These recommendations embrace both near- and long-term thinking. Though the low-carbon transition will unfold over the course of decades–renewable energy and emissions targets frequently extend to 2050–our call to leadership focusses on short-term actions intended to move the nation more quickly down the path to a clean energy economy.
The risks of delaying these investments and policies are greater than simply missing an opportunity. We could find ourselves not only sidelined in the clean energy economy of tomorrow, but also scrambling to find a way to replace and pay for the jobs and social services that fossil fuels presently provide and fund.
We will also threaten Canadian livelihoods by largely ignoring the well-documented impacts of climate change. Recent economic modeling by the NRT concludes that climate change could cost the country $5 billion per year by 2020, and $21 to $43 billion by 2050. Impacts will be felt on timber supply in B.C., increased coastal flooding in Atlantic Canada, and spiralling public health costs in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver and Calgary as the result of heat waves.
In its annual report released in April 2012, the deputy executive director of the normally conservative International Energy Agency
lauded the increased deployment of renewables, but also cautioned that the change is not coming fast enough:
“Energy-related CO2 emissions are at historic highs; under current policies, we estimate that energy use and CO2 emissions would increase by a third by 2020, and almost double by 2050. This would likely send global temperatures at least 6°C higher. Such an outcome would confront future generations with significant economic, environmental and energy security hardships––a legacy that I know none of us wishes to leave behind.”
The agency affirmed that, in the absence of major investments and policy decisions, the opportunity to limit global warming to 2°C would slip away by 2017.Canada is amongst the top ten absolute contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for 1.8 percent of direct global emissions. Unless we diversify our economy, we could be deeply impacted by a dramatic shift in global climate and energy policy. As outlined above, a myriad of indicators suggest the rest of the world is aggressively pushing forward energy policies to define and lead in the next energy era–policies that cultivate local, clean, and unlimited sources. In Canada, we need to do the same, reduce our risk exposure, and immediately begin to focus on policies that move Canada more swiftly along the path of the clean energy transition.