Did you know that Canada is a world leader on climate action and has been for many years? It comes from the top down in our country, with all levels of government putting a major effort into reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through initiatives like building Canadian renewable energy infrastructure, investing in clean technologies and spending billions on environmental protection.
Canada’s stringent and ever-evolving environmental regulatory framework has pushed industry across the country to invest its own time and resources to reduce emissions. Today, switching to renewable power generation is one of the most common ways individual companies are reducing GHGs on their own initiative.
LNG Canada & Forest Sector
LNG Canada is a great example of Canada's world-class leadership. The plant is currently underway in British Columbia - a province that gets 95% of its power demand from renewable sources - and will use electricity to power its liquefaction processing plant, making it the lowest GHG emitting facility of its kind in the world.
Another good example of Canada's environmental leadership is how Ontario’s forest industry reduced its total GHG emissions by 66% since the 1990’s mainly by switching to renewable power generation. Or, how about the fact that Canada’s entire forest industry reduced total GHG emissions by 49% in just 11 years between 2005 and 2015.
By using Canadian renewable energy sources for power, both LNG Canada and the forest industry have taken serious action on climate. And they haven't stopped there as they are always looking for innovative solutions to further reduce GHG emissions.
In today's world such actions would also be seen as an effort to woo investors, of whom take very seriously the environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment criteria standards in an age where progressively transitioning to a low-carbon future is ideal. The forest industry is not alone in such endeavours (more stats below).
Canadian Renewable Energy & Climate Action To-Date
But if Canada is doing so well, then why all the negative attention? If you didn’t know better, you would think Canada is a laggard when it comes to the environment and taking climate action.
Such narrative has been pushed by environmental and special interest groups for over a decade while today these same groups totally ignore progress made by Canadian governments, companies and industry in their efforts to reduce GHG emissions and protect the environment.
The saddest part about it is that Canadians have let it happen right before our eyes. For example, up until recently you would never have heard media report on the huge strides Canada’s oil and gas sector has made on reducing GHG emissions intensity per barrel produced, or the fact that today our country gets a massive amount of its electricity needs from non-emitting sources - about 82%.
You wouldn’t have heard about how TC Energy just signed a multi-million dollar contract to receive nearly 50% of the output of a new solar farm in Alberta, a deal that pushed the project towards construction.
You also wouldn’t have heard about how Suncor, a major oil sands producer is a partner in four major windfarms that generate enough Canadian renewable energy capacity to supply 52,000 homes with power, preventing 179,000 tonnes of CO2 emission equivalent each year.
When foreign celebrities rolled into town to protest our energy sector, back then you wouldn’t have heard business leaders, industry executives or First Nations Chiefs standing up to them. Thankfully today we are hearing community and industry leaders take a stand against such groups.
An Unbalanced Conversation...
And it’s extremely unfortunate that the conversation about Canada’s environmental leadership is still largely unbalanced and filled with heaps of misinformation. The last one of these was a disaster piece by National Geographic, which had so many factual problems with it, it left many community leaders and journalists baffled it was even published given the organizations commitment to the "highest standards" of ethics and journalism.
It’s time our country’s previous and current actions on climate are recognized and celebrated by Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast, and aren't lost in the extreme rhetoric and false claims often made about our country’s resource sectors.
We are far from being the “laggard” as suggested by various environmental and special interest groups who would like you to believe that we are one of the most environmentally destructive countries on the planet. While nations, industries, companies and even individuals can always do better, this narrative could not be further from the truth.
Climate Action Taken by Canada
Climate action in Canada is illustrated by our country’s continued push towards getting more and more of our electricity needs from new Canadian renewable energy infrastructure despite getting a massive amount of our current demand from such sources (chart below, NRC).
The fact that today Canada is already the seventh largest producer of renewable energy in the world (2016) and continues to build renewable power plants while looking for innovative ways to solve the problems associated with climate change are yet more examples of climate action by our country.
But a push towards continued emission reductions is just one of the ways Canada shows its world-class environmental stewardship. Various companies and organizations from coast-to-coast are taking action on pollution by, for example, developing ways to clean up the plastic waste in our oceans.
