By David Billedeau, Senior Director of Natural Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Over the first two weeks of November, COP26 captured the world’s attention in Glasgow – and for good reason. As stressed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted over 200 nations and 20,000 guests in the United Kingdom, if the world fails to make meaningful changes now, the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit a global rise in temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius this century will be lost.
We are already seeing the consequences of failing to address climate change across the globe – including here in Canada. The growing scale and frequency of extreme weather events and forest fires threaten the lives and livelihoods of Canadians. To that end, our government should be commended as their participation in COP26 facilitated new pledges to reduce emissions, end deforestation, support international climate change adaptation efforts, and phase down unabated coal.
In addition to producing statements of intent, COP26 has also set rules for international climate markets under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. As a result, countries will be able to buy and sell carbon offsets to advance emissions reduction targets.
While such pledges and agreements may yield positive results in the years to come, recent actions by Canadian industry are creating immediate, material shifts towards net zero.
First, there have been significant developments in sustainable aviation. Air Canada and Carbon Engineering announced a memorandum of understanding to support decarbonization through geologic storage and the use of clean fuels. This is in addition to Air Canada’s recent efforts to lower emissions via implementing carbon offset programs and serving as a founding member of the Aviation Climate Taskforce – a non-profit organization focused on integrating emerging clean technologies into the aviation sector.
Second, following announcements in October by the International Council on Mining and Metals to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner, mining companies in Canada have made major strides. The ELYSIS venture between Alcoa and Rio Tinto produced carbon-free aluminum at an R&D centre in Saguenay, Canada. Vale announced up to $6 billion to educe its emissions by 33% by 2030. Teck Resources announced changes to its supply chain, which will reduce up to 45,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Third, industrial research efforts have yielded tangible strategies to reach net zero by 2050 – two recent reports are of particular importance. RBC released The $2 Trillion Transition: Canada’s Road to Net Zero, which puts a price tag on the required costs of decarbonization – and demonstrates multiple pathways (largely driven by private sector actions) to reach net zero. Additionally, the Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero initiative—a joint effort between five of Canada’s largest oil sands producers—released a clear strategy for the sector to reach net zero.
Fourth, the financial sector has gone all in for net zero. BMO, CIBC, the National Bank of Canada, RBC, Scotiabank, and TD have all signed on to the Net Zero Banking Alliance. This means that Canada’s major financial institutions are now all committed to accelerating and supporting Canada’s emissions reduction efforts. This development is buttressed by ongoing consultations by the Canadian Securities Administrators, who have proposed harmonized climate-related disclosures. Such efforts have the potential to increase transparency and investment opportunities (both of which are vital to achieve net zero).
Separately, these changes represent significant, sector-by-sector shifts towards decarbonization.
Together, they highlight that Canada’s business community is fully invested in net zero – and are committed to leading the international community in securing a sustainable future.