Climate Emergency: A 26-Week Transition Program for Canada

A- emergency

This is a work of imagination. But the urgency of the crisis is real, the need for the suggested programs is real, and the data included in these proposals is real. A printable 40-page PDF of this paper is available


What could the government of Canada do if its Ministers, MPs and civil servants really understood the severity of the climate emergency, and the urgency of the need? This paper shows how we could target a 65% reduction in emissions by 2030 and 100% by 2040. It proposes 164 new policies and programs, financed by $63 billion a year in new investments, without raising taxes or increasing public sector borrowing. The new programs and policies are announced every Monday morning between January 6th and the end of June. To learn what they are, read on.

I thank Warren Mitchell, editor of The Energy Mix, Scott Sinclair, CEO of SES Consulting, and Elizabeth Sheehan, President of Climate Smart Business Inc. for their advice and suggestions. Suggestions for corrections and improvements are welcome.

January 6th, 2020.

This is a joint statement from the Prime Minister and all Ministers in the new Liberal Cabinet. The commitments made below represent additions to our December 2019 Ministerial Mandate letters.[1]

We face an existential climate emergency, as 1,248 governments have declared, representing 800 million people.[2] As a world, we are not on track: we have yet to bend the curve of our ever-increasing carbon emissions. The goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C is rapidly slipping out of reach.[3] The consequences are already proving catastrophic, as we see from the wildfire inferno that is currently destroying a huge area of Australia, including much of the wildlife in the affected regions.

As your government, we will treat the emergency with the utmost urgency. We will work with the provinces, First Nations, businesses, labour unions, local governments, universities and anyone who will help us to achieve a transformational ramping up of efforts on every front.

The last time there was the current level of 410 ppm[4] of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, three million years ago during the Pliocene, modern humans didn’t exist. The global average surface temperature was 2°C warmer than it has been during the last 10,000 years of our ancestors’ life on Earth, and the ocean sea-levels were up to 23 metres higher.[5] 23 metres– not centimetres.

In April 2019, a scientific report from Environment and Climate Change Canada found that our country is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, that Northern Canada has warmed and will continue to warm at more than double the global rate, and that Canadians will end up with 10 times as many deadly heat waves and twice as many extreme rainstorms if nothing is done to reduce our climate pollution.[6] The steady increase in global emissions is pushing the climate towards dangerous and unpredictable tipping points, nine of which have already become active, including changes in the Arctic sea ice, the Greenland ice sheet, the Boreal forests, the northern permafrost, the North Atlantic circulation, the Amazon rainforest and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.[7]

Next year (2020) is the year of truth. The year when we must move decisively to an economy that really starts to reduce investments in fossil fuels. – Johan Rockström, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

In December 2019 Mark Jacobson and his team of researchers at Stanford University released a report showing how a transition to a world powered by 80% wind, water and solar energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050 is possible for 143 countries, including Canada.[8] Their analysis shows that globally, the use of renewables combined with the electrification of transportation and heat:

  • Reduces global energy demand by 57% due to the efficiencies of electric vehicles and heat pumps.
  • Reduces energy costs by 61%.
  • Reduces private costs from $17.7 trillion a year to $6.8 trillion a year.
  • Reduces the full social cost (private costs + healthcare costs and mortality + climate costs) by 91%, from $76 trillion a year to $6.8 trillion a year.
  • Creates 28.6 million more long-term full-time new jobs than are lost in the transition.
  • Uses just 0.65% of the available land area in the 143 countries (0.17% for the footprint of solar and wind equipment and 0.48% for the spacing between wind turbines).

The private financial saving of $10.9 trillion a year is equivalent to 12% of global GDP.[9] The Business As Usual future, by contrast, will cost $76 trillion a year in combined private, social and climate costs, representing 87% of global GDP, imposing a massive drain on the global economy. Canada faces the additional risk of multi-billion dollars of stranded financial assets, a risk that Mark Carney recently put as up to 80% of all coal assets and up to half of all developed oil reserves.[10]

The message is clear: the transition to 100% renewable energy is the most effective solution to the climate crisis, and will bring enormous financial and healthcare benefits  to Canada and the world, while generating more new jobs that it destroys.

In the Cree language, Tansi Neestow means ‘Hello brother’. It reminds us that we have a responsibility to each other. Our responsibility today is both to each other, as fellow Canadians, and to our Earth, that gives us everything. To all fossil-fuel workers workers and your families, we make this pledge: that we will care for you and protect you as we make this transition, enabling the changes to bring security and new opportunities for all.

In October 2019, a clear majority of Canadians voted for parties that support ambitious climate action, and this we will deliver. To this end, every Monday morning until the end of June we will announce new policies and initiatives to address the climate emergency. MORE

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