Canadians must brace for the cost of fighting climate change, Senate committee says

News Release

Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Canadians must brace for the cost of fighting climate change, Senate committee says

March 7, 2017


Ottawa – Canadians are most likely going to face higher electricity bills as the country strives to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.

It’s one of the findings in a report the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources released at a press conference Tuesday in Ottawa, titled Positioning Canada’s Electricity Sector in a Carbon Constrained Future.

It is the first in a series of interim reports the committee will release this year as part of its study on Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

Canada already has one of the world’s cleanest electricity sectors, generating 80% of its power from non-emitting sources, but some Canadian provinces still rely on coal-powered generation and many northern and remote communities use diesel generation. Transitioning to an even lower-carbon electricity sector will require further changes in the way electricity is generated and the way Canadians consume it.

In 2016, the committee began to study how Canada could make a transition to a low-carbon economy and look at the impact that would have on households and businesses. In 2015, Canada committed to meeting GHG reduction targets established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, often referred to as the Paris Agreement.

The committee is studying five sectors of the economy that are responsible for 80% of Canada’s GHG emissions. Other reports on the oil and gas, transportation, and buildings sectors — as well as industries that use large amounts of energy in their processes or that are vulnerable to fluctuating trade patterns — will be prepared later this year.

The committee’s final report, scheduled for release at the end of the year, will make recommendations that will help reach GHG emission reduction targets in a manner that is sustainable, affordable, efficient, equitable and achievable.

Quick Facts

  • Canada and 194 other countries agreed in 2015 to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Under the Paris Agreement on climate change, Canada needs to eliminate 219 megatonnes of GHG emissions by 2030.
  • The electricity sector contributes relatively little to Canada’s overall GHG emissions. Quebec, for example, is the biggest user of electricity among provinces, but is the third-smallest emitter of GHGs.
  • A megatonne of carbon is the equivalent of taking 211,234 passenger vehicles off the road, or electricity use for 133,961 homes for one year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s online calculator.
  • If every car, truck, plane, train and boat were to immediately stop emitting GHGs in Canada, it would remove only 170 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere.

Quotes

“Canadians will likely have to pay out of their own pockets some of the costs associated with meeting Canada’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Electricity is a good example of a service whose cost will go up as producers transition toward a cleaner way of making it. One of this study’s goals is to assess just how much more Canadians can expect to pay.”

- Senator Richard Neufeld, Chair of the committee

“By now, everyone knows that Canada, like every country on the globe, must act to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide it produces. It’s going to mean a substantial adjustment in the way Canadians live, but we must weigh that against the cost of not doing anything — something which is now unthinkable.”

- Senator Paul Massicotte, Deputy Chair of the committee

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