The February 23, 2021 virtual meeting of Biden and Trudeau was the first bilateral one-on-one for US President Biden since taking office. Six priorities were set, one focusing on accelerating climate ambitions. There are plans for a high-level climate ministerial meeting to coordinate and align policy in efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. “In real terms the roadmap for a renewed US-Canada partnership speaks of working together to boost battery production, and cross-border electricity transmission, reduce methane emissions and coordinate a transportation policy. More broadly, Biden’s presidency should accelerate momentum toward a cleaner economy and that might clear further political space for Trudeau to act.”
Biden wants North America to demonstrate climate change leadership in order to spur other countries to raise their own ambitions, and it seems Australia is one lagging country Biden wants to influence. Biden immediately rejoined the Paris Climate Accord when he became President last month and plans a 2 trillion clean energy package with 40% of investments aimed at disadvantaged communities. Some say Canada will have to work hard to keep up, but we have in place the foundation for the changes that are coming. One uncertain factor that can hinder this doubling down plan is the ‘Buy American’ policy that is still in place in the USA.
Joe Biden’s Ambitious Climate Agenda is Canada’s Opportunity
An upbeat opinion piece in the Toronto Star a month ago by Stewart Elgie and Brian Murray states Canada and the USA can mutually benefit in three ways from Biden’s bold climate agenda. First Canada could export some of its surplus emissions-free hydroelectricity to the USA, where they are still more reliant on fossil fuels resulting in a win-win scenario. Secondly, Biden’s big push for more electric vehicles will complement Canada’s existing efforts to grow EV use and manufacturing, and can incentivize each other further in this pursuit since our auto industries are strongly linked. Thirdly, “Canada has built a world-class array of clean technology companies, which can help the U.S.’s efforts to drive low carbon growth across its economy, provided the ‘Buy American’ barriers can be avoided, which will require diplomatic agility.”
“Other areas where the two climate agendas can align include agriculture and forestry, high-emitting industries like cement and steel, clean fuels, and fostering a just transition for vulnerable workers and communities. The countries also have mutual interest in co-developing emerging technologies like small nuclear reactors or capturing and utilizing waste carbon.”
“While Biden’s agenda will cause friction from time to time, like with the Keystone XL pipeline, the two countries share a vision and direction on climate change for virtually the first time in 12 years (other than a brief overlap with Trudeau and Obama), which can form the basis for building a cleaner, stronger North American economy.”
Merran Smith, Executive director of Clean Energy Canada says Canada can benefit now from Biden’s Climate plan. Canada has and can deliver a lot of green clean energies and low carbon products that the USA now wants under Biden’s new plan. She says now is a time for Canada to “send a clear signal” about the direction we are moving in. Trudeau has already put in place a carbon price, coal phase out and a clean fuel standard. What he still needs to do is pick up the pace on transitioning to the clean energy economy by developing policy and investing in green energy.
In listening to a podcast about the impact on Canada of the Biden new green deal, Dan Balaban, President and CEO of Greengate Power, a leading Canadian renewable energy company based in Calgary, says that Canada can benefit from the synergy, shared knowledge and amplifications that come from being aligned with the USA on green energy. We can also contribute/export resources needed by the USA for green energy such as lithium, nickel and cobalt.
In researching Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan and it’s affect on Canada we were thrilled to read that Boeing Co. will begin delivering commercial airplanes capable of flying on 100-per-cent-biofuel by the end of the decade. This is great news from the Globe and Mail.
Canada is Uniquely Positioned to Hit Net Zero Emissions by 2050
Sarah Rieger of the CBC reports on February 8, 2021 that Canada is in an advantageous position to reach its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a new report suggests, if governments capitalize on the right opportunities today.
“Uncertainty can either paralyze or propel us,” said Jason Dion, research director for the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, the publicly funded, independent institute behind the report. “On the one hand, there’s enough that we know that we can act on based on what we know … On the other hand, we are going to have to make calculated risk decisions … and if we’re placing those bets smartly and we’re hedging those bets, I think Canada has enough advantages that there’s a real win for us here.”
“The report, titled Canada’s Net Zero Future, looks at more than 60 modelling scenarios, as well as consulting with experts and a review of existing research to chart multiple pathways the country could take to hit its goal — looking at different combinations of possibilities to see what drivers are consistent factors in pushing a transition.”
“It separates those solutions into two categories that will both require investment, Dion said: safe bets and wild cards. Safe bets, like smart grids or electric cars, will need to be scaled up through increasingly strict policies to generate the majority of needed emissions reductions. Wild cards are described as bets on more high-risk, high-reward technologies like hydrogen fuel cells — technologies that could play a big role, but are significantly more uncertain.”
“We find that there are things that we can and should move forward with with confidence starting today, because no matter how the transition plays out, they’re always there,” Dion said. “We need to be working on both, to get the wild cards ready for when we need them … so we need to do pilot projects, research and development, even public investment to get these things off the ground. But that can’t distract us from the work that we have to do on safe bets.”
Liberals Unveil Net-zero Emissions Plan
“Major economies, businesses and investors are already moving in this direction because they understand that taking action on climate change is good for economic growth. It’s vital to start thinking about climate change, not just for the serious environmental and health impacts it poses, but for economic risks that could come from market responses — for example rising demand for electric vehicles or lower global demand for oil — which he said can arise on a larger scale independent of any domestic policy choices,” Dion said.
Oil and Gas Knowledge An Asset
“He said Canada could have an edge in delivering green tech, with assets like its landmass, resources and top energy minds at its disposal. “I think often we assume, Canadians assume, that their oil and gas sector makes a net zero transition a challenge for Canada. And certainly it does come with some challenges. But, also, the same expertise and capacity that exists in that sector also creates a lot of opportunities,” he said. He described how technologies like biofuel, geothermal energy production or carbon capture often rely on the same types of engineering expertise that’s used in the oil industry. “There’s certainly some alignment there … and so, there’s some advantages. That’s not to say that this is sort of a simple slam dunk in terms of a transition. We have to think about the match of skill sets that might exist.”
“Some major geothermal projects are already in the works in Alberta, while other oil companies say they’ve reached net-negative emissions by capturing more carbon than their operations produce.”
The full report can be read on the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices website.