A message from Dave – Networking, and Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan

So, two things happened last week that were big, and somewhat unexpected for me. The first was that I went to a net-working event. It was crazy. Going into a room with the intention of touching people (hand shakes, hugs, elbow bumps) and something I was sure that had gone the way of cruise vacations- FINGER FOOD. 

It was a reception for the Clean 50 that was held by Delta Management in association with the Globe conference. It was great. Let’s face it, working in the field of sustainability can be lonely work, and while I never really considered myself a networker, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my peers from across Canada. I now realize I took for granted the opportunities I’ve had to see and spend time with other people in Canada doing great work on climate and sustainability issues. There is some kind of Kinship there, even if we were consultants competing for business, I have rarely found someone of whom I don’t genuinely like working in sustainability. 

So that was surprise number one. I went to a networking event, and it turns out I miss my people. For people that know me maybe this is not a huge surprise… but it was big for me. 

The second surprise was the release of the latest national climate plan: Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan — Next Steps for Clean Air and a Strong Economy. I wasn’t expecting a new plan, and that’s on me. I had started reading it before going to the Clean 50 Event, and it was Sara Goodman, the PM’s advisor on climate, receiving her Clean 50 Award at the reception, that spurred me on. 

What I will say about the Climate Plan is that it’s very impressive. It’s detailed. Like 400 pages of detail. It is comprehensive and that’s what makes it excellent. As someone who has written, and reviewed, more than his fair share of climate plans, I think there are two types of plans out there. First is your Generation One climate plan, which lays out targets, talks broadly about buckets of emissions, and maybe identifies some tools and resources, such as funding, or things to be investigated. Then, there is your Generation 2 plan. It has all the stuff in a Gen 1 plan, but you can see some real math has gone into it. It’s a plan that goes issue by issue, sector by sector, and links policy to funding to KPI’s. Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan is exactly that type of plan. So what’s in it? 

The target, as you may know, is a 40% reduction below 2005 levels, by 2030. Let’s face it, we probably need to do 50% by that time, but maybe that will be in the Generation 3 plan? It has funding attached to it – some 9 billion dollars in everything from incentives, to research, and enforcement. It does not shy away from the elephant in the room: our country’s economic reliance on fossil fuel extraction. It caps those emissions, and sets the track to be zero carbon by 2050. I have a lot more to say about this, but I will save this for another post. While it’s fair to say many of us were shocked (outraged?) by the purchase of a pipeline by this government, this work, combined with the excellent leadership shown on the carbon tax has almost brought me back around.

“But Dave. What’s actually in the plan”, you might ask? Well if you are reading this blog post, I am going to take it for granted that you are probably a built environment person. You are the type of person that might bring up the topic of heat pumps at dinner parties. You know your level-one from your level-two charging.  You’ve thought about land use, but like in a constructive way. There is also a good chance you have recently paid too much for coffee. For these reasons, I will stick to buildings stuff. For the other components, you are going to have to find another blog post. It’s cool, though I am not jealous. I’m not. 

The plan has the country’s first green building strategy. This includes the development of a progressive codes framework that will result in zero emissions buildings. This will be a framework that provincial and local jurisdictions can opt into, but it does appear that there will be some pretty robust funding programs that will file uptake in its adoption. There is also a large focus on low carbon homes and existing buildings, and rightly so. We at OPEN are consumed with the need to decarbonise the built environment. It looks like Canada will be returning to the days of a national incentive program for decarbonisation retrofits for homeowners, and that there will be support for cities to run supportive carbon reduction programs, which is great to see. This recognises the problem we face in this country: that action on climate needs to be broad, and federal, but many of the key tools and opportunities for action are at the Provincial and local government level. 

Other interesting features are huge support for electric vehicles, both in terms of subsidies, and infrastructure. There is also some work here to lock in reporting and commitments to action on a long term scale, that I think need more attention, because I frankly don’t understand how one government can tie a future governments hands on a topic like this. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s the right thing. We need consistent and accurate measurement, as well as reporting, to somehow be enshrined, but I don’t see how some future government might dispense with it if there was lots of continued bad news. 

In the end, it’s a very comprehensive plan, and it might be the most detailed one I have seen at the national level, and I think it makes for a very Canadian plan. We are not generally an aspirational country, we were founded out of deliberation, not revolution, and we like our hockey players to be excellent, but also modest. So a 400 page plan, that deals with the core issues, was developed by consensus, colours inside the lines with respect to provincial and local government authority, is probably the right plan for Canada.

So there you have it. Canada has a new climate plan and I hugged strangers for the first time in 2 years. Both of these I think are positive developments. Continue to watch this space, in the coming weeks I am going to get into the specifics of the carbon tax evolution, how we can use technology to improve our regulatory environment, and more specifically what this new support could mean for cities.

Thanks for reading,