The federal government has launched a national dialogue on the country’s future energy plans, calling on Canadians to submit their own ideas about how energy can be developed and delivered while avoiding dangerous climate change.
The minister of natural resources, Jim Carr, formally launched ‘Generation Energy’ on 21 April during an expert panel discussion on the same topic at the headquarters of Manitoba Hydro.
The overall aim is to develop a comprehensive long-term, multi-generational energy strategy. At the launch, the minister set out four criteria for this new energy system: addressing climate change, keeping energy affordable, providing jobs, and ensuring the international competitiveness of domestic industry.
The outreach process involves a website that encourages Canadians to submit their own ideas, vote on the best ones and share them via social media. The Generation Energy website includes both introductory educational material on various aspects of Canada’s energy system and links to more extensive and detailed information on the subject spread throughout other federal government websites. The government is also encouraging citizens to hold their own local energy discussions and debates.
A “What we’ve heard” feedback document will then be produced, highlighting key messages from the public. Alongside this, the process also involves six months of cross-country consultation meetings with sector experts, researchers, and provincial, territorial and indigenous representatives.
The process will conclude with a national energy symposium in Winnipeg this October and the release of a report synthesizing the public and expert input together with a series of proposed future policies.
The move follows on from earlier statements from Ottawa about the urgent need for a new national conversation about the scale of the challenge of decarbonizing the country’s energy system.
In late 2015, the federal government submitted a broad-strokes long-term climate and energy strategy to the United Nations (UN) as part of the diplomatic process leading up to the breakthrough Paris climate talks that delivered the first ever comprehensive global climate treaty. The UN had encouraged nations to begin to think about how they were going to radically decarbonise their economies over the coming decades while not requiring that they commit to any particular path.
Canada’s 87-page document, the ‘Mid-Century Strategy’, offered up a series of six different energy futures scenarios. The authors stressed that the document was not a template but an attempt at opening up a discussion about the far-reaching changes that would be necessary. They declared it to be “an iterative or cyclical process”, with regular updates as low greenhouse gas technologies and national circumstances evolved.
The modelled scenarios in the document concluded that the country would require between a doubling and a fourfold increase in the production of electricity by 2050 to enable the ‘deep decarbonisation’ (a reduction of emissions by at least 80 percent) of transport, buildings and industry. One of its key messages was that “the magnitude of the challenge” is not yet well understood by Canadians.
Energy economist Mark Jaccard helped design BC’s carbon tax, and he still supports it. But he questions just how politically viable a stringent tax—at the level needed to meet climate targets—can really be. So he also continues to explore how other policies that the public find more acceptable could work.