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Full transition to renewables “within Canada’s reach” by 2035, experts say

Four years ago, the Conservative federal leader pledged to reduce national GHGs by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 — a target that will undoubtedly be missed without making drastic changes, according to Environment Canada. Image of Fort McMurray, Alberta -- Operation Arctic Shadow. Creative Commons: kris krüg, 2012

Canada pledged to reduce national GHGs by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 — a target that will undoubtedly be missed without making drastic changes, according to Environment Canada. Fort McMurray, Alberta — Operation Arctic Shadow. Creative Commons: kris krüg, 2012

A council of academics confirmed earlier this week that Canada could eradicate 80 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions and be completely reliant on renewable energy resources by 2035.

In their latest policy paper, a coalition of over 70 Canadian scientists, economists and engineers supported by UNESCO and McGill University agree that “Canada is in a more favourable position than most countries” to make the switch to renewables, recommending that Prime Minister Stephen Harper put forward a national program that puts a price on carbon emissions through taxes or a cap-and-trade system.

Catherine Potvin, ecologist, Canada Research Chair in climate change mitigation at McGill University, and author of the policy paper said:

“This is within reach. We could be the world leader … that’s a very important message for Canadians to understand.”

Bryson Brown, Professor at University of Lethbridge who is also another author of this paper also agreed with this statement. He said:

“A 30-year time frame for getting really low with our carbon emissions is not as dramatic a transformation as some people may fear.”

Despite committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Environment Canada reported in late 2013 that production of climate-changing gases is only increasing. After agreeing to take a proactive stance at the Copenhagen summit, instead of reducing emissions by 17 by per cent, Ottawa expects them to grow 20 per cent more than their 2020 goal. Around the same time that these findings were revealed, the federal agency also announced that a significant number of fuel-related projects would no longer require an assessment in order to move forward, including groundwater extraction facilities, heavy oil and tar sands processing facilities as well as pipelines, potash mines and other industrial mineral mines, and industrial facilities. Meanwhile, Environment Canada also announced that they would be scaling back regulation for a number of tar sands and pipeline projects.

Just two weeks ahead of the deadline for global leaders to submit their plans to reduce emissions and address climate change beyond 2020– authors starkly remind readers that the only barrier to accelerating the transition towards 100 per cent renewable resources in Canada is “lack of political will.”

Catherine Potvin reaffirmed:

“What Canada is submitting [to the United Nations] is what Canadians are asking their government to do.”

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