Canadians are among the worst carbon emitters in the world. Here’s what we can do about it – .

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Canadians are among the worst carbon emitters in the world. Here’s what we can do about it – .


A new report from a Berlin-based think-tank shows that Canada is lagging behind other rich countries in reducing carbon emissions and outlines concrete steps individuals, governments and businesses can take to help the world limit global warming to the 1.5 ° C target. set by the Paris Agreement.
The report, 1.5-Degree Lifestyles: Towards A Fair Consumption Space for All, was produced by the Hot or Cool Institute, and compares 10 countries selected to represent a range of income levels – Canada, Finland, UK, Japan, China, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, India and Indonesia.

Among the countries studied, Canada had by far the worst per capita balance.

(Australia and the United States, which are also among the world’s largest per capita emitters, were not included in the report.)

The analysis compared the average carbon emissions per capita of people in each of these countries, a measure the authors called “the average carbon footprint of lifestyle.” The report focuses on key areas where tangible lifestyle changes could make a significant difference, including food, shelter and personal transportation.

The average person in Canada produces an equivalent of 14.2 tonnes of CO2 in 2019, according to the results. By comparison, the average per capita footprint in Finland is 9.7 tonnes and in the UK it is 8.5 tonnes.

“I think the atmosphere in Canada gives us a real opportunity to ask for a change,” said lead author Lewis Akenji, who is also CEO of the Hot or Cool Institute.

Akenji said the idea was to tie the goals of the Paris Agreement to tangible lifestyle changes that can make a difference, in light of this year’s “code red” report by the Intergovernmental Panel. United Nations Climate Change Conference (IPCC).


“Not just the individual”: need for better infrastructure

If Canada is to play its part, he said, the country will need to reduce its per capita carbon emissions by 82% over the next decade and 95% by 2050.

Eating meat, using fossil fuel cars, flying, and living in large, energy-intensive homes are all highlighted in the report as lifestyle choices that contribute to a larger carbon footprint.

“There is no such thing as a universal and sustainable way of life,” the report says. “If one has to use a car, then an electric car in Iceland might make sense, where 100% of the electricity comes from renewables, but not in India where the electricity is mainly produced from coal. “

While the required reductions may seem drastic, they are possible, according to Madhur Anand, a professor in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph and director of the Guelph Institute for Environmental Research.

“We can progress very quickly. I would look at it that way, rather than thinking it’s too big a problem to solve, ”said Anand.

Many European countries, like Germany and the UK, started investing in technology to cut carbon emissions long before Canada, but experts say there is still time to catch up.

“It’s not just the individual who has to change,” Akenji said. “Policies must be put in place, companies must offer viable and sustainable products. ”

“You cannot have citizens who simply act and the government waits for citizens to change their way of life. Canada does not have that luxury. “

A photo shows commuters stuck in a traffic jam in Laval, Quebec. While citizens can reduce their carbon footprint by buying electric cars or switching to bicycles, trains or buses, experts say the government must also provide reliable and efficient public transport options for all. (Stéphane Grégoire / Radio-Canada)

Less fossil fuel cars, less meat

The concept behind the 1.5 Degree Lifestyles Report was to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and, based on IPCC modeling, to establish a target carbon footprint. fair to individuals, which is the same everywhere. a person lives in the world, rich or poor.

The number to target is 0.7 tonnes of CO2 per capita each year by 2050, according to the report’s findings. In order to be on track to reach this mark, the average would need to be 2.5 tonnes per person by 2030.

Preventing global warming and extreme weather events predicted in the latest IPCC modeling will require changing the way we travel, heat and cool our homes and what we eat, according to Berlin-based research.

Much of the blame lies with countries like Canada, where the report found that per capita consumption emissions are six times that of India, which averages 2.2 tonnes per person per year. .

Canadians’ love of meat and dairy products has proven to be significant contributors to the carbon footprint, in part due to the popularity of cheese and beef, which are carbon-intensive foods.

Keeping homes heated is another important factor. While Canadians can’t help but have long, cold winters, their reliance on natural gas as an energy source combined with large living spaces is increasing household footprints, according to the report.

By comparison, in a lower middle-income country like India, living spaces are smaller and a significant portion of the population lives in poverty; as a result, the overall energy demand is quite low per person due to basic living conditions and a warmer climate. This, combined with the popularity of vegetarianism, keeps the carbon footprint relatively low, with most of the food consumed being plant-based and low-impact.

Anand recently published an article on how global inequalities can in fact exacerbate climate change, due to conflict.

“We know there is a huge issue of inequity in terms of climate change both on the emissions side but also on the impact side,” she said.

“We need to see the richer countries helping the poorer countries. There is no other solution. “

Even compared to richer countries, Canada has a lot of work to do.

Take the example of Japan, where people from afar are less dependent on cars thanks to reliable and efficient public transport systems.

For the average Japanese, transportation contributes 1,970 kg CO₂e to their carbon footprint. For the average Canadian, that’s more than double, at 5,000 kg of eq. CO.

“By far the biggest savings Canadians can make in terms of changes are to switch from private car use to shared mobility systems,” Akenji said.

“The government must ensure that these [shared transit] options are available… that they are effective [and] they are regular so that people can count on them to go to work or visit their families, and also to be clean and safe.

According to the 1.5 Degree Lifestyles Report, meat and dairy contribute greatly to the footprint, especially in high-income countries like Canada. (CBC / 1.5 Degree Lifestyles: Towards a Fair Consumption Space for All)

Diet is another factor and if Canadians want to reduce their footprint, the report suggests eating less meat. Meat products account for 61 percent of the average Canadian’s dietary carbon footprint of 2,270 kg of eq. CO per year.

Tom Gunton, founding director of the resource and environmental planning program at Simon Fraser University, said he believes there is momentum for change in Canada.

“Everything is doable. We just have to roll up our sleeves and get there, ”he said.

“The bad news is that we have a very bad record in Canada. We have very high emissions compared to any rich country in the world. The good news is that we are actually starting to develop plans to achieve these reductions.

Work to do, says government

Canada has pledged to reduce its emissions by 40-45% by 2030 and to move to net zero emissions by 2050.

Gunton said there was a lack of a plan clearly outlining how those goals will be achieved, especially as the energy sector continues to depend on oil and gas.

“We’re going in the opposite direction and that’s probably our biggest gap right now. We need to eliminate all subsidies in the oil and gas sector and use that money to invest in renewables or help transitions in this sector for workers. “

As the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland quickly approaches, the office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada has recognized that there is work to be done.

Press Secretary Joanna Sivasankaran said that while Canada is responsible for less than two percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, it is true that the country is one of the biggest emitters by living in the world.

“The Government of Canada has a real and serious plan to fight climate change by reducing pollution in all sectors of the economy and in all regions of the country, including measures to reduce emissions from transportation, homes and buildings and agriculture, ”Sivasankaran said.

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