An election special: featuring this year's clean energy and climate news, and what it means for climate when you cast your vote today


Today’s the day

Election day is here. In recognition, I decided to mix up our next couple of Clean Energy Reviews. This week, I’ll give a run down of what we’ve been up to this election year, including some of the most exciting clean energy and climate happenings.

Of course, every election is important. But when it comes to climate change and the clean energy sector, this election could be pivotal. We have four parties who are split on their approach to climate action. And as we get closer to our Paris Agreement deadlines—and indeed as the world literally heats up—how we act as a country over the next four years (or however long this government lasts) will have an impact on our future. 

What do we have in store?

We analyzed each of the party’s climate platforms, which you can peruse at your leisure. The NDP is promising to build on the Liberals’ existing climate measures, while the Green Party is planning to accelerate both the pace and scale of federal efforts. The Liberal plan, meanwhile, signals ambition to now surpass our 2030 target. There are pros and cons of each approach, where sometimes ambition trumps feasibility or vice versa. And then there is the Conservative plan, which, well, you can read our platform response. I would say more but... Elections Canada rules. (For spot-on analysis from two of Canada’s foremost climate experts, I suggest googling “climate plan Katharine Hayhoe and Andrew Leach.”) 

It’s been a good year for clean energy

This year (like the last five years) has been good for the clean energy sector. In May, we released a report—Missing the Bigger Picture—about the size of the sector to date. It found that Canada’s clean energy sector employed 298,000 Canadians as of 2017 and grew a third faster than Canada’s economy as a whole. And yet political fights over oil pipelines dominate headlines, while the clean energy sector is seldom discussed. We’re missing a big piece of Canada’s energy picture.

And the next decade doesn’t look bad either

Depending on the outcome today, this missing piece could become much bigger. In fact, our most recent report—The Fast Lane—found that under current policy measures, the clean energy sector will create 160,000 more jobs over the next decade as the fossil fuel sector sheds 50,000. Clean energy is the fast lane, and let’s hope whichever government is elected today takes it. As our executive director put it, “Canada’s not making the choice—the world is making that choice. Canada is in the game and needs to stay in the game by moving forward on climate action.”

We need a bright future for our clean energy sector, so we can have a bright future for Canada

The EV revolution

In part, this huge growth in the clean energy sector is because of electric vehicles. Our report found that over the next decade, Canada’s EV industry is expected to grow by 28% every year, creating 14 times more jobs in 2030 than in 2020. Meanwhile, electric vehicle sales just keep climbing, with Canadian Q2 sales in 2019 up 34% compared to the same period in 2018. Maybe not surprising when you consider the results of our polling with Abacus Data, which shows that 64% of Canadians want electric vehicles to be the majority of consumer vehicles sold.

Putting the wheels in motion

This huge growth in EV sales has been helped by several government policies. One policy specifically has got a lot of air time: electric vehicle rebates. But there’s also now  a national target for 100% zero-emission vehicle sales and, in B.C.’s case, the laws in place to get there (here’s our op-ed if you’re in the mood for EV policy). And then there’s gas car efficiency and emissions regulations. Arguably not the sexiest topic, but one that has nonetheless hit headlines as Canada joined with California to strengthen the regulations, while President Trump, of course, works to loosen them.

And it doesn’t stop at cars

If we want to seriously reduce our emissions from transportation, we must look at the whole spectrum of transport. And this year has seen some progress. In May, we co-hosted the Drive to Zero workshop at the Clean Energy Ministerial, which focussed on increasing the use of low- and zero-emission commercial vehicles, like buses and trucks. As part of it, Canada, B.C., and most recently Quebec signed the Drive to Zero pledge (more here). Just as well, given a report we released in March, Missing the Bus, found that Canada is a world leader in electric bus manufacturing but is failing to adopt our own technology at home. And for anyone who feels passionately about getting more electric buses on the road, this op-ed is for you.

Climate change has come to Canada

All this comes during a year of record floods, fires, heatwaves, and ice melt. Many Canadians are feeling the impacts of climate change firsthand, whether it’s increases in home insurance or impacts on health. In fact, a recent poll with Abacus Data found that 75% of Canadians believe recent extreme weather events are related to climate change (and indeed, many of them are). Canadians want climate action. Another of our joint polls with Abacus Data found that 90% of Canadians think action to reduce emissions is important or urgent.

Climate change is a health risk

Young people are taking the lead

Around the world, one could argue there is a vacuum of climate leadership. And so those who will have the bear the greatest share of the burned—our children—have stepped up to fill it. Just last week, the original school striker, Greta Thunberg, visited Alberta, and all year, there have been amazing scenes across Canada as young people and adult allies filled the streets to demand climate action. And increasingly, their parents are onside, with 87% of respondents to another of our polls saying they would allow their children to march. It gives me hope that change is coming, regardless of the election outcome today. 

Clean Energy Review is sponsored in part by Genus Capital Management, a leading provider of fossil-fuel-free investments. 
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Clean Energy Review is a weekly digest of climate and clean energy news and insight from across Canada and around the world.

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