Political squabbling puts Canada net-zero goals at risk

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, a central figure in net-zero debate, gives a government update in Calgary on Jan. 10.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Canada’s efforts to retool its economy to achieve net-zero carbon emissions are being jeopardized by federal-provincial squabbling, and the co-chair of the panel advising Ottawa says independent industry experts should be deployed to bridge the political divides.

Dan Wicklum of the Net Zero Advisory Body (NZAB) says Canada should implement a series of industrial policies to reach net zero by 2050. These are crucial for living up to international climate commitments, but also to take advantage of the economic opportunities, he says. The NZAB released its inaugural annual report Friday, with 25 pieces of advice for the government.

The debate is already highly charged. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith loudly opposes federal plans for oil-and-gas-sector retraining to prepare for the shift to lower-carbon energy in the coming decades. She has pounced on briefing notes that, she says, show the federal government is bent on eliminating the industry and putting hundreds of thousands of Albertans out of work under the guise of a “just transition.” Ottawa has said the numbers in the briefing notes reflect workers that could be affected by the shift and may need extra support.

Canada’s oil sands are making billions – and very little of it is going to net-zero commitments

Such intergovernmental friction represents a “uniquely Canadian challenge,” though other major economies have their own hurdles, said Mr. Wicklum, who once headed up the energy sector’s environmental technology co-operative, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance.

“We can’t let this get in the way of progress, so we do need to tackle this in new and different ways,” he said.

Independent intermediaries who are experts in various sectors, such as energy or transportation, can offer knowledge and seek know-how from others in their fields, as well as develop “sectoral buy-in,” the NZAB said in its report. Such go-betweens can improve the flow of information between industry and government and help keep climate-related initiatives from getting derailed by commercial interests.

In addition, Mr. Wicklum said, they can help lower the …


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