Unpacking the Conservative's energy and environment game plan
By EnPowered - September 14, 2021
Let’s unpack what the Conservative’s are pledging regarding the environment and energy sector.
$5 billion over five years to be earmarked for funding hydrogen, small modular reactors, and electric vehicle manufacturing & development
Conservatives to aim for lower emissions goal of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, as opposed to the current government’s 40-45% reduction by 2030 pledge
Completion of Trans Mountain expansion and $1.5 billion for Atlantic offshore oil on the table, together with increased natural gas and uranium exports to reduce coal use
$5 billion investment in carbon capture and storage, $3 billion for wetland restoration, forest, land management improvements
20% reduction in carbon intensity for transport fuels, 30% of light-duty vehicles to be zero-emission by 2030 Canadians go to the polls on September 20th, and alongside issues like health care and housing, this election will also be a referendum on which party’s energy and climate plan Canadians are willing to endorse. Party platform documents are often long and ponderous, so we’ve done the legwork for you. To this end, we’ll be looking at the pledges made by the three largest federal parties — starting with the Conservatives — so let’s begin by unpacking what changes an O’Toole government would enact vis-a-vis energy and the environment. You can read our posts on the Liberal's plan here and NDP's plan here.
Energy production and electricity
The large share of renewables in the Canadian grid means that Canada can harvest natural gas (LNG) with fewer production-related emissions than many other jurisdictions. To capitalize on this trend, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) proposes to implement a LNG Export Strategy aimed at developing nations to help said countries transition from coal-fired generation and thereby reduce their emissions. This would include removing the current ban on oil tankers transporting more than 12,500 tonnes of oil through BC coastal waters between the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the Alaskan border.
A further LNG-related goal is to mandate a minimum of 15% renewable content (e.g., methane captured from landfills and farms) threshold in Canadian natural gas production by 2030. A related export measure would be an increase in uranium exports for nuclear power generation as a way to provide clean, gigawatt level baseline generation.
The Conservatives are also proposing $1 billion for the development of small modular reactors to increase the share of nuclear power in the grid and make nuclear power a more flexible option. In addition, carbon-neutral biomass energy (e.g., wood and agriculture waste) would be eligible to earn carbon credits. With regards to fossil fuels, a Conservative government would commit to completing the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, reopening the Keystone XL project, and providing $1.5 billion for an Offshore Oil Rebound Fund for Newfoundland & Labrador to ensure continued sector growth. A further $1 billion will be committed to deploying hydrogen-related technologies.
A cornerstone policy of an O’Toole government would be the repeal of the federal carbon tax backstop (currently $40 per tonne of CO2, and $170 by 2030). In its place, the CPC would institute a $20 per tonne of CO2 carbon levy on fuel purchases, rising to a maximum of $50 per tonne. Proceeds from the levy would be deposited in Low Carbon Savings Accounts which consumers and businesses not subject to the industrial Output Based Pricing System could access for energy efficiency and cleantech purchases. The Conservatives have stated that they will review this pricing system after two years, and are willing to reimpose the original $170 per tonne tax (currently scheduled for 2030) should Canada be falling short of its emissions reduction goals.
“Canada now has a working system to reduce carbon emissions from industry, built on the leadership of provincial governments from coast to coast. We aren’t going to change the rules just for the sake of change.” - CPC
An O’Toole government would also consider implementing a carbon border tariff to combat carbon leakage, together with providing tax relief for the first five facilities that use new emissions reduction technologies that provide meaningful reductions and are expensive to build. Similarly, a tax credit for the rapid development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the energy sector and other key industries that have few alternatives to fossil fuels (e.g., chemical and fertilizer production) has been floated. Lastly, the Conservatives are studying potential new taxes on frequent flyers, non-electric luxury vehicles, and luxury second homes to penalize high carbon lifestyles.
Business and building policy
The Conservatives are promising to provide accelerated Impact Assessments for projects that reduce GHG emissions, and support robust Canadian leadership in Environmental, Social, Governance, and Indigenous (ESG-I) policy and planning. The CPC will also implement a Critical Minerals Strategy to take advantage of Canadian natural resources critical to the clean energy future (e.g., nickel, cobalt, copper) including facilitating the expansion of lithium mining in Canada. Part of this will include recovering critical minerals from historical mine waste alongside long-term remediation. Increased plastics recovery would allow recyclable and non-recyclable plastics to be converted into chemicals and fuels.
Under the CPC, industrial carbon pricing will be tied to the carbon prices of Canada’s largest trading partners, such as the EU and US, and Ottawa will work with the United States to establish North America-wide minimum emissions standards for key industries. Ottawa will also work to leverage Canada’s comparative advantage in aluminium manufacturing by adopting a pan-Canadian low-carbon aluminium purchasing policy.
“Taking climate change seriously includes not letting critical GHG-reducing projects be held up by red tape and lengthy reviews. We will fast-track reviews of emissions-reducing projects that get shovels in the ground.” - CPC
An important pledge for energy projects is the CPC’s aim to facilitate Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC), which involves the private sector financing and implementing energy retrofits; the costs are then paid back through savings. Ottawa will promote ESPC for government and publicly funded institutional buildings, with a bonus for projects completed before 2030. Homeowners would also be provided access to an ‘energy concierge’ - a one-stop shop to access energy programs and information.
A Conservative government would continue to develop and support net-zero building codes, as well as mandating charging stations or the wiring needed for charger installation in the national building code. A minimum number of EV charging stations will also be mandated for new developments. And every building housing federal employees or offering services and parking to the public will need to have a charging station by 2025.
Transport and fuels
A CPC government would require that 30% of light-duty vehicles be zero-emissions by 2030, and support improved EV battery recycling and repurposing. Ottawa would also invest $1 billion to increase EV manufacturing in Canada, together with a Low Carbon Fuel Standard to achieve a 20% reduction in the carbon intensity of transport fuels. The Conservatives will also pilot the use of Canadian renewable fuels by the Canadian Armed Forces to stimulate increased alternative fuel production, a move already taken by the US military. Ottawa will also extend the current, COVID-related practice of allowing livestock owners to use existing local abattoirs to reduce emissions from long distance animal transport.
Environment and climate change
The CPC has rejected the current government’s Paris pledge to reduce emissions by 40-45% from 2005 levels by 2030. Instead, a Conservative government would aim for a 30% reduction based on 2005 levels by 2030. To this end, $5 billion is pledged to expand CCS use, including direct air capture, in the energy sector and beyond to further lower emissions from fossil fuel production and manufacturing. Sewage dumping would also be banned, together with the export of plastic waste in the absence of recycling guarantees by recipient countries.
The CPC also pledges to increase the ability of the agriculture and forestry sectors to generate land use-based offset credits by improving carbon sequestration. This is tied to $3 billion through 2030 set aside for natural climate solutions, such as reforestation, wetland restoration, and more efficient crop and grazing land use. The CPC will conserve 17% of Canada’s land and water through the expansion of protected areas and the national parks system, eventually rising to 25%.
From supporting the oil and gas sector, to greater investment in nuclear power and EVs, the Conservative platform tackles a wide range of energy sector issues. Similarly, the proposed spending on things like wetland restoration, mine remediation, and forestry land use highlight the importance of taking care of Canada’s land and water, as part of a broader climate policy. Stay tuned for our next posts in which we will also be unpacking the Liberal and NDP platforms as part of our series of election-related posts.