Ottawa’s ‘net-zero’ mission will cause widespread economic and social harm

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Appeared in the Toronto Sun, January 25, 2023
Ottawa’s ‘net-zero’ mission will cause widespread economic and social harm

This year—2023—marks year two of Canada’s net-zero plan, which will remake virtually every aspect of our economy and society, if it proceeds according to the Trudeau government’s ambitious plans.

To recap, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act became law on June 29, 2021, committing Canada to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2050. In March 2022, the federal government published the Emissions Reduction Plan, which requires 45 to 50 per cent reductions in GHG emissions from Canada by 2030, boasting separate net-zero programs for buildings, electricity, heavy industry, oil and gas, transportation, agriculture, waste. Simply put, since 2021 Canada has committed virtually every aspect of its existence to achieve a net-zero posture by 2050. And all Canadian policies, regardless of how small or how tall, will be seen as virtuous if they move the needle to net-zero, or failures if they do not.

We’ve already seen the effect on average Canadians. Under the “waste” component of the 2030 emissions reduction plan, the government mandated single-use plastics out of existence for most people. The actual bans kicked in at the end of 2022, so if you’re still running on hoarded plastic ware, straws and coffee stirrers, you’ll want to make it last. And yet, an analysis of Canada’s net-zero plastics plan proves it’s a net loser. By the government’s own admission, the bans address a virtual non-problem (99 per cent of plastic waste in Canada was already disposed of safely, from a public and environmental perspective). But the government will spend more of your money on the program than it will save you in averted environmental, health or safety damages. And of course, according to predictions from the government itself, substitute materials will actually increase the mass of waste you’ll pay to dispose of and be more harmful to the environment.

On the housing front, the government’s 2030 emissions reduction plan calls for emissions from homes and commercial buildings to fall 42 per cent (from 2019 levels) by 2030. This is wildly unrealistic. If you’d like some numbers, C.D. Howe economists estimate “total annual retrofit costs, just to households, would run from $4.5 billion to $6.3 billion.” That’s roughly the cost of building two or three modern hospitals per year.

Finally, net-zero measures are pending for Canada’s oil and gas sector and the agricultural sector (fertilizer), which will put a massive hurt on Western Canada and raise questions about the sanity of some folks in Ottawa. In case you didn’t know, natural gas is critically important for a) producing electricity at affordable costs, b) stabilizing global energy flows and c) displacing more-polluting forms of electricity generation such as coal and wood. And without fertilizer, you can’t grow crops in modern agriculture, certainly not in a country such as Canada.

The Trudeau government has gotten far out over its skies in its frenzied adoption of the net-zero emissions by 2050 framework. If this plan it allowed to continue, it will causes economic and social harms that will take decades to remediate. In 2023, if something has the word “net-zero” attached to it, Canadians should say net-no-thanks.

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