Getting to net-zero in Canada

Scale of the problem, government projections and daunting challenges
February 8, 2024
6.67 MB64 pages

Despite the formidable challenges ahead, Canada’s path to net-zero is achievable with a clear, actionable plan that recognizes the scale of the undertaking and the limitations of potential solutions. This report underscores the need for a comprehensive strategy with practical, scalable solutions and a robust policy framework that will steer Canada toward a sustainable, net-zero future by 2050.

Key conclusions and recommendations include:

  • Major policy improvements are required: Policies in place as of March 2023 would see only a 16% reduction of emissions from 2022 levels by 2050.
  • Overreliance on industrial carbon removal introduces high risk: CER’s projections of a 34 to 39-fold increase in CCUS and a several thousand-fold expansion of direct air capture (DAC) introduce very high risk given the cost and slow rate of deployment of CCUS and the very high cost and early stage of development of DAC. Reliance on these technologies must be reduced to lower risk in a credible net- zero strategy. This will require significantly reduced reliance on fossil fuels compared to the CER scenarios.
  • Overreliance on hydrogen introduces high risk: CER’s projection that hydrogen can grow from almost nothing to 11–12% of end-use energy supply by 2050 is extremely optimistic. Current production of hydrogen is very energy- and emissions-intensive and producing it from electricity consumes 54–82% of the electrical energy in the conversion process. Although some hydrogen will be needed, a more realistic goal may be the more conservative 5% estimate of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
  • Increased electricity generation will be needed to lower risk: To reduce risk from overreliance on fossil fuels, CCUS, DAC and hydrogen, electricity generation will need to increase from the 39–41% of end-use energy supply in the CER net-zero scenarios. Increasing electricity’s share of energy supply to 55%, as assumed in the IEA’s net-zero roadmap, would be a more realistic target. This will require increased renewable generation and infrastructure compared to the CER net-zero scenarios.
  • Major improvements in forest management practices are required: Existing forest management practices have seen Canada’s forests become major net emitters. Tripling the sequestration capacity of Canada’s forests, as assumed in CER’s net-zero scenarios, will require major improvements in forest management practices.
  • Reducing energy demand must become a major priority: Reducing energy consumption is the low- hanging fruit, as it eliminates the cost of new energy production and emissions reduction infrastructure. Prioritizing conservation, efficiency and behavioral change must become a major government policy priority.
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