The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set 2050 as an approximate target for reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as the most likely way to avoid overshooting global warming of 1.5°C. Meeting this goal is both ambitious and essential, believes Elizabeth Shirt, managing director of GLOBE Series.
“Achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 is a moon shot and also critical for Canada and the world if we’re going to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis,” she says. “There is a lot of momentum, and I am excited about the net-zero commitments from leading organizations. But we need to do more to scale ideas, solutions and practices.”
A recently released report by the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices highlights the role of safe bets and wild cards in scaling the clean economy. Safe bets are areas where technologies and systems are already in place, like electric vehicles or energy-efficient buildings. Wild cards, on the other hand, require more effort since they represent technologies in the earlier stages of development. Examples are green hydrogen and direct air capture. To reach net-zero emissions, according to the institute’s model, we’ll need to quickly scale safe bets and invest in wild card innovation.
“Safe bets can help drive progress towards Canada’s 2030 emissions goal. But for getting closer to the 2050 target, we’ll need more wild cards,” says Ms. Shirt. The good news is that a combination of low R&D costs, skilled talent, a wealth of natural resources and wide support for innovation allows Canada to punch above its weight in clean technology. Noteworthy examples include innovations that transform carbon dioxide from waste into a commodity and create blue and green hydrogen.
“The transition to a net-zero economy promises more than just environmental benefits,” Ms. Shirt says. “It will bring fundamental changes to industries across the country.”
Canadian Institute for Climate Choices research shows strong linkages between achieving economic growth and meeting environmental and social objectives. “This makes it difficult – if not impossible – to have sustained progress in any one of these areas without targeting all three,” Ms. Shirt says. “We need a shift in how we define and measure returns, so that environmental and social benefits are counted alongside economic gains.”
Social impacts have come to the forefront due to the coronavirus pandemic – and associated setbacks for women and vulnerable community members – as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, with advocates and organizations joining the call to “build back better,” she says. “COVID-19 has shown us that there are communities and segments of the population that are at heightened risk in times of uncertainty and transition. We have to ensure no one is left behind.”
For Ms. Shirt, the journey to recovery – and to advancing a clean economy – has to include creating meaningful employment as well as fostering equitable and inclusive participation and engagement from people of diverse backgrounds, including Indigenous peoples and women.
The upcoming GLOBE Capital event will include a range of voices “so we have a diversity of views and perspectives on how to make progress together,” says Ms. Shirt.
The goal is to bring together “the right people around the right questions to drive action,” she says. “Innovation is a team sport, and we won’t reach our goals without partnerships and collaboration. We want to create a virtual tent where people from diverse backgrounds – from government and the private sector to solution providers and investors – can come together.
“I’m most excited about the sessions that see the convergence of the need to invest in infrastructure, scale innovation and ensure our communities are becoming more resilient,” Ms. Shirt says.
The clean economy carries strong potential for “reducing emissions, creating good jobs, supporting communities that are potentially vulnerable to climate change, and improving quality of life overall,” says Ms. Shirt, who hopes the momentum created at GLOBE Capital will help to accelerate our trajectory towards a brighter future.
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.