16.9 Certification Systems: Net Zero

Author: Caitlin Boyes

Date Submitted: April 15, 2022

ABSTRACT: Net-Zero is the goal of producing zero greenhouse gas emissions or offsetting the emissions we do produce. In 2019 Canada alone produced 730 metric tons of carbon dioxide and has been around the 700 ton range for the past 15 plus years. There are acts and legislations that are slowly starting to visualize the goal of Net-Zero by 2050 but to reach this goal everyone must make changes to their way of moving, producing and consuming. We have to recognize where we create carbon emissions and learn a new way of living with little to no emissions. 

(Retrieve from Government of Canada Greenhouse gas sources and sinks: executive summary 2021, 2021)

MAIN

Net-Zero is the action of eliminating or offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. In order to reach Net-Zero there needs to be an understanding of how greenhouse gas emissions are created. The chart above shows a breakdown of sources of greenhouse gasses from 2005 to 2019. The chart shows the seven internital panels on climate change sectors with the main contributor being the energy sector. Stationary combustion energy is emitted from the production of energy in power plants or combined heat and power plants. Energy transport is the emissions from cars, trucks, planes, boats and other transportation that emits emissions. Energy fugitive sources is the leakage of emissions mainly occurring during the extraction, transport, storage and process of energy. Industrial Process and product use is the emission that is produced in the production of objects but does not include the energy that is used in the process. Agriculture emissions are from animals, storage of manure and other farming products that produce emissions. Waste is the emissions from the disposal of garbage and recycling. Land Use, Land-Use change and forestry is the act of deforestation, planting trees and preserving land sinks. In 2019 Canada alone produced 730 metric tons of carbon dioxide and has been producing around the 700 metric ton range for the past 15 years. With the understanding of where greenhouse gas emissions come from, the ability to stop the production of or limit emissions in order to offset the creation can be achieved. 

To achieve Net-Zero everyone has to change the way they move, produce and consume. As the energy sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions through: coal, gas and oil fired power, they should be replaced with renewable energy sources like wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower. The ability to store this energy with minimal CO2 emissions is also an important consideration when switching over to these cleaner renewable sources.  In the case that renewable energy does not produce enough energy on demand an alternative source of energy with a low carbon emission would be ideal. 

In order to reduce the amount of energy in transportation emissions the use of public transit would cut down on the amount of single used vehicles and cut out a large amount of emissions. Use of non-motorized vehicles or zero emission vehicles would cut a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. When the use of personal vehicles is needed the electric vehicles and equipment would eliminate the operation emissions but would still have the embodied carbon from the production of the vehicles. That value can be offset with the goal of reaching Net-Zero. 

The waste of energy is a contributing factor to greenhouse gasses. This can be reduced with the use of energy efficient technology that will turn off when energy is not needed, cutting back the amount of energy produced and eliminating a decent amount of emissions in the process. 

When eliminating emissions is not possible the act of offsetting the emission we produce should be considered. Offsetting is the act of removing CO2 from the atmosphere and stored permanently in a secure location. Plants, trees, soil and the ocean already remove CO2 from the atmosphere but are unable to remove as much as we produce. Technology can be developed to achieve a similar goal. The production of carbon capture, a utilization and storage technology, has been initiated however, to achieve the goal of net zero emissions we need to be implementing these technologies much more quickly.

Action of Countries 

Canada along with 196 other countries including the G7 nations created the Paris agreement in 2015 with the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to bring down the global temperature to 2 degrees celsius and further reduce  the global temperatures to 1.5 degrees celsius. In order to achieve this goal for all countries the Paris agreement has committed to reviewing the developments made and commitments for the future every 5 years . They also will help financially, developing nations in their pursuit to reduce emissions and adapt to climate impacts. 

