Home Page News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Hill Times Books Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In
Opinion

Shift to low-carbon buildings requires all governments to step up

By Karen Tam Wu      

A framework first ministers agreed to last year provided the ambition, and now we need to see action and accountability.

Moving to energy-efficient and low-carbon homes and buildings will help Canada reach its climate goals, writes Karen Tam Wu. Pascual Flores photograph courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

Eight months ago, Canada’s first ministers set the stage for bold action in the building sector. They committed in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change to pursue some of the lowest-cost, most rapidly achievable ways to reduce carbon emissions.

On the heels of the Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference in St. Andrews, N.B. earlier this month, the time has come for governments at all levels to redouble their efforts and support the rapid and complete implementation of these measures.

The shift to ultra energy-efficient and low-carbon homes and buildings will help Canada reach its 2030 climate target under the Paris Agreement as well as its longer-term decarbonization goals. It will also reduce energy costs for Canadians.

Ten organizations‚ÄĒincluding the¬†Pembina¬†Institute, Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance, and the Atmospheric Fund‚ÄĒare urging the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to prioritize swift action on new and existing buildings. We¬†sent a letter¬†to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

To improve energy efficiency, reduce energy costs, and create green jobs, our coalition encourages these key federal actions: (1) driving momentum toward ‚Äúnet-zero energy ready‚ÄĚ new construction, (2) accelerating retrofits and emissions reductions in existing buildings, (3) improving energy-efficiency standards for appliances, (4) catalyzing private investment in energy efficiency through strategic use of public funds, and (5) leading by example with public buildings.

In addition to the federal government making good on its commitments, the provinces must fulfil their end of the bargain set out in the pan-Canadian framework. This includes making a commitment to implement a net-zero energy ready building code in their jurisdiction by around 2030, as British Columbia and Ontario have already done. Provinces should also join the federal government in leading by example with public buildings, requiring that new buildings meet net-zero energy ready standards immediately, and developing a retrofit strategy for existing buildings.

Other necessary provincial actions include adopting the model retrofit code being developed by the federal government, requiring energy labelling and disclosure for homes and businesses by 2019, and bolstering energy-efficiency standards for equipment. Provincial governments have a responsibility to enact supporting legislation in line with the pan-Canadian framework where they have the authority to do so, and to share lessons learned along the way with other jurisdictions.

The framework provided the ambition, and now we need to see action and accountability. Moving to an ultra energy-efficient, low-carbon building sector is a win-win for Canadians. When energy efficiency in our homes and buildings goes up, our carbon pollution and utility bills will go down. An energy-efficient home can lower energy bills by up to 50 per cent, and there are already nearly 300,000 jobs in Canada’s green building sector.

The federal and provincial governments can further support this sector by providing targeted training and capacity building to staff, and resources to assist compliance and enforcement with regulations. Governments can work together to provide innovative financing and incentive programs, and combine their funds effectively to capitalize these programs and leverage private investment.

A transparent mechanism needs to be in place to demonstrate the provinces’ accountability for the federal funding they will receive under the pan-Canadian framework. This will provide assurance that these funds are being used effectively and in line with Canada’s overall objectives for moving to a low-carbon economy and meeting our climate commitments.

Canada has an important opportunity to transform the built environment and transition to a low-carbon future, while enhancing the performance and liveability of Canadian homes and businesses. Demonstrating a low-carbon building sector that is prosperous and innovative will bode well for a successful shift to clean growth across all sectors of our economy.

Karen Tam Wu is director of the Buildings and Urban Solutions Program at the Pembina Institute clean-energy think-tank.

The Hill Times

Politics This Morning

Get the latest news from The Hill Times

Politics This Morning


Your email has been added. An email has been sent to your address, please click the link inside of it to confirm your subscription.
More in News

Amid trauma of missing and murdered Indigenous women, stories of resilience stand out, says chief commissioner

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held its final hearings in Ottawa last week, featuring closing submissions from parties.

Conservative, Liberal staffers want job descriptions, defined pay scales, but Conservative MPs on BOIE shoot down House proposal to help MPs better manage their offices

Conservative and Liberal staffers say they're overworked, underpaid, and some constituency office staffers say they don't feel their work is valued or adequately appreciated by MPs

After two weeks of fury, it’s time for high-level talks between Canada and China, experts say

Canada and China are in a high-stakes dispute over the arrest of a Huawei executive, and options are limited for cooling the boiling conflict.

‘It’s our workplace and our home,’ Parliamentarians to be consulted on massive renovations to iconic Centre Block over next decade

News|By Emily Haws
Officials in charge of Centre Block's renovation told the Procedure and House Affairs Committee on Dec. 10 that the next year would be spent developing a detailed budget, timeline, and plan for work.

Freeland named most valuable politician, NAFTA voted biggest story in The Hill Times’ 22nd Annual All Politics Poll

News|By Beatrice Paez
Canada's top diplomat has had a meteoric rise. She was seen to have deftly handled the volatile NAFTA file and kept her cool amid the heated dispute with the Saudi regime over her call for the release of its dissidents.

Finance bureaucrats, House committee need to stop working in silos on budget planning, says ex-PBO Page

News|By Emily Haws
Liberal House Finance Committee chair Wayne Easter says he thinks the finance minister, his staff and bureaucrats have been listening.

It’s ‚Äėvital‚Äô feds name Conservatives to security committee soon, or it’ll ‘become problematic’: critics, experts

The Conservative Party said it‚Äôs offered two names‚ÄĒone several months ago‚ÄĒto fill its spots on the National Security and Intelligence Committee, but hasn‚Äôt heard back from the government.

Amid holiday festivities, Liberal leadership warns MPs, Hill staffers about ‚Äėzero tolerance‚Äô for harassment, confidential memo shows

News|By Abbas Rana
'Jokes in bad taste, comments about a colleague’s physical appearance, sustained looks, etc. can constitute harassment,’ reads the memo sent out Liberal MPs and staffers.

RCMP forensic lab ‚Äėdrowning in work‚Äô as it misses all response targets, internal figures show

Lawyer Rick Woodburn says prosecutors have to wait too long for samples from the lab, leading to worrying court delays and cases being thrown out.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.