The Goal: All Canadians benefit from holding climate change to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
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Science shows that increases beyond 1.5 degrees literally put peoples lives and livelihoods in jeopardy. As younger Canadians will bear the brunt of these risks, the escalating climate crisis is arguably the largest debt to be passed from one generation to the next in all of human history.
For this goal to be meaningful, and not just rhetoric, we need federal and provincial governments to commit to specific emissions reduction targets, and to track them by creating regular carbon budgets. As published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this includes a 45%-60% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, on route to net zero emissions by 2050. We also need our governments to motivate and adopt approaches to energy, building, manufacturing, transportation and agriculture practices consistent with a low carbon future.
Table of contents
- Guiding principles
- Basic plan
- Weathering the storm
All Hands On Deck
Climate change is the quintessential collective problem. It affects us all – and we all can (and need to) contribute to solutions. Having ‘all hands on deck’ entails sharing responsibility for achieving our goal, and ensuring positive collaboration between all levels of government — Indigenous, municipal, provincial, federal and international.
No One Left Behind
Vulnerability to the social, economic, and health impacts of climate change is uneven. Some groups and communities are at greater risk, because of the uneven distribution of social determinants of health in Canada. Factors like poverty and housing unaffordability hamper people’s ability to respond or adapt to changing climate conditions. Marginalization, discrimination, and social isolation can limit access to supports and services. These uneven risks should be central to the design of climate change action plans, so that the benefits of a clean energy transition are spread equitably across the country.
In a large country like Canada, there are also differences in how climate change, and climate action plans, impact different regions. The principle of ‘no one left behind’ includes a commitment that regions most impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels receive the support they need to secure a just transition – along with the individual workers most impacted by these shifts. This includes attention to disproportionate impacts of climate change for northern, remote and coastal regions.
Finally, Gen Squeeze is committed to ensuring that the pursuit of our climate action goal is undertaken in ways that advance reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples.
Our game plan features three pillars to achieving a better, cleaner, healthier, fairer and more prosperous Canada. These pillars are built on a foundation of actions we must take to Weather the Storm of climate change hazards – which are already upon us.
The three pillars are: Mobilize the Market. Support Canadians to become climate leaders. Upgrade our lives with a carbon makeover.
Pillar one — Mobilize the market
Markets send powerful signals that shape peoples’ behaviour. The price and availability of goods and services, or how they are taxed, influence the choices we make about what and how much to consume.
We can use market signals to provide incentives (or disincentives) to purchase particular products, based on how these products contribute to (or harm) health and wellbeing, the environment, etc. For example, pricing pollution can incentivize emitters to clean up industrial processes. Raising gasoline taxes can make consumers think twice before purchasing a more inefficient vehicle.
We all have a role to play in shaping the market through our decisions as consumers, and by what we signal (by our votes, donations, and community action) about our priorities. To collectively harness the power of the market for climate action, here are three critical actions we can take:
1. Send the right signals
We need to increase expectations for polluters to pay for their pollution now, rather than punt the costs of pollution down the road for younger Canadians and future generations to pay. The BC and Canadian governments have led important progress on this front in recent years, and the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed in 2021 that pricing pollution is constitutional (partly in response to a court intervention by the Intergenerational Climate Coalition, led by Generation Squeeze). Now we need action to raise the price on pollution to levels that provide a strong incentive for Canadian households, industries, and governments do our part to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees – and to do so in a way that specifically directs revenue back to Canadians. The pollution price can take the form of a direct carbon tax, cap and trade, or some combination – so long as the measures adopted are sufficient to send a strong market signal to disincentivize pollution.
Alongside a higher price on pollution, we need to lower taxes on income. This Tax Shift will effectively ensure that things we don’t want are taxed more (pollution), while things we do want are taxed less (labour and work). Income taxes could be lowered by way of a cut to tax rates, a rebate (tax deduction or credit), a dividend or similar mechanism. The federal government's ‘backstop’ plan for carbon taxation includes an income tax credit, an example of how we can ‘pair’ these market signals.
