There is currently quite a buzz about climate change, especially in light of the recent COP26 talks.
Protesters outside COP26 demanded climate action, while world leaders primarily negotiated climate goals and funding mechanisms at COP26. In other words, they talked.
What COP26 really was, was an exercise in international goal-setting, not really in policy-making, as we see via COP26’s focus on incentives and goals rather than action. World leaders have now gone home from COP26 to formulate proactive solutions and policies on their own. Although COP26 did seem to bring about an increased honest willingness to save some forests and reduce coal consumption, this is far from enough to curb global warming to COP26’s goal of 1.5 degrees.
Genuine and dedicated protesters of course were right to be there but will do better to keep up their efforts aimed at their respective governments at home, as that is where climate action begins and needs their pressure in order to be implemented.
For the time being, governments will need to take action themselves in order to accomplish COP26’s 1.5 degree goal. Protesters should keep up the pressure to encourage climate change bills to be at least presented in legislatures on an ongoing basis, as likely those that do pass worldwide will be seen as seminal to solving climate issues.
Very recently Trudeau and world leaders have shown they are entirely capable of taking bold action to solve a crisis, as they did to fight the Covid pandemic. They must now become at least as bold working to keep everyone safe from climate change as they were bold working to keep everyone safe from Covid.
Trudeau can begin shifting from talk to action by adopting energy transition strategies that have long been shifting countries such as Germany and Sweden from majority fossil-fuel based energy production to renewable energy production. This will utilize COP26 promises as a basis for directing policies, subsidies and mandates toward building more power generation from hydro, wind and solar.
Canada will need to build better power-sharing infrastructure as well, such as a true east-west power grid in Canada. This way daily peak energy demand on our energy grid can be offset by energy produced geographically where peak demand has passed or not yet arrived. Canada is geographically large enough for this to work.
Action needs to be bold enough to take the form of direct laws, as it has been for a long time with regards to transportation when we mandated catalytic converters on all new cars and improved fuel economy, to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases.
Canada must now do the same for housing as it did transportation: New home construction needs to be mandated to include geothermal heating and cooling systems, solar panels, green roofs and better insulation. This type of mandate upon the construction industry is nothing new as the existence of electric and fire codes prove.
Urban planning and zoning must be focused away from single-detached homes and towards low-rise multiplexes such as townhouses and triplexes. This housing style reduces distances and therefore carbon intensity for everything from transportation to water infrastructure to fire response.
Heat loss is also reduced. Personal front and back yards remain, unlike in high-rise developments which result in anonymity potentially dangerous corridors, and dependence on elevators and building management.
As batteries are currently deemed to be the future solution to transportation, to power electric vehicles, subsidies already provided to automobile manufacturing and high-tech should now require battery innovation, production and safe end-of-life cycle recycling and disposal take place domestically. This will ensure jobs, supply and innovation in Canada.
Products such as paper and cardboard need to be legislated to be made of recycled materials only. This will force use of material municipal recycling programs already collect but then leave unused, while reducing the logging of trees and expenditures of re-planting forests. Plastic packaging needs to be eliminated and replaced with biodegradable paper and material as plastics are not only very polluting as waste products, but are also very carbon intensive to produce.
The farming industry needs to be reformed to be able to produce more food organically, as fertilizers and pesticides are carbon-intensive and cause many other negative environmental externalities such as soil nutrient depletion.
Finally, we will have to begin making oil and gas companies partners in fighting climate change as they currently produce and deliver most of Canada’s energy. These companies will have to acknowledge that the oil and gas products they sell have no long-term future, and their survival depends on their switching to generating and delivering renewable power instead. They must be clearly mandated to do so, and as such, some subsidies to them may be required.
Trudeau and world leaders have a plethora of climate solutions to choose from, and Canada is already far enough behind other countries in many fields. Nevertheless, the media attention and protests generated by COP26 demonstrate a great enthusiasm for climate change initiatives. If such enthusiasm can be focused toward every government at every level, and better yet also at passing individual specific bills that address climate change, climate talks would lead to far more climate action.
Featured Image Via COP26 on Flickr Creative Commons