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Building Back Better with nature-based climate solutions

For as little as 0.1% of GDP, Canada can rejuvenate its forest and farm ecosystems while creating thousands of jobs

 

The history of Canada and its people is largely written in the history of its agricultural and forestry ecosystems, and the “pandemic pause” provides an opportunity to assess the health and sustainability of those ecosystems and the economic activity that depends on them. The total industrial harvest of wood in Canada peaked in 2004, and the pandemic hit when the forest industry was in decline. Agricultural practices are clearly not sustainable, and the pandemic has revealed the vulnerability of our food production and supply chains. Forestry and agriculture are both susceptible to the ravages of extreme weather and a destabilized climate, but both sectors have great potential to contribute to a rebalancing of the climate system and the establishment of a green economic recovery.

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Building Back Better with a green mobility wave

The third white paper in our green recovery series examines what policies are needed to create jobs via greener transport

After weeks of sheltering in place, many of us will emerge from our homes to be together but at a distance, with some of us being called back to work and to school. After months of “commuting” via video conference, shopping online and even visiting family and friends via the internet, this means we are going to start moving again, and for most Canadians that means we are going to start driving again. 

When the pandemic hit, Canadians were spending over 200 hours per year in their cars, driving a total of more than 300 billion kilometres a year – 2,000 times the distance from the earth to the sun. The cost of owning and maintaining private automobiles comprises a larger share of household spending than food, clothing or any other household expense except shelter, even without including the share of taxes that goes to building and maintaining the transportation infrastructure. Yet cars are parked 95% of the time and are increasingly slowed down by traffic congestion during the 5% of the time they are actually being used. 

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Building Back Better with a green power wave

The post-COVID recovery presents a historic opportunity to fuel a fossil-free, renewable electricity system for all Canadians

As we shelter in place, the COVID crisis has brought Zoom into our homes, making it the “new normal” way to catch up with friends, family and coworkers. The same kinds of “new normal” innovations have been making their way into the electricity sector for some time – changing how power is generated and how it reaches our homes. These big changes are coming to the same grid we rely on to power our hospitals, keep in touch with loved ones and keep the food we eat safe.

When we turn our attention to how we will restore our lives and our economy when the pandemic passes, the future of the electricity system emerges as a key question. While we are becoming even more dependent on electricity, we have been reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollutants from power plants by phasing out the dirtiest of the generating stations, switching out coal for gas, and investing in efficiency, solar and wind energy. Still, the power sector remains a major source of GHGs and pollution in many parts of Canada, and electric vehicles and heat pumps are opening up vast new markets for electricity that could threaten the gains we have made. The post-COVID recovery presents a historic opportunity to make a final push for a fossil-free, renewable electricity system for all Canadians. What would it take?

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Building Back Better with a green renovation wave

The retrofit industry must be scaled for its “Model T moment” to help Canada’s economy recover after COVID-19

Between our residential, commercial and institutional structures, Canada has 2.85 billion square metres of largely inefficient buildings that currently contribute to 13% of our national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There is no pathway to a low-carbon future for Canada that doesn’t include both transitioning our buildings off fossil fuels and undertaking energy retrofits on a scale that’s much wider and deeper than anything we have done before.

So how do we get there?

Greening our residences: Home is where the heart of GHG savings is

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