Canada’s Approach to Climate Change

Four working groups have been established. These working groups are working with Indigenous peoples and the public, including youth. The four working groups are developing options for:

How and where to reduce emissions
Clean technology, innovation and job creation
How to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate
Putting a price on carbon

Key Dates

  • April 22, 2016: Launch of public engagement.
  • May to August 2016: Working groups meet with and solicit input from Indigenous peoples, and incorporate Indigenous input into the interim and final reports.
  • September 2016: Working groups report to Ministerial tables.
  • October 2016: Ministerial recommendations to First Ministers. Working group reports made public.
  • Fall 2016: First Ministers meet and finalize the plan.

Get Involved

Share your input through this website to inform the work of the four working groups.

Submit Your Idea

 

Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion

BROKE is a group of local residents whose mission is:
• To prevent the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, and related infrastructure in Burnaby, and related supertanker traffic, through education, advocacy and partnership;
• To oppose the degradation of our city, our neighbourhoods, and the natural habitat, that an oil pipeline and related industrialization of Burrard Inlet would bring;
• To raise awareness of Burnaby residents about how the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and increased tanker traffic would impact our community and local environment;
• To promote a clean and sustainable energy future.

Germany’s solar-power success: Too much of a good thing?

Author
Andrew Curry

It’s been a long, dark winter in Germany. In fact, there hasn’t been this little sun since people started tracking such things back in the early 1950s. A few days before Easter, the streets of Berlin were still covered in ice and snow. But spring will come, and when the snow finally melts, it will reveal the glossy black sheen of photovoltaic solar panels glinting from the North Sea to the Bavarian Alps.

Solar panels line Germany’s residential rooftops and top its low-slung barns. They sprout in orderly rows along train tracks and cover hills of coal mine tailings in what used to be East Germany. Old Soviet military bases, too polluted to use for anything else, have been turned into solar installations.

Twenty-two percent of Germany’s power is generated with renewables. Solar provides close to a quarter of that. The southern German state of Bavaria, population 12.5 million, has three photovoltaic panels per resident, which adds up to more installed solar capacity than in the entire United States.

With a long history of coal mining and heavy industry and the aforementioned winter gloom, Germany is not the country you’d naturally think of as a solar power. And yet a combination of canny regulation and widespread public support for renewables has made Germany an unlikely leader in the global green-power movement — and created a groundswell of small-scale power generation that could upend the dominance of traditional power companies.

Twenty years ago, it was clear solar power wasn’t going to get anywhere by itself. Photovoltaic panels were expensive and inefficient. Even solar systems designed to heat water, a far less technologically tricky task, were bad buys on the open market. Producing electricity from sunlight costs 10 times more than generating power using coal or nuclear energy. “The early systems might as well have been made out of gold,” says David Wedepohl, a spokesman for Germany’s Solar Industry Association.

In 1991, German politicians from across the political spectrum quietly passed the Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz (renewable energy law), or EEG. It was a little-heralded measure with long-lasting consequences.

The law guaranteed small hydroelectric power generators — mostly in Bavaria, a politically conservative area I like to think of as the Texas of Germany — a market for their electricity. The EEG required utility companies to plug all renewable power producers, down to the smallest rooftop solar panel, into the national grid and buy their power at a fixed, slightly above-market rate that guaranteed a modest return over the long term. The prices were supposed to balance out the hidden costs of conventional power, from pollution to decades of coal subsidies.

Investors began to approach solar and wind power as long-term investments, knowing there was a guaranteed future for renewable energy and a commitment to connecting it to the grid. Paperwork for renewables was streamlined — a big move in bureaucracy-loving Germany. The country invested billions in renewables research in the 1990s, and German reunification meant lots of money for energy development projects in the former East.

Now German companies lead the world in solar research and technology. The handful of companies that make inverters, the devices that reverse the flow of electricity and feed power from rooftop solar panels back into national grids, are almost all German. On a sunny day last May, Germany produced 22 gigawatts of energy from the sun — half of the world’s total and the equivalent of 20 nuclear power plants.

The “feed-in” laws and subsidies pushed innovation to the point where solar panels are cheap enough to compete on the open market in Germany and elsewhere. The price for solar panels has fallen 66 percent since 2006, and the cost of solar-generated power may be competitive with coal in a few years, according to a study by UBS. Already, solar projects are thriving in places like India and Italy despite a lack of government subsidies or support, and a recent Deutsche Bank report predicted “grid parity” in Bavaria by next year.