Another is the stricter rules and increased investments from government aimed at cleaning up and maintaining our country’s vast network of rivers and lakes. It just so happens that water is a major natural resource of Canada's that many people don't talk about.
These are just a few examples of Canada’s extensive and often overlooked commitment to maintaining a healthy environment. Meanwhile, efforts to reduce GHG emissions by individual companies and industry transcend national borders and benefit both Canada’s and the global environment.
How Canada is Taking Climate Action: Renewables + More
In terms of emissions, here’s some direct examples of how Canada is taking action on climate right now (with the source in brackets):
> Canada currently gets about 82% of its electricity needs from non-GHG emitting sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, and biofuels (NRC)
> In 2018, Canada was the world’s 3rd largest producer of hydropower, accounting for more than 60% of the country’s total electricity generation (NRC)
> As a net exporter of electricity with most coming from non-emission sources, Canada helps eliminate millions of tons of CO2 emissions annually by displacing more GHG-intensive generation in the United States (Canada Hydro)
> Canada currently has the 8th largest installed onshore wind power capacity in the world (CANWEA)
> By the end of 2018, Canada had approximately 12,816 MW of installed wind capacity, generating enough electricity to power about 3.3 million homes – or 6% of the country’s total electricity demand (CANWEA)
> In 2018, six major wind farms were completed that represented over $1 billion of investment and added 566 MW of new installed capacity to Canada’s renewable electricity grid (CANWEA)
> By 2020, solar power in Canada will displace 1.5 million tonnes of GHG emissions annually, equivalent to removing 250,000 cars off the road per year (CANSIA)
> Canada’s installed solar power capacity has grown from 16.7 megawatts in 2005 to 3,040 megawatts in 2018 (NRC)
> Each year, nuclear power which accounts for about 15% of Canada’s total electricity generation helps avoid 80 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to removing about 15 million passenger vehicles of the road annually (OPG, NRC)
> In 2014, more than 540 million seedlings were planted across Canada (NRC)
> In 2016, more than 615 million seedlings were planted on 410,000 hectares in Canada’s forests (NRC)
> In 2017, Canada ranked 4th out of 40 countries on the Global Cleantech Innovation Index (GCII)
Climate Action by Canada’s Provinces
The following sections are how the individual provinces are doing their part to contribute to our country’s climate action through Canadian renewable energy + more. NOTE: by no means are these lists for Canada and the provinces exhaustive.
Climate Action: British Columbia
> Today, approximately 95% of British Columbia’s electricity is generated from renewable sources (CER)
> Between 2005 and 2015, British Columbia added an additional 2,800 megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity generating capacity mostly through new hydro facilities (CER)
> Site C is a new hydro facility which upon completion will add another 1,100 MW of generating capacity to the province’s already expansive renewable portfolio (CER)
> Between 2005 and 2015, wind capacity in British Columbia grew from 0 to 488 MW (CER)
> Between 2005 and 2015, biomass capacity in British Columbia grew by 9% while accounting for about 6% of total electricity generation in 2016 (CER)
> Natural gas, the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, accounts for the rest of British Columbia’s electricity needs (CER)
Climate Action: Alberta
> In 2007, Alberta became the first major oil-producing jurisdiction in North America to introduce carbon pricing on major industrial emitters as part of a broader climate change strategy (CER)
> In 2015, Alberta generated approximately 10% of its total electricity generation – 7,947 gigawatt hours (GW.h) worth - from renewable sources, a substantial increase from the 4,782 GW.h generated in 2005 (CER)
> In 2014, Western Canada’s largest wind farm was built in Alberta, resulting in GHG emission reductions equivalent to taking 120,000 cars off the road per year (CANWEA)
> A handful of new solar power farms are planned or underway in Alberta which together will generate nearly 650 megawatts of added renewable electricity and introduce emission reductions equivalent to removing well over 150,000 cars off the road per year (Greengate Power, Berkshire Hathaway, Obton A/S)
