Great journalism takes time and money.
The 261-page report released Thursday is a comprehensive summary of Canada’s energy policies since the IEA’s last in-depth review from 2015. It spells out which sources of energy Canada uses and produces and makes a series of recommendations relating to oil and gas production, energy efficiency, nuclear power, and more.
“This report, in my mind, is a validation of the work that the federal government has been doing over the past six years, and it's also a call for continued and sustained action to make sure Canada, and the world, move aggressively forward to create an environmentally sustainable and economically prosperous future,” Wilkinson said during a press conference.
Specifically, the report’s chief recommendations urge Canada to model pathways to net-zero by 2050 for the energy system while working with provinces and territories, strengthen interprovincial power grids, develop an energy efficiency strategy and increase federal funding for clean technology research and development.
Last month, the Canada Energy Regulator confirmed in a letter to Wilkinson that it would model energy forecasts consistent with net-zero by 2050 going forward, as requested by the minister.
The report also acknowledges the global energy transition off fossil fuels is well underway, noting emissions from the oil and gas sector — responsible for a quarter of Canada’s total emissions — need to be addressed. Emissions intensity (relating to the extraction and production of oil gas) have fallen 32 per cent since 1990, the study notes. But while another 17 to 27 per cent reduction is expected by 2030, the report says more progress is needed because more efficient production is being offset by higher production.
Wilkinson also highlighted the federal promise to cap oil and gas sector emissions, with binding targets to ratchet them down over time. But that wasn’t enough, he said, and the country will also take steps to reduce demand for fossil fuels.
“Oil is primarily used for transportation purposes, and we have said there will be no internal combustion engines sold in this country after 2035 for light-duty vehicles,” he said. “That is something that will drive down demand.”
Environmentalists were quick to warn that waiting for demand to decline allows production of fossil fuels to rise in the meantime. With only eight years left to meet the federal government’s Paris Agreement target, more aggressive policies should be pushed now, they say.
“In a world that is already battered by the effects of a changing climate, it is unconscionable to keep growing fossil fuel production. Canada must cap our oil and gas production and develop a plan to wind down extraction as global demand declines,” said Canadian oil and gas programs director for Stand.earth Sven Biggs in a statement.
“The future of energy is clean and sustainable. We must stop trying to put off that transition," says @svenbiggs with @standearth. #cdnpoli
“The future of energy is clean and sustainable. We must stop trying to put off that transition.”
Similarly, Clean Energy Canada executive director Merran Smith said in a statement that Canada must now prepare for a fast-approaching world where oil is no longer the country’s largest export.
“Fortunately, a number of emerging and evolving industries are creating opportunities across numerous Canadian sectors and regions, from clean hydrogen, to electric vehicle manufacturing, to the battery supply chain,” she said. “Getting a foothold in these growing markets today will help secure Canada’s long-term economic prosperity.”
Some critics also pointed out what Julia Levin, climate and energy senior program manager with Environmental Defence, called a “misalignment” between what the IEA has previously reported and what it is now telling Canada. Levin referenced the IEA’s net-zero report published last year, a landmark study showing how the world could transition its energy systems to a climate-safe future, and noted that the recommendations the IEA is now giving Canada don’t take the net-zero pathways into account.
“Last year, the IEA put out a really robust roadmap to limiting global warming to 1.5 C and I expected to see that reflected in the recommendations being made for Canada, and it was absent,” she said. “It was missing the 1.5 C alignment completely.”
Greenpeace Canada senior energy strategist Keith Stewart also took issue with the IEA not measuring Canada’s policies against its own net-zero pathway.
“Nevertheless, behind the report's polite technocratic language is a clear warning that the industry's ambition of increasing oilsands production is at odds with a climate-safe future,” he told Canada’s National Observer.
“Anyone planning to increase production and exports of fossil fuels is betting that we will fail to address the climate crisis, and is thereby advocating for all of the suffering that would entail.”