Sarah Burch among scholars across Canada urging immediate action on low carbon transition

Friday, May 26, 2017

Report cover with a jumble of street signs pointing in different directions

“If we're going to have any hope of reaching our commitments under the Paris Agreement or keeping warming below two degrees, then the de-escalation of fossil fuel consumption has to happen immediately.”

Department of Geography and Environmental Management professor and Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Governance and Innovation, Sarah Burch is one of the coordinating lead authors of a scholarly consensus report released today identifying the urgency, barriers and economic opportunities for Canada’s transition to a low-carbon future.  

Commissioned by Natural Resources Canada, Re-Energizing Canada: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Future represents the collective views of more than 70 university researchers from all 10 provinces on how Canada can make the low-carbon transition while remaining globally competitive.The authors identified social, political and organizational issues as the key barriers.

“Governance is crucial,” Burch stresses. “Low-carbon technological innovation is important, but the most pressing challenges are social and political. Unless we create the right incentives for people to use those technologies, unless we coordinate our efforts and communicate the benefits of this transition, we're just not going to get there.”

But the good news, according to the 60-page independent report, is that we can begin the process of transitioning using existing technology. And with government at all levels providing guidance, support and mobilization initiatives, Canada stands to win.

“With its uniquely vast endowment of renewable energy resources, Canada can seize the global low-carbon energy transition as an opportunity to build a major new economic engine for the country,” Burch says.

And from her perspective, the opportunities to make Canadian communities better through decarbonisation is the key message.

It's not about punishing or penalizing a particular sector in this economy,” she explains. “It's about communities becoming physically healthier because we're using active and mass transport, becoming aesthetically more beautiful because we're integrating green space with urban space, moving towards shared autonomous vehicles that are vastly more efficient and electrified instead of consuming fossil fuels, mixed use, so we can walk to recreation and walk to work and cycle to get groceries. It's about all the opportunities for prosperity and for achieving other sustainability initiatives that decarbonization presents.

Other important takeaways include the need to improve conservation and energy efficiency to reduce overall energy demand, increase electrification, particularly of our transportation systems, and phase out fossil fuels while switching over to low-carbon energy sources.

Today's announcement also kicks off Generation Energy, a nationwide dialogue on Canada’s path to a low-carbon future, launched by Natural Resources Canada

To learn more, including the three-stage decarbonization process laid out by the authors, download the full report.

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