> Alberta currently is home to the 3rd largest wind capacity in Canada with 37 projects generating about 1,500 MW of electricity each year (CANWEA)
> Alberta petroleum companies account for roughly 80% of Canada’s oil production and have made significant strides in reducing direct emissions over decades of operation (more specifics below in “Reducing GHG Emissions in Industry”)
Climate Action: Saskatchewan & Manitoba
> In 2015, Saskatchewan got approximately 17% of its total electricity generation from renewable sources with hydro and wind accounting for the lion’s share of such (CER)
> In 2015 SaskPower, Saskatchewan’s principal electric company which owns most capacity generation, set a target of 50% renewable power by 2030 (CER)
> Today, Manitoba generates nearly 100% of its electricity demand from renewable sources (CER)
> Manitoba currently has more than 15 major hydro power facilities with even more new plants coming online in the near future (CER)
> Manitoba shut down its final coal-burning power plant in August of 2018 (Global News), and banned using coal and petroleum coke for heating a bit more than a year beforehand in July of 2017 (Manitoba Co-operator)
> Manitoba has a major opportunity to reduce global GHG emissions further by replacing more emission-intensive power generation in neighbouring provinces and states south of the border (CER)
Climate Action: Ontario
> In 2015, Ontario generated over 1/3rd of its electricity from renewable sources, up from 23% in 2005 (CER)
> Wind and solar generation increased from nearly zero in 2005 to about 6% and 2% of total generation by 2015, respectively (CER)
> Ontario is the leading province for wind capacity with 4,374 MW in 2015, up from 15 MW in 2005 (CER)
> Ontario also leads all provinces for solar capacity with 2,119 MW in 2015, up from just 17 MW in 2005 (CER)
> In 2014, Ontario phased out the use of coal power and plans to further increase its renewable capacity with thousands more megawatts of generation added by 2025 (CER)
> Today, nuclear power, a non-emission form of energy, generates about 60% of Ontario’s total electricity demand (OPG)
Climate Action: Quebec
> Quebec generates almost all of its electricity needs from renewable sources with hydro accounting for the lion’s share of that generation (CER)
> Quebec’s installed renewable capacity reached 43,719 MW in 2015, up from 36,959 MW in 2005 (CER)
> Quebec currently has 36.8 GW of installed hydropower and is home to the 4th largest network of hydropower generating stations in the world (Hydro Quebec, Canadian Encyclopedia)
> Quebec’s installed wind power also increased to 3,262 MW in 2015, up from just 207 MW in 2005 (CER)
> Quebec exports massive amounts of electricity to Ontario, New Brunswick, New York State, New England and other jurisdictions with 8,200 MW of total export capacity (CER)
> By 2030, Quebec plans to reduce its total GHG emissions by 16 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, as outlined in “The 2030 Energy Policy – Energy in Quebec: A Source of Growth” (CER)
Climate Action: Atlantic Provinces
> In 2015, Newfoundland & Labrador saw more than 95% of electricity generation come from renewable sources (CER)
> Newfoundland & Labrador currently has new major hydro power facilities underway like Muskrat Falls for example, which will add over 820 more MWs of generation to the province’s renewable capacity (CER)
> In 2015, renewables accounted for 31% of New Brunswick’s total power capacity (CER)
> By 2020, New Brunswick plans to meet 40% of its total electricity demand with renewable sources (CER)
> Between 2005 and 2015, Nova Scotia’s share of electricity generation from renewables grew from 12% to 24%, respectively (CER)
> Nova Scotia generates the 2nd highest percentage of its electricity from wind in Canada after Prince Edward Island (CER)
> In 2010, Nova Scotia adopted a motion called “Renewable Electricity Standard” with the goal of getting 40% of its electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020 (CER) - although in 2019 it got about 30% of its total demand from renewables (CER)
> Nova Scotia plans on developing its tidal power capacity with several new permits issued for projects in the Bay of Fundy in 2019 (CBC)
Reducing GHG Emissions in Industry
Over the past several years, many of Canada’s most important industries have made incredible progress on reducing their emissions, whether it be on a total or intensity basis.
We’ve touched on some of the world-class environmental progress oil sands companies have made in Alberta before. But it’s not just the oil and gas industry that has taken climate action in Canada.