Finally, we need action to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. If we want to incentivize a clean energy transition, subsidizing fossil fuel industries and consumption makes no sense, as it lowers the price of what we want less of – pollution.
2. Raise money to make money
We need action to get investors excited by opportunities in the green economy. This includes:
- Mapping Canada's long-term path to a net-zero, climate-smart economy, sector by sector, with an associated capital plan
- Providing individual Canadians with incentives to connect their savings to climate objectives
- Establishing a standing Canadian Sustainable Finance Action Council (SFAC) to advise and assist the federal government in implementing the Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance's recommendations
We also need action to bake sustainability into the financial system. This includes:
- Establishing the Canadian Centre for Climate Information and Analytics (C3IA) as an authoritative source of climate information and decision analysis
- Defining and pursuing a Canadian approach to implementing the recommendation of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)
- Clarifying the scope of fiduciary duty in the context of climate change
- Promoting a knowledgeable financial support ecosystem
- Embedding climate-related risk into monitoring, regulation and supervision of Canada's financial system – looking to the recent establishment of the Canada Infrastructure Bank as an example
We need action to give all Canadians options to invest by expanding Canada's green fixed income market, and promoting sustainable investment as ‘business as usual’ within Canada's asset management community.
3. Carbon budgeting
Our atmosphere has very little capacity left to absorb carbon without further undermining the climate now, and in the future. We need to ‘spend’ this scarce capacity as carefully as we spend our money.
Just as governments provide annual budgets identifying priorities and plans for allocating taxpayer dollars, we need governments to provide regular carbon budgets documenting how much carbon absorbing capacity is left, and what we will use this capacity for while we are on route to achieving net-Zero by 2050. Carbon budgets are a key way to signal to the market the urgency of operating within our very tight atmospheric capacity limits – and to therefore sufficiently value the actions needed to reduce carbon use, such as a high enough price on pollution. Carbon budgeting can also demonstrate to Canadians the value of supporting and investing in the clean energy transition through their own choices.
Pillar two — Support Canadians to become climate leaders
This second path to a better, cleaner, healthier, fairer and more prosperous Canada concerns steps that Canadian businesses, workers and communities can take to become leaders in climate action. We suggest three areas for action:
1. Help Canadian businesses to become cleaner and greener
Helping Canadian businesses through a green economy transition should include support for the massive adoption of new technologies, support for research and development, and expanding strategies to share our expertise with the world. Necessary actions include:
- Reducing costs or other barriers to internal deployment of clean technology
- Supporting early-stage innovation, development, commercialization
- Exporting Canadian clean economy solutions, both goods and services
2. Help Canadian workers to join in a clean economy education and skills strategy
To reorient our workforce towards the green economy, we need to assess needs and develop retraining/skills upgrades – including for fossil-fuel-oriented industrial workers. We must also focus on training a steady stream of new workers to be ready for, and contribute to building, the clean energy economy. While this strategy should intersect with the design of plans to recruit skilled labour immigration, there should also be an explicit commitment to push the hiring of Canadian talent first for good-paying clean economy jobs. Governments should leverage this new supply of skilled workers with procurement and training requirements for public works, and requirements and/or incentives for private works.
3. Help Canadian communities to transition to green futures
We need action to help towns and cities make transition plans to advance sustainability across the board – in urban planning (to combat sprawl, and increase density and walkability); in building systems (to align with net-zero-emission objectives); and in local community and economic development (to incent diversity, liveability and the green economy).
Pillar three — Upgrade our lives with a carbon makeover
A cleaner and greener Canada requires action to reduce the carbon we are using and emitting now. As discussed under the carbon budgeting priority, the scarcest resource in the fight against climate change is our atmosphere’s very limited remaining capacity to absorb carbon. We have to budget our carbon usage within this hard limit – or risk escalation of the climate extremes we are already witnessing. There are four immediate areas for action:
1. Clean and renewable electricity
We need action to advance Canada toward 100% reliance on clean, renewable sources of electricity (which does not include nuclear, because it is not renewable). This will require East-West intelligent grid connections that allow provinces producing low-carbon electricity to sell to their neighbours, while taking advantage of the full range of potential clean electricity sources across Canada, including wind and solar. The expanding potential for wind and solar production in Canada is well documented.
