The Canadian Academy of Engineering / CAE Blog

Net-Zero – the Canadian Challenge

Soheil Asgarpour, CAE President-Elect

The struggle to limit global climate change is the most pressing challenge humans have collectively faced over the past 200,000 years. We must work collaboratively, on a global scale, to achieve the net-zero by 2050 target. Currently, 15 countries have either passed, or are in process of passing, legislations to achieve net-zero; while 11 countries, including Canada, are in process of developing policy.

To successfully meet this target, we must start with assessing various pathways to achieving net-zero. As Canada is at the policy evaluation stage, assessment of various pathways and development of an integrated national strategy are timely.

Canada is blessed with diverse, world class natural resources, from hydrocarbon to hydro, nuclear, solar, and wind. Canada is also blessed with world-renowned creative, innovative, and gifted engineers and scientists; our skilled workers are among the best. Canada’s natural and human resources are second to none. In addition, Canada possesses robust infrastructure, an outstanding regulatory system, stable political system, and solid, transparent governance.

These competitive advantages, fueled by Canadian technologies, can help us achieve the net-zero target. Therefore, unlike many countries around the world, we have numerous pathways to achieve net-zero. Furthermore, Canada can afford to forge a pathway to net-zero that will also create economic prosperity and meet socially acceptable standards.

Canada’s integrated national strategy should guide the assessment of various pathways in terms of their technical feasibility, technological readiness, economic viability, social acceptance, and their potential in achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Canadian engineers can be world leaders in the development and adoption of innovations and new technologies to find economic solutions that rejuvenate and transform the existing grid to a smart, robust, reliable grid for transmission across Canada and North America, from east to west and north to south. Various innovative power storage solutions such as storing hydro power by compressed air, hydrogen generation using electrolysis, pumped hydropower into a retained pool behind a dam, flywheels, storing compressed air under water, and/or using high temperature gas reactors will help overcome the variability of solar/wind power or extreme weather, such as the snow storm witnessed in Texas in early 2021.

A chapter of the integrated national strategy should address the hydrocarbon industry, focusing on economic solutions to enable the hydrocarbon industry meet the target. As stated by Minister O’Regan, “…we’re not reaching net-zero without our oil and gas sector.”

The Canadian Academy of Engineering is committed to providing support in meeting the net-zero target. The Academy is in a unique position to help facilitate discussions and consultations to create an innovation ecosystem, focused on the development of a national strategy and assessment of various pathways. Over the past several months the Academy has been engaged in connecting people, ideas, technologies, and projects, and closing knowledge gaps.

Meeting the net zero-target requires massive collaboration, as Helen Keller said: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

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