You might think Germany would be smug about all its solar success. But, as usual, folks here are full of doubts. Part of the reason solar panels are getting cheaper is competition from China, which is threatening to push more expensive German producers out of business. Last year, German conservatives tried to end solar subsidies entirely, arguing that plummeting prices were encouraging too many people to install solar panels. They said that the subsidies come at the expense of city dwellers without solar-ready roofs, low-income electricity consumers, and investments in other forms of renewable energy. Even environmentalists have begun to grumble about the solar boom, which sucks up half of Germany’s funding for renewables but provides just 20 percent of green power.

The proliferation of privately owned solar has large power companies in Germany worried. For two decades, they’ve been forced to facilitate and finance their competition, helping turn customers into producers. Soon, rooftop solar and other small-scale, locally owned renewables could upset the market for coal and nuclear power.

Here’s why that’s a problem: Renewable energy sources like wind and solar generate power intermittently, dependent on the sun or fickle breezes. Until researchers can find a way to store energy at a large scale, coal and nuclear plants — which can’t simply be switched on and off at will — must be kept running to guarantee a steady stream of electricity when the sun isn’t shining.

That means overproduction of power during daylight hours, as the country’s ample solar energy floods onto the grid along with electricity produced by power plants. Power companies traditionally charge more during the day, when offices are full and manufacturing plants are in full swing, so the glut of daytime solar power reduces their profit. The proliferation of solar panels on homes also takes high-margin residential customers off the grid at peak hours. And the energy surplus has driven prices for traditional coal and nuclear power down, even as renewables are still guaranteed more-than-competitive rates. As power companies try to pass the costs to consumers in the form of higher bills, that just encourages more people to put solar panels on their roofs.

Already, Germany’s power companies are closing power plants and scrapping plans for new ones. Germany had a national freak-out after the Fukushima disaster and decided to abolish nuclear power by 2023. Meanwhile, energy prices continue to sink, and solar installation continues to grow. By decentralizing power generation, the renewables boom could do to the power industry what the internet did to the media: put power in the hands of the little guy, and force power companies to rethink how they do business. As soon as the sun comes out, that is.

This story was produced by Slate as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Clean energy ‘mega-trend’ sweeping globe: Canada vulnerable

Canadian economy left vulnerable, Harper government told in briefings: Canada is becoming vulnerable to a planetary “mega trend” toward low-carbon energy, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was told in newly released internal briefing notes.

BY MIKE DE SOUZA, POSTMEDIA NEWS AUGUST 4, 2012

OTTAWA — A dependence on fossil fuel resources is making the country vulnerable to a planetary “mega trend” toward low-carbon energy that “will affect the whole of Canada’s economy,” Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was told in newly released internal briefing notes.

“While Canada has an enviable energy resource advantage, its future success cannot be taken for granted,” said the briefing notes. “It must make smart decisions now in order to get ahead of emerging challenges. The country will need to further diversify its energy sources, ensure that it has secure access to global markets and find ways to meet the growing demand for energy at home in ways that are environmentally sustainable and publicly acceptable.”

Noting that Canada was last among G8 nations in terms of clean energy investments, the briefing notes prepared by bureaucrats at Natural Resources Canada for Oliver after he was appointed to cabinet in May 2011, explained that the growth of emerging economies such as China and India was one “mega trend” influencing the economy and demand for resources and energy.

But the documents also suggested that other countries were getting ahead of Canada in a new market, estimated to be worth $6.5 trillion in 2007-2008, for green products and services aimed at lowering carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

“Over the medium term, the world is being shaped by another mega trend — the beginning of a transition towards a lower-carbon economy,” said the briefing notes, marked secret but declassified for release to Postmedia News under access to information legislation. “While fossil fuels will remain a dominant source of global energy for decades to come, leading economies, including the US and China are making major investments to position themselves as low-carbon leaders.”

Oliver was also told that some countries were using “protectionist policies” to “provide a competitive boost to their manufacturers” of clean technologies versus foreign competitors through standards, tariffs and some “buy local” rules.

In a statement, Oliver told Postmedia News that the Harper government has invested more than $10 billion since 2006 in programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a more sustainable environment through green infrastructure, energy efficiency, clean energy technology and cleaner fuels.

“Our government has a strong record on clean energy and a cleaner environment,” said Oliver. “We will continue research and development with governments, industry and academia in these areas.”