2. Clean energy
Alongside a clean supply of electricity, we need action to advance clean energy more generally. This includes:
- Clean electrification of industrial energy/power systems
- Capture of industrial non-energy emissions, such as methane leakage from oil and gas
- Transition away from oil and non-renewable gas production – ideally, in line with aggressive reductions in domestic and global demand
3. Clean transportation
Transportation accounts for a quarter of carbon emissions in Canada. We need action to advance clean transportation, both for individual consumers, and across our transportation networks. This includes:
- Expanding the use of electric and hydrogen powered vehicles – and the infrastructure to support them, such as charging stations
- Growing public transit infrastructure – with over 80% of Canadians living in urban settings, fast and reliable public transit is a sound investment, both economically and environmentally
- Expanding active transportation options, including walking and cycling infrastructure
We need action to advance zero-emission homes and buildings. This step emphasizes the electrification of heating systems and energy efficiency, and acknowledges there is a limited niche role that renewable natural gas can also play.
Gen Squeeze is focusing advocacy in this area, because it overlaps so well with our efforts to restore housing affordability. The residential sector contributes one-quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. As we increase the supply of housing, and build more affordable rental and co-op units, we have a generational opportunity to ensure that those new homes are also ‘green’.
5. Smart land use
We need action to advance smart land use and zero waste. This step includes landfill gas capture; protected spaces like parks and wetlands; agricultural lands and practices; and action to combat urban sprawl, which clearly overlaps with our earlier focus on helping towns and cities to make transition plans.
6. Carbon draw down
Removing carbon from the atmosphere can help to reduce some of the immediate risks created by climate change. Action is urgently needed to advance carbon draw down and sequestration technologies and approaches.
Draw down and sequestration can be accomplished through actions like planting trees, transforming agricultural practices to restore the carbon holding capacity of soil (regenerative agriculture), restoring coastal ecosystems to increase the carbon content of oceans, and through technological solutions like direct air capture and sequestering carbon underground.
Weathering the storm
Climate change is already having serious impacts on our day-to-day lives, in the form of flooding, fires, extreme temperatures, and other hazards directly affecting our communities. As we work towards implementing the actions described in the above three pillars, we need also to plan to Weather the Storm that we are already facing. Five actions we can take are outlined below. More details are available in the report of the Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience.
1. Reduce risks
We need action to reduce the hazards and disaster risks increased by rapid-onset climate-related events (like floods, wildfires, etc.). These actions should align with the four components of emergency management: prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
2. Protect health and wellbeing
Climate change influences our health through changing disease patterns and exposures, poor air quality, and increased risks of water and food-borne contamination. At the same time, many social determinants of health influence the vulnerability of individuals or groups to the impacts of climate change, including income and social status, social support networks, education, and literacy. We need to increase the resilience of people, communities and health practitioners in the face of a broad range of health impacts associated with climate change.
3. Build resilient infrastructure
We need action to build resilient infrastructure, including Canada's traditional, cultural, and natural infrastructure; new and existing infrastructure; critical and non-critical infrastructure; and the interdependence of these infrastructure systems.
4. Support vulnerable regions and people
We need action to support vulnerable regions and people. This starts with special emphasis on Canada's northern, coastal and remote regions, given their particular vulnerability to climate change impacts (like permafrost thaw, coastal erosion and rising sea levels), as well as the often more limited supports and services available in these areas. It also includes understanding and responding to the needs of marginalized groups who are especially at risk to the social and economic impacts of climate change, and who may have more limited capacity to adapt to changing circumstances.
Source materials for our Climate Game Plan:
Our climate policy game plan begins by adopting the most ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement (to limit climate change to 1.5°) and combines it with a simultaneous goal to increase the wellbeing of all Canadians through the transition to a clean economy. The framework then aggregates and adds to existing policy frameworks including the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, the Generation Energy framework, the Re-energizing Canada pathways, the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance, the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, the report of Project Drawdown, and the 2021 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Information on the potential for renewable energy production in Canada can be found here for solar, and here for wind.
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