governments should work to ensure the path to net-zero is fair and inclusive. And I’m hearing this more and more around the argument for adjusting transition. And you’re seeing it in other countries where for instance in Germany to integrate into their energy transition, which started, you know, long before ours did, or at least sometime before ours did. And one of the impediments to it getting off coal for Germany is the fact that so many Germans are employed in coal mines. And so that causes problems for politicians who you know, don’t want to alienate those, those votes. And so they dragged their feet on getting rid of coal out of Germany’s electrical system. So is this the kind of thing that you had in mind?

Jason Dion: Yeah, I think that that’s definitely part of what we’re thinking there. I think net, we find that a net-zero transition does not necessarily lead to a fairer inclusive and more inclusive Canada. In fact, it could exacerbate existing inequities.

So as I said earlier, you need to pay really careful attention to that social space. Now that definitely includes thinking about what you’re going to do for workers that may be dislocated on the path to that transition. What are your retraining and education policies and supports going to be, will there be income supports? It’s also bigger than that too. It’s about making sure that we have a workforce that has skills that are aligned with what a net-zero economy might need. So that gets into how we train people for trades. It gets into how we structure high school curriculum, big things to think about there in terms of that broader alignment.’

And it gets bigger from there thinking about disadvantaged groups and their ability to participate thinking about lower-income households and whether they’re going to be able to afford what can be more expensive goods at the point of purchase when we’re thinking about some of those energy-efficient non-emitting alternatives.

So we need to be very careful in assuming that we can just go about this transition and sort of let the chips fall where they may, that’s a recipe for disaster and a recipe for losing the support of the public and really, in the end, perhaps not being successful in that larger transition. So it’s not just a piece of the puzzle. It’s a critical piece of the puzzle.

Facebook Comments

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.