Canada in reaching net zero

In June 2021, Canada enacted the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act that ensured Canada reached net zero emissions by 2050. This act will support transparency and accountability as the government works to achieve this target. The act legally binds the government to set 5 year national emission reduction targets.  Additional target plans for 2035, 2040, and 2045 produced 10 years in advance along with credible science based research of the reduction of emissions were also committed to in the Act. The emission reduction plan is a progress report to inform parliament on the implementation of the emission reduction plan and an assessment report of whether the implementations are working and their effectiveness. The emission reduction plan will be written up by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change with the ability for provinces and territories, Indigenous Peoples, the Net-Zero Advisory Body and interested persons to make submissions. 

Included in the national emission reduction plan is… 

  • the greenhouse gas emissions target for the year to which the plan relates;
  • a summary of Canada’s most recent greenhouse gas emissions inventory (National Inventory Report) and information relevant to the plan that Canada submitted under its international climate change commitments;
  • a description of the key emissions reduction measures the Government of Canada intends to take to achieve the target;
  • a description of how Canada’s international commitments on climate change are taken into account in the plan;
  • a description of any relevant sectoral strategies;
  • a description of emissions reduction strategies for federal government operations;
  • a projected timetable for implementation;
  • greenhouse gas emissions projections resulting from the measures and strategies
  • a summary of key cooperative measures or agreements with provinces, territories and other governments in Canada.

A third party (the Net-Zero Advisory Body) is included in the review of the targets and emission reduction plan to advise and contribute to the implementation. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development will review the plan and target once every 5 years to ensure reaching the Net Zero goal by 2050.

Canada has also put out a 2030 emission reduction plan with the goal of reducing emissions 40-45% from 2005 by 2030. To keep on track with this goal there is a scheduled midpoint check-in in 2026. 

Multiple  cities and provinces in Canada have already committed to Net Zero by 2050 including Guelph, Vancouver, Hamilton, Toronto, Halifax, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec. Prince Edward island is pushing to have net zero by 2040. 

Conclusion

The key to understanding how to reduce CO2 emissions and reach net zero is to know how we produce these emissions. Being aware of the amount of emission we produce as well as offsetting emissions we are unable to avoid producing, we can reach the country’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The use of technologies and innovations for reducing and offsetting emissions need to be exponentially increased. At an individual level, being mindful of day to day activities and their effect on our environment is already a good place to start in our goal of Net-Zero. 

RESOURCES

Canada, Environment and Climate Change. “Government of Canada.” Canada.ca, / Gouvernement Du Canada, 26 July 2021, https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/climate-change/greenhouse-gas-emissions/sources-sinks-executive-summary-2022.html.

Canada, Service. “Government of Canada.” Canada.ca, / Gouvernement Du Canada, 31 Jan. 2022, https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/climate-plan/net-zero-emissions-2050.html

Canada, Service. “Government of Canada.” Canada.ca, / Gouvernement Du Canada, 31 Jan. 2022, https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/climate-plan/net-zero-emissions-2050/canadian-net-zero-emissions-accountability-act.html

Nationalacademies.org, https://www.nationalacademies.org/based-on-science/is-it-possible-to-achieve-net-zero-emissions

“Net Zero Coalition.” United Nations, United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/net-zero-coalition

“The Net-Zero Transition: What It Would Cost, What It Could Bring: Sustainability.” McKinsey & Company, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/the-net-zero-transition-what-it-would-cost-what-it-could-bring?hdpid=77b3a8e5-3272-4e2b-8de5-dfbe7357c22f&hctky=1274177&hlkid=deb852ae21704e57b2ea629deaf9c867

“The Paris Agreement.” United Nations, United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/paris-agreement

Rohde, Robert. “Global Temperature Report for 2021.” Berkeley Earth, 14 Feb. 2022, http://berkeleyearth.org/global-temperature-report-for-2021/#:~:text=The%20global%20mean%20temperature%20in%202021%20is%20estimated%20to%20have,F

“What Is Net Zero?” Net Zero Climate, 2 Mar. 2022, https://netzeroclimate.org/what-is-net-zero/   

BIOGRAPHY

Caitlin Boyes is currently a third year student at Ryerson University in the Interior Design program.

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