Making a Difference for a Cleaner World
To transition into a cleaner world, there need to be short-term and long-term efforts and engagement made by industries, society, and individuals. The Government of Canada, along with 120 other countries around the world, has committed to moving to net-zero emissions by 2050.
Net-zero emissions mean that the Canadian economy either emits no greenhouse gases or offsets its emissions through innovative solutions. This goal is essential to creating a sustainable world.
Greenhouse gases (GHG) are created when hydrocarbons (natural gas, oil, etc.) are burned, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide into the air. Increased levels of GHGs in the atmosphere create an increase in temperature, causing changes in our climate and planet which have lasting effects.
In Canada, the biggest contributors to emissions are agriculture, transportation and oil and gas. However, many of our lives depend on these industries for jobs, well-being, food and accessibility. While we transition and push for cleaner technology through solar, wind, hydrogen and electricity, the efficient use of oil and natural gas is still important. Investments have been made into technology and innovation to help offset emissions, and create negative emission technologies such as carbon capture, use and storage. There continue to be many opportunities for industries to contribute and assist in creating cleaner solutions while meeting global energy demand.
For oil and gas, one of the most greenhouse gas-intensive sources is coal. Coal-fired power plants account for almost 40 per cent of the world’s electricity, making it a leading contributor to climate change. Canada has made a goal as part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to phase out traditional coal power by 2030. For communities powered by coal for economy and jobs, there have been solutions to transform to natural gas-fired electricity to help support the transition to cleaner energy. There have been new jobs created in the electricity sector which support the goal of 90 per cent non-emitting electricity by 2030. In 2018, Canada’s coal phase-out efforts were evident after all coal-fired power plants in Ontario were decommissioned and the number of annual smog days in the province was reduced to zero from 52. Phasing out coal and investing more is an important step to becoming net-zero.
Transportation emissions in Canada are related to road transportation, including personal transportation. The more vehicles on the road, the more emissions in the air. Since 2005, there has been a 42 per cent increase in total vehicles in Canada. Every kilometre counts as we increase our fleet on the road. To create a cleaner transportation system in Canada, the Government has set a mandatory target for all new light-duty cars and passenger trucks to be zero-emission by 2035 and are increasing public transportation in many cities. There are purchase incentives on eligible zero-emission vehicles and there will be an increased stringency of emission standards on existing vehicles.
Agriculture is a non-energy GHG emission sector relating to livestock and the production of crops. Each livestock contributes to emissions in the air, as do inorganic nitrogen fertilizers in agricultural soils. In 2019, methane emissions from livestock digestion accounted for 41 per cent of total agricultural emissions. To help reduce emissions from agriculture, Canada is investing in landfill-methane-capture projects that repurpose waste as fuel and are supporting renewable fuels and bio-based products.
In 2020, Parliament introduced the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act to establish a series of interim emissions reduction targets at five-year milestones towards 2050, to ensure Canada is reaching its overall goal of net-zero. These improvements are great indicators that there is change occurring and there is a focus on cleaner emissions on a global stage.
So, what can you do to help?
For individuals, every little bit helps, and any opportunity to reduce emissions is important. 2050 may seem like a long time away, but at this stage – it’s less than 20 years in the future. While emissions vary significantly from province to territory, due to variations in population, energy sources and economy. No matter where you live, it’s your responsibility to do something.
To make a difference in your own life, and the lives of others – educate yourself. Read about climate change, check out resources at government websites, environmental websites, industry sources, and more about becoming net-zero.
Purchase an electric vehicle. Look into carbon offsets when you travel. Add solar panels to a house or cabin. Monitor your energy usage. Plant trees. Buy organic. Small (and big) changes to lifestyle can help support a healthier future for your family and have a lasting positive impact on the planet.
Allison Penton is a passionate communicator, storyteller, and writer. She is currently working on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project in British Columbia. Allison has a Bachelor of Commerce (Co-op) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Memorial University of Newfoundland. She has experience working in utilities, major projects, and non-profits.