Deep Decarbonization

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[mk_dropcaps style=”simple-style”]Y[/mk_dropcaps]OUR PERSONAL contribution of greenhouse gases begins the moment you tap snooze on your smartphone — a device generating 0.06 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission per year. It continues incrementally in the shower (0.13 tonnes per year), with the first cup of coffee (0.007 tonnes per year) and over a bowl of cereal (0.001 tonnes per year), before skyrocketing in your car (4.5 tonnes per year). Add the emissions from industry, agriculture and other sectors that serve you and Canada’s global trading partners, and you’ve got your annual per capita output of 20.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year — the second highest of a G7 nation.

Now imagine reducing your emissions by a third. That’s impressive decarbonization, yet not nearly enough for Canada to lower its emissions to reach its 2050 target of 1.67 tonnes of CO2 emissions per capita, per year. A reduction that drastic calls for “deep decarbonization” — a profound transformation of energy systems in every facet of life. That’s what’s required of Canada and 14 other countries to help keep global temperatures from rising 2 C above pre-industrial temperatures — and the consequences of climate change from being catastrophic.

The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) was presented to the United Nations Climate Summit last year. It offers each of the 15 countries that collectively produce the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions a route to zero-carbon intensity by 2100. Each pathway is unique to that nation’s economy, geography and climate circumstances, and the chapter for Canada — being vast, cold and mining-dependent — is “extremely aggressive and ambitious,” in the words of the economic study, which calls for Canada to reduce emissions by nearly 90 per cent from 2010 levels by the middle of the century.

The report was published by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a scientific and technical think-tank. Then prime minister Stephen Harper reinforced the report’s message in the summer of 2015, when he joined the G7 leaders in signing a declaration of commitment to it. “We’ve simply got to find a way to create lower-carbon-emitting sources of energy — and that work is ongoing,” Harper said following the agreement in Germany. (The report would also direct the recent COP 21 climate talks in Paris.)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_blockquote style=”line-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”22″ align=”left”]

‘We’ve simply got to find a way to create lower-carbon emitting sources of energy.’

[/mk_blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]The DDPP isn’t alone in its optimism. Numerous studies reviewed by respected energy organizations, including the International Energy Agency, agree on various hopeful scenarios that would aim to reduce global emissions so that the global temperature increase remains within 2 C. But Canada’s past attempts to rein in emissions haven’t gone well. The Kyoto Accord’s sorry end comes to mind. A report from Environment Canada in 2014 proved meeting our Copenhagen Accord target — a 17 per cent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 — would be also impossible. So what makes our government think we can pull off its most dramatic goal yet?

Energy Exchange spoke with climate scientists, industry stakeholders and academics to find out why the goal is attainable, how we will get there and what our world will look like.

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