Net Zero Carbon, Net Zero Excuses 

Written by Jenna Collignon, Staff Writer at Matrix Group Publishing

Global warming threatens our way of life across the globe.  SNC-Lavalin has presented an Engineering Net Zero (Canada) report that outlines what Canada needs to do to make its target of zero emissions by 2050.  This ambitious target goal has the potential to effectively end Canada’s contribution to global warming.

As of March 11 2021 SNC-Lavalin focused its report on the objective of transitioning the Canadian economy towards a net-zero Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions target which provides a carefully thought-out analysis and directions to achieve this goal.

The Engineering Net Zero (Canada) report examines a blueprint for Canada to achieve this by 2050, bringing in potential challenges and solutions across economic sectors.  The report brings SNC-Lavalin’s global experience of delivering the world’s largest and most complex infrastructure projects to bear on this most critical of technical challenges: how do we avert the most devastating implications of climate change, both in Canada and around the world? 

“To achieve this monumental task, Canadian policymakers and industry need to urgently resolve a number of technical, commercial, and collaborative challenges associated with decarbonizing the economy,” says Dale Clarke, President, Infrastructure Services, SNC-Lavalin.  “Jobs and growth will be spurred from the massive investments needed in existing, emerging, and disruptive technologies.  Cooperation and collaboration between governments at all levels, with input from the private sector, indigenous community, and other stakeholders will be essential.  The ambitious 2050 target can effectively position Canada as a global leader in low-emission technologies and practices across all economic sectors.  As a supporter of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SNC-Lavalin is committed to supporting the engineering of zero GHG-emitting solutions both here in Canada and globally.”

As the report says, “a piecemeal approach will simply not work.” If Canada is to truly meet this net-zero goal by 2050, then it will need to rely on following these areas of interest:

  • Synchronized deployment of emerging and disruptive technologies across sectors, which will not happen without significant government intervention;
  • Greater coordination across industries, sectors, provincial governments, and communities;
  • Well-defined economic and financial frameworks along with tools such as carbon taxes and other incentives, aimed at driving forward the necessary change; and
  • Introduction of Canadian-wide legislation to reduce demand for energy across all aspects of the built environment, including the introduction of energy efficiency measures and the refurbishment of existing built environment assets. (Canada Executive Summary, pg. 3)

Doing nothing is not an option.  We have an opportunity, however small, to reverse the trend toward global warming and devastation worldwide.  However, the transition toward a net-zero carbon system is not happening nearly fast enough.  Due to the economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, the momentum in climate change action could be further derailed, “unless country-specific economic recovery plans support the energy transition initiatives toward net-zero carbon emissions” (Canada Executive Summary, pg. 5).

Recommendations from this report include:

  • Establishing a federal-provincial committee for the Canadian electrical grid to enable greater reliability, resiliency, and efficiency through the east to west inter-provincial ties.  This could pave the way for an east-west interconnected grid;
  • Early build projects should be initiated for energy sources, such as hydro and nuclear energies;
  • Other renewable resources, such as wind and solar, should be developed quickly to meet load increases;
  • Expedite and fund pilot carbon capture and storage projects as quickly as possible, which are key to eliminating the balance of GHG emissions from energy-intensive processes;
  • Accelerate current hydrogen and other alternative fuels research programs with a minimum number of demonstration projects; and
  • Consult industry in the development of the net-zero 2050 plan to ensure concrete, measurable, and coordinated efforts are put into place.

“SNC-Lavalin has created the blueprint through the Engineering Net Zero report and doing nothing is not an option,” said Sandy Taylor, President, Nuclear, SNC-Lavalin.  “Immediate, effective, and concerted action is required at all levels of society, industry, and government. Canadians can rise to the challenge, and that’s why SNC-Lavalin brought together its subject matter experts to offer analysis and guidance.  Every aspect of our lives will be impacted, from travel, heating homes, and ensuring food and health security, to the ways we generate our power, operate industrial processes, and unlock our natural resources in this revolution.”

To reach this goal by 2050, Canada needs to triple its power production levels over the next 30 years.  The report discusses the six main renewable resources: hydro, wind, nuclear, solar, natural gas, and bioenergy, wave, and tidal, and how they will meet the net-zero requirements.  These will be accompanied by a stronger pan-Canadian power grid which will allow clean renewable energy to move across provinces and from offshore installations to load centres.

This framework is currently under development by the Government of Canada.  For more information, you can read and download Engineering Net Zero (Canada) report, or visit the Engineering Net Zero website.

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About the Author

Jenna Collignon joined the Matrix team in 2019, fresh out of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Honours English Degree.  When asked what she most likes about her position as an editor at Matrix, she has trouble answering. “That’s because,” she says, “what ISN’T there to like?  There is something new on my plate every day, with new challenges and lessons to be learned along with that. It also doesn’t hurt to be part of such a great team.”