How to get to 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

Dec 02, 2015

Under the Harper Government, Canada had been known as a climate laggard around the globe, especially after withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol four years ago. But, with a new government that has climate change on its agenda, Canada has reason to be optimistic!

Excitement is high for COP21, which began on November 30, where it has been declared that based on an agreement at COP17 in Durban, South Africa, the world would agree to a new global climate deal in 2015, which would take effect in 2020 and include targets from all countries to cut and curb greenhouse gas emissions. 

Prior to Justin Trudeau becoming PM, Canada had committed to 100% renewable energy by the year 2100. But based on climate science, in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (the internationally recognized threshold), emissions from fossil fuels need to be eliminated by mid-century. This target is gaining increasing attention. Earlier this year, the City of Vancouver and Oxford County both committed to 100% renewable energy by 2050. 

Vancouver recently released its 35-year Renewable City Strategy. Some highlights on how the City will reach 100% by 2050 include:

  • Reducing overall energy use through initiatives such as increasing building installation requirements and improving the city’s bike network
  • Increasing the use of renewable energy through the expansion of the number of buildings connected to the Southeast False Creek Neighbourhood Energy Utility and encouraging transit use
  • Increasing the supply of renewable energy by supporting an increase in the amount of rooftop solar power generation, electric vehicles and biofuel hybrids for transportation.

Oxford County has also released a Community Sustainability Plan to reach 100%, which includes actions such as:

  • Providing incentives for renewable energy, retrofits, zero-energy homes, and passive housing
  • Encouraging local electric utilities to use renewable electricity through a renewable energy (solar) lease program
  • Developing a transportation demand management strategy that includes programs and incentives for ridesharing (including school buses), active transportation, bike sharing, and workplace mode-shifting with a particular focus on marginalized residents

Photo Credit: 100% Possible

On the eve of COP 21 in Paris, despite climate marches and protests cancelled in the city due to security concerns, 2300 events were held in over 175 countries around the world in solidarity. Over the weekend, a total of 785,000 people got together to cycle, march and dance for the largest climate mobilization in history. In Canada, people marched in cities and towns including Vancouver, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Halifax, and Toronto. The leading event was the 100% Renewable Energy is 100% Possible March held in Ottawa on Sunday November 29, with was 25,000 strong. 

Community energy is a solution to climate change, bringing about both social and environmental change by allowing citizens to be involved in the production of their energy. We had a group of SolarShare Co-op members that travelled to Ottawa with us to show our government that Canadians want to see a clean energy economy. At the very front of this picture below is Xana. She is the daughter of one of our members. She was so excited to be a part of the march and didn’t mind getting back to Toronto at 930pm before school the next morning. She even brought photos to school on Monday morning to show her classmates what she was a part of in Ottawa!

Image of SolarShare Members at the 100% Possible March in Ottawa

At this critical moment, we have a unique opportunity to not only phase out fossil fuels and nuclear energy and transition to a clean energy economy to fight climate change, but to do so by engaging Canadians in this transition by allowing diverse players such as municipalities, co-ops, First Nations, and schools to produce their own energy and support local micro-grids. 

Even though Canada has reason to be optimistic about the improvement of our climate record, we can’t just sit around and hope that change will happen. We need to keep our governments accountable and shape our future not only to protect the environment, but to do so in a socially equitable way. With the climate marches that occurred in the lead up to COP21, and the meeting that Prime Minister Trudeau had with the 13 Provincial and Territorial Premiers to discuss climate change and hear from top Canadian climate scientists, we’re off to a great start.