By Jessica Kirby –
As a global community we are on the cusp of significant change in terms of the way we use and produce energy. International conflict, economic volatility, and environmental destruction are drawing attention to the myriad reasons dependence on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas must change.
Topping the list of clean energy sources are wind and solar, and as generation facilities and output technologies improve and become cost effective, these industries are generating new jobs and cleaner environmental potential.
In fact, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, “the renewable energy sector generates more jobs per megawatt of power installed, per unit of energy produced, and per dollar of investment than the fossil fuel-based sector.”
In Canada, the renewable, clean energy opportunities abound—our rich, open spaces and vast wilderness mean endless potential for wind, solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal, and marine sources. As in previous energy revolutions, where humankind has made a major switch – wood to coal, coal to oil and gas – the transition to clean energy promises new employment opportunities, prosperity, and healthier living.
The federal government just announced as part of the 2016 Budget more than $7-billion over the next two years to be spent on environmental protection, including public transit expansion, repairs to aging water and waste water infrastructure, and support for provincial efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Finance Minister Bill Morneau characterized the new federal government as “a champion of clean growth and a speedy transition to a low-carbon economy.” Delivering on election promises, the budget included several programs to apply clean technology innovation throughout the economy.
These announcements come a long way in boosting Canada’s status as a clean energy proponent, especially since a February report by Clean Energy Canada said although 2015 was a record-breaking year for global investment in clean energy, Canada’s spending declined by about half. The reason was, said Merran Smith of Clean Energy Canada, the lack of new government targets and regulations for the use of renewable energy.
“Clean energy doesn’t need subsidies,” Smith told the CBC. “It needs policies that commit to targets.”
The budget announcement came just after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with provincial and territorial leaders in Vancouver earlier in March to discuss a pan-Canadian strategy that would promote clean growth and climate action. Among other issues, carbon pricing was a key discussion point with all leaders agreeing on its need as well as the need to achieve Canada’s international emission targets. Without consensus on what pricing might look like, the federal government will come back to the issue and hopes to conclude the deal by next fall.
The budget, however, promised an extra $1 billion in 2018-19 to establish a two-year, $2-billion low carbon economy fund that will mitigate GHG reduction costs for provinces and territories that sign on to the national climate agreement.
And change might be easier than we think. Researchers from Stanford University recently released a study outlining just how Canada could move completely away from fossil fuels to a totally clean-energy future in as little as a decade. According to The Solutions Project, which evaluates the wind, water, and solar potential for all of the US and 139 countries including Canada, our home and native land could be 100 per cent renewable using 58 per cent wind power, 22 per cent solar, 16 per cent hydro, two per cent wave, and two per cent geothermal.
The study suggests 80 per cent of all energy production will be renewable by 2030, but some proponents say the goal is far more attainable and that the entire world could easily transition to 100 per cent renewable within 15 years.
“The solar-installed capacity has doubled every two years since the year 2000,” Stanford business professor Tony Seba told the CBC. Seba has advised international boardrooms on this topic and is adamant solar and wind are the future. “If you keep doubling that capacity, all you need is seven more doublings in order for solar to be 100 per cent of the world’s energy supply.”
A promising sign is that growth in renewable energy has not been affected by a drop in the price of oil, and Seba says bankruptcies in the coal industry indicate the beginning of the end for the non-renewable energy sector.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, in 2012, $244 billion was invested around the world in renewable energy (excluding large hydro), including investments in new capacity, research and development, and manufacturing. Global installed wind capacity has grown ninefold over the past decade, with an estimated $80.3 billion invested in this industry worldwide in 2012.
David Suzuki Foundation has partnered with the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Trottier Family Foundation to create the Trottier Energy Futures Project, which envisions a future for Canada with a cleaner environment, and in which Canada is seen as a leader in innovative, clean energy solutions.
“Limiting climate change and achieving sustainability is the defining challenge of our time and in Canada, it is clear that creating a sustainable energy plan is critical,” says David Suzuki in a Trottier Project promotional video. “It is a huge job, it will take decades to complete, and it will require a clear recognition of our ecological limits and of our technological possibilities. It will also require a groundswell of support, and all of us talking to each other and learning from each other.”
To learn more about the Trottier Project and other ways to impact clean energy in Canada please visit www.davidsuzuki.org.
How You Can Help:
The David Suzuki Foundation recommends these easy-to-implement steps anyone can take to a greener, carbon mitigated future for Canada.
- Transportation: Cars are carbon hogs and the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions. Next time you buy a car, check the federal government’s Auto Smart ratings to ensure your new wheels cruise smoothly down the road of efficiency. Consider biking, walking, or taking transit—even once per week can make a big impact. When you move, consider a location close to your daily destinations to reduce your overall commute times.
- Travel Light: Learn all about the impact of air travel and consider vacationing closer to home. Consider trains, cars, and buses over airplanes whenever possible, and when you fly, combine trips, fly direct, or fly in the daytime for better efficiency. Fly economy, because the more people on the plane the more efficient, and travel light to contribute to fuel efficiency.
- Energy: Reduce your home’s energy usage with energy efficient practices. Check out the federal government’s EnerGuide for Houses program to get started, and remember to think green when shopping for new appliances.
- Food: With seven billion on the planet, food production has become costly to biodiversity, air and water sources, and soil. Choose local, organic, and seasonal whenever possible. Be mindful with seafood choices—check out the SeaChoice Guide or Suzuki’s Top 10 Seafood Picks. Compost all organic waste.
- Be active: Our responsibility is individual and community-wide. Green your houses, offices, and schools, and then help take a policy to government and spread the word nation-wide!
Jessica is a freelance writer and editor based on beautiful Vancouver Island. She oversees the editorial direction of several small press run magazines in Western Canada and writes when and wherever she can about the environment, travel, construction, and design. She holds a BA in writing and anthropology from Vancouver Island University and has been working in publishing for 16 years. When she’s not hidden among piles of paper in her home office, Jessica can be found paying homage to Mother Earth on a cross-country bike ride, trail run, or camping trip with her family.