The straight goods, not the sunny ways
John Hollins, 2020 March 6
The likelihood that Canada as a country will meet the commitment that it made in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions by 30% between 2005 and 2030 is vanishingly small. The earliest politically and practically feasible year may be 2050.
The situations of each province and, consequently, the options open to them vary markedly.
o Provinces with coal- and oil-fired electricity have the simpler paths to begin to reduce emissions by a fixed percentage to meet the Paris 2030 commitment. Provinces that generate all their electricity using hydraulic power or in which nuclear power plays a significant role have a more difficult path to follow.
o Alberta and British Columbia require a complete reorientation away from natural gas and bituminous sands.
The emissions per capita by province vary by a factor of about 7:1.
o Québec has the lowest emissions per capita of the provinces, about 15% those of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Yet what actually matters is the total number of molecules of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the one and only global atmosphere shared by all living species.
o Québec, and even New Brunswick that has reduced its per capita emissions to a similar level, have a political argument. But what if it were carried into an international forum.
Fixed percentage for all — why?
Although not explicit in the 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, it appears that the parties accept that they are each expected to reduce their emissions by the same percentage.
o In looking at a system of fourteen loosely connected, complex components — one federal government, ten provinces and three territories — with the intention of achieving a result for all fourteen taken together, why would anyone of sound analytical mind seek the same percentage change in all of them?
o A systems approach to the entire country should be taken to deliver a practical overall result in a timely manner and in cost-effective ways.
The federal government should stick to its knitting and stop muddying the water. Successful policy demands collaboration, not political warfare.
o The constitutional authority of the provinces in this matter is clear. Until energy crosses a provincial or international boundary, the federal government has no direct authority.
o The federal government has a wealth of tools in its toolbox and is directly responsible for the international commitments that it has made on behalf of all Canadians.
The federal government should
o concentrate on opportunities that lie clearly within its jurisdiction, such as electrical grids that cross boundaries, and
o use the power of its purse to achieve wider results.
The socioeconomic paths that have led to excessive global heating have developed during two centuries; the pathways to address the issue are also long. It is entirely appropriate for governments to make commitments for the long term, but on its own that is not enough.
o The Government of Canada should declare at the same time that it makes or confirms a long-term commitment exactly how it is going to move towards that commitment year-by-year by setting out a timetable.
o To date there has been no benchmark against which to judge the reported annual emissions. This serious deficiency in accountability should be addressed without delay.
The whole ball of wax
The entire socio-economic system must be addressed, not just the demand for and supply of energy.
o The actions of committed individuals and families to reduce their personal emissions are dwarfed by the decisons of Canadian society as a whole: corporations, governments, the military, etc.
o Global heating is not just about reducing emissions — it is about rebuilding the socio-economic systems of Canada.
The governments of Canada must start to use effective tools to inform policy and programs, and take actions that will deliver.
The record and the gap to fill
The Pathways study confirms that the task is enormous. Canada has had aspirational targets since 1988. It doesn’t need more aspiration; it needs effective, informed action to hit feasible targets. And that means Pathways-type studies to establish policy, plus engineering and economic studies to deliver.
 The CACOR Pathways study illuminates the case for reducing the consumption of fossil fuels to generate electricity in Alberta and Saskatchewan. One option is grids between those provinces and their neighbours. There are other options.