Following Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s election in 2006, his minority government actually cancelled billions of dollars in climate change and clean energy programs prompting public criticism. One year later, it started announcing the billions of dollars worth of new investment programs with similar features but different names.

But it ended most of the programs, such as stimulus funding in support of wind, solar and other renewable energy, after forming a majority government in 2011.

The briefing notes — which described Oliver’s department as the lead federal investor and performer of clean energy research, development and technology demonstration — also said that the decisions made today would “shape Canada’s energy future and carbon footprint for decades to come.”

“Growing demand for natural resources and the long-term transition towards a low-carbon economy will affect the whole of Canada’s economy, especially given energy’s role as a key input,” said the briefing notes.

“How Canada develops and uses its assets, from its resource base through to its skilled workforce and emerging clean tech sector, will be a deciding factor in strengthening its overall competitiveness in today’s uncertain world.”

The briefing notes explained that public opinion polls demonstrated Canadians wanted the government to increase its investments in new technologies, but that it was facing criticism for not keeping up with other countries, ranking 13th in the world and “last among the G8 in low carbon market investments.”

The briefing notes also highlighted the value of promoting energy efficiency through policies such as a home renovations subsidy program, cancelled in 2012, to help households reduce energy consumption.

“There is a large body of evidence that suggests energy efficiency can make a significant contribution to economic competitiveness, cost savings and GHG reductions,” said the documents, which also said that Canadians had spent about $189 billion to heat and cool their homes in 2008.

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Canada urged to tap into booming green market

Visitors look at solar panels on the roof of the Palexpo Exhibition Center, the biggest solar farm in Switzerland Tuesday. A new report suggests Canada may be unprepared to benefit from economic opportunities in the clean energy sector.
Photograph by: Denis Balibouse, Reuters , Postmedia NewsThe Canadian economy will miss out on a booming market of green goods and services worth trillions of dollars if governments fail to steer away from foolish energy and climate change policies, says a new report to be released Thursday.

The analysis, the sixth and final report in a research series undertaken by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, concluded that goods and services promoting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were part of a sector that’s growing faster than the Canadian economy.

“Canada needs a low-carbon growth plan,” said the report. “This is a basic conclusion of our analysis and of the feedback received from regional stakeholders. The reality is that Canada is unprepared to compete in a carbon-constrained world.”

The research series, examining economic opportunities resulting from climate change, warned last year that the impacts of global warming would be far worse – up to $43 billion per year – than the cost of putting a price on pollution.

The Harper government responded by rejecting the advice to put a price on pollution. It later announced in the 2012 federal budget that it would shut down the advisory panel and eliminate its annual funding of $5 million.

The latest report was expected to be the final advice from the advisory panel, created more than 25 years ago by the government of former prime minister Brian Mulroney to bring together business and environmental stakeholders.

The report, with research led at the round table by John Cuddihy, estimated that global spending on low-carbon goods and services was at $339 billion in 2010, and that it could rise to between $3.9 trillion and $8.3 trillion by 2050, depending on the nature of energy and climate change policies adopted around the world.

In an interview, the panel’s vice-chairman, Robert Slater, said the report is urging governments in Canada to take action to ensure the economy benefits from the global transition to clean energy rather than taking “foolhardy” decisions that cause the economy to fall behind.

“There’s huge potential here,” said Slater, an adjunct professor of environmental policy at Carleton University in Ottawa. “There’s a very substantial business growing at a very fast rate compared to the overall economy. It’s right across the economy, it’s building on existing Canadian strengths in some instances, and innovations with high potential in others.”

Part of the report’s recommended plan included identifying skills and labour needs to ensure that the emerging sectors can find the workforce they need to thrive. Regardless of whether governments in Canada adopt more aggressive energy and climate change policies, the report said the clean energy goods and services sector would grow faster than the rest of the economy.

But governments could provide a boost by stimulating the sector’s growth with incentives or subsidies, the report recommended.

It also suggested the federal government could mobilize new investments by engaging key stakeholders in the business community, and expand opportunities for Canadian companies abroad by improving Canada’s global environmental reputation.

Ministers in the Harper government have repeatedly suggested in recent months that the round table’s prescriptions were the equivalent of a “tax” that would drive up costs for consumers, but the report suggested that the alternative is worse.

“The economic risks of inaction are too significant to ignore,” the report said. “For one, billions of dollars in Canadian exports could be subject to trade measures that penalize emissions-intensive industries and products. For another, our international reputation could suffer and with it the marketability of Canadian products and the ability of Canadian firms to invest abroad.”
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