Op-Ed

Canada has many options to improve their environmental performance. Photo: CC, Rebecca Humann.

Pipelines, renewable biofuels, and infrastructure plans should be examined

The Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna announced on Nov. 21 that Canada will be phasing out the use of coal by 2030. The objective of the plan is to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 30 million tonnes a year by 2030.

While this is definitely a step in the right direction, can Canada succeed in reaching the target set during the Paris Agreement without the cooperation of the U.S.—the second-largest carbon dioxide emitters on the planet?

If the Liberal government is serious about meeting its target with the Paris Agreement, a feat that will only be made harder by President-elect Trump’s proposed policies, pipelines—including the Keystone XL, Trans Mountain, and Energy East—are not the way to go.

Instead, the government should be looking to invest in renewable energy for long-term economic growth and environmental sustainability.

For example, renewable biofuels could be used as an alternative as Canada is one of the largest agricultural producers and exporters in the world. Clean Energy Canada, a think thank based from Simon Fraser University, estimates that biofuel will play an important part in reducing transportation-related emissions and will account for 20 per cent of liquid fuels by 2030 and 90 per cent by 2050.

We also need to make sure that the Liberals’ $186 billion infrastructure plan spends a third of the budget on green infrastructure, as they promised. After all, the government has a history of spending less on infrastructure than what Parliament allocated. Not only does green infrastructure benefit the environment, but is also could be the backbone of our economy in the future.

International cooperation will also be crucial to really make an impact on climate change. The Liberal government can replicate China’s huge cap-and-trade system and the revenue generated from the carbon tax should be invested towards renewable energy.

But how can we be sure that the Liberal government will follow through with their commitment? Government will need the cooperation of the private sector. Economics incentives will ensure that business invest in renewable energy, and the government could also use legislation such as strengthening the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

All in all, dropping coal by 2030 is a good step, but Canada needs to enforce other policies as well to make a significant impact.