Some of the ways Canadian industry has and is taking action on climate:
> Since 2014, a major oil sands producer (Suncor) has reduced its overall GHG emissions intensity per barrel produced by 10% (Suncor)
> Since 2014, a major oil sands producer (CNRL) has reduced its overall GHG emissions intensity per barrel produced by 20% (CNRL)
> CNRL has also reduced its GHG emissions intensity by 37%, equivalent to removing 665,000 cars off the road at 2018 production levels (CNRL)
> Since 2004, a major oil sands producer has reduced its direct GHG emissions intensity by about 30% (Cenovus)
> If the rest of the world achieved what Canada’s oil and gas industry has in terms of flaring, total world GHG emissions from flaring would be reduced by 23%, equivalent to removing 110 million cars off the road – or 3x the amount of cars in Canada (CNRL)
> The oil and gas industry is by far the largest spender on clean technology in Canada, accounting for 75% of the $1.4 billion spent annually (2018) (Financial Post)
> In 2017, the oil and gas sector accounted for $1.65 billion, or 82% of investment in clean technology in Canada
> Between 2005 and 2015, Canada’s forest industry reduced its total GHG emissions by 49% (Government of Canada)
> Since the 1990s, Ontario’s forest sector has reduced its total GHG emissions by 66% (The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report 2016)
> Total electricity GHG emissions in Canada decreased by 42% from 2000 to 2017 due to increased generation from non-emitting sources (Government of Canada)
> Between 2009-2017, upstream oil sands GHG emissions intensity fell 21% and is projected to drop by an additional 16 to 23% by 2030 (IHS Markit)
> Barrick’s Hemlo Mine was recognized by NRC for its innovative ventilation management program that reduced emissions by 24% and lowered energy consumption by 10% between 2013 and 2015 (Mining Association of Canada)
> A handful of Teck’s coal mines in B.C. have increasingly been using natural gas versus coal for energy generation, reducing more than 250,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year (Mining Association of Canada)
Making Buildings More Energy Efficient
Another way Canada is taking action on climate is by making its buildings more energy efficient. Buildings account for about 12% of Canada’s total GHGs, or about 0.192% of global GHG emissions based on Canada’s 1.6% total contribution to the world.
According to the Government of Canada, by 2030 about 75% of the buildings standing today will still be around. As a result, many of today’s government policies are focused on improving the energy efficiency of current buildings while also setting higher standards for new construction across the country.
Some of the ways Canada is making its buildings cleaner and greener (Government of Canada):
#1 - Investing billions into green infrastructure programs that will give incentive for home owners and businesses alike to make green retrofits to their properties
#2 - Investing and supporting innovation from individuals / companies, which is currently needed to make energy-efficient improvements more affordable for building owners
#3 - Setting new standards for energy-intensive technologies and new building codes that require owners to report energy-use performance and make upgrades at “major milestones” in the lifecycle of a building
Investing in Clean Transportation
Transportation is responsible for roughly quarter of Canada’s total GHGs, or about 0.4% of the world’s total emissions. Federal, provincial and municipal governments across the country all have initiatives that will help Canada reduce its overall emissions from transportation to varying degrees.
Some of the ways Canadian governments are making an effort to reduce emissions from transportation sources (Government of Canada):
#1 - Investing funds into new public transit projects that will increase ridership and decrease emissions from regional communities
#2 - Provide various incentives to Canadians for buying electric vehicle (EV) cars
Current Canadian Renewable Energy Projects
Our country is not done with moving towards a lower-carbon future through renewables either. Today there are several projects underway across the country which will add thousands more megawatts to the grid (map below shows new projects between 2019-2023). See a full list of renewable projects to come by 2023 here:
Canada is a World-Leader on Climate Action
Canadian renewable energy across the country is a strong example of how Canada has, is, and will be taking action on climate into the foreseeable future.
Continued investment into making resource extraction processes by the natural resource sector and energy generation by the electricity sector less GHG intensive are two more. Canada’s persistence on building renewable infrastructure while examining other ways we can reduce our 1.6% share of global emissions through changes in the transportation and construction sectors are another two excellent examples of Canada taking action on climate change.
Canadians need to start recognizing that our country is world-class when it comes to emission reductions through renewable energy and new clean tech / innovation. We need to start showing off and bragging about our exemplary record to the world, rather than sit back and accept being labelled a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and the worst environmental laggard the world has ever seen. These are just simply not true.
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