How Canada's energy regulator is setting us up for 'climate failure,' the non-human costs of recent extreme weather, and why five million coastal Canadians are at risk


EV sales accelerating—but not everywhere

As the end of the year approaches, it seems like an apt time to reflect on global progress to electrify the cars we drive. Norway continues to cement its image as the poster child of the EV age, with entirely fossil-fuel-powered cars representing just 5% of the new car market in November, while more than nine out of ten new cars sold had a plug.

Meanwhile, battery powered vehicles accounted for one in five new passenger vehicle sales in the U.K. in November amid plunging purchases of diesel and petrol cars. The picture in Germany was similar, with battery EVs making up 20% of the market. In fact, across Europe, sales of plug-in vehicles (including plug-in hybrids) hit a 23% market share. Perhaps one reason why Toyota just announced it will only sell zero-emissions cars in Europe by 2035. 

The picture here in Canada is more fragmented, with B.C. and Quebec leading in EV sales, in large part thanks to ambitious provincial policy. Both provinces have zero-emission vehicle mandates in place that require automakers to sell an increasing proportion of electric vehicles, alongside federal and provincial rebates. The result is that prospective EV owners in the rest of Canada are missing out. As my colleague Joanna Kyriazis told the Globe and Mail, Canada needs a federal mandate to “even the playing field…(and) make sure every Canadian who wants an EV can find one to buy no matter where in the country they live.”

B.C.’s economic opportunity

B.C. is set to release its new economic strategy in coming months—the province’s plan to position its economy to thrive in the future. Until now, B.C. has failed to develop a cogent economic plan, under any government. But after the release of its new climate roadmap, B.C has an opportunity to tie its economic strategy to its climate goals, write Clean Energy Canada's Merran Smith and Mark Zacharias in a new Business in Vancouver op-ed. Doing so would ensure the province can capitalize on its pre-existing advantages to ensure it is ready for a net-zero world. 

Going big on clean electricity

Being ready for net-zero is a federal issue too, as Merran and Mark pointed out in a Globe and Mail op-ed last week. Canada’s electricity grid is not ready to meet the needs of a carbon neutral Canada, as both the op-ed and our latest report, Underneath It All, explore. Dive into both for more on why Canada should go big on clean electricity.

Regulator missing the mark

The Canadian Energy Regulator has released its latest energy outlook, Canada’s Energy Future 2021, which “explores possible energy futures for Canadians.” But the scenarios in the report “are setting Canada up for climate failure,” according to the Canadian Climate Action Network. Neither of the two models presented simulate a situation where climate change is limited to 1.5C—something that is central in projections from other organizations such as the International Energy Agency. As the Climate Action Network emphasizes, despite recent political announcements stressing the urgency of the climate crisis, “the Energy Future scenarios all assume that Canada will not meet its targets.”

Canada’s battery dreams in the balance

The race is on to build battery manufacturing capacity as President Biden looks steadfast in his intention to introduce EV rebates that favour U.S.-made vehicles. While Ottawa is lobbying heavily against the move, which would be bad news for Canada’s EV-making ambitions, it has “given extra urgency to Canadian efforts to win [battery manufacturing] deals and lock in Canada’s role in the supply chain.” The Globe and Mail has the full story.

Procurement progress

Speaking of U.S. policy, President Biden has signed an executive order that will see his government procure emissions reductions by electrifying its vehicle fleet, upgrading its buildings, and buying clean electricity. The changes also include a federal “Buy Clean” initiative that gives priority to products with lower lifecycle carbon emissions. As we’ve said in the past, harnessing the buying power of governments is key to growing a domestic market for low carbon goods. Canada should take note.

More than human costs

More than a million farm animals have been killed by extreme weather in B.C. this year, not to mention the still untold cost to property, infrastructure, and livelihoods. Early estimates suggest that recent flooding will be the most expensive weather disaster in the province’s history. As Clean Energy Canada’s executive director, Merran Smith, told Investigate West, when it comes to climate action, governments need to act decisively—just as they’ve done to combat COVID. “We cannot discuss and debate and consult endlessly. These policies really need to hit the ground quickly. Much faster than we are doing.”

Coastal Canadians at risk

This need for expediency is deftly demonstrated in a new report from the University of Waterloo which points out that “nearly 4.8 million Canadians live within 10 kilometres of the eastern or western coastline.” The result is that millions are likely to be affected “by climate-change-induced flooding, either through rising sea levels, extreme weather events or changing tides.” 

Closing the loop

B.C. has significantly increased its electric vehicle sales targets in recent months, making it a North American EV trailblazer. But what’s going to happen to all those EV batteries when they eventually retire? A new report from the Pembina Institute, Closing the Loop, says that B.C.’s role as an early EV adopter creates “a significant economic and environmental opportunity to secure a regional leadership role—and first-mover advantage—in recycling metals and minerals from EV batteries."

Calgarians set for energy efficiency improvements

Homeowners in Calgary could soon be eligible for funding from the City for home energy improvement projects like solar power installation, upgraded insulation, and high-efficiency heating after the City Council voted to borrow $15 million to finance a new home upgrades program.

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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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