Engineers’ Top 6 Actions to Address the Climate Crisis in 2021

This week, world leaders continue to meet in Glasgow to participate in the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). The COP26 summit brought parties together to look at ways to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Delivering Canada’s national statement, Prime Minister Trudeau and other Canadian government officials:

  • Advocated for increased global ambition and action to cut pollution and create new opportunities for workers
  • Championed putting a price on pollution to reach global climate goals, and called on all countries to take bold action to expand the use of carbon pricing globally
  • Called for leaders to work together to increase coverage of pollution pricing from 20 per cent of global emissions currently to 60 per cent by 2030
  • Announced investments of up to $57.5 million to help the world’s most vulnerable countries adapt to the climate crisis and increase resilience
  • Announced new funding of up to $1 billion to assist with the clean energy transition and phasing out of thermal coal
  • Reaffirmed its support for the Global Methane Pledge, and the objective of reducing total methane emissions by at least 30 per cent below 2020 levels by 2030

At the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, we understand that the science of climate change is clear and settled: human activities, especially greenhouse gas emissions, are the dominant cause of the observed global warming since the mid-20th century. We also know that the time for action is now. In order to address this pressing issue all orders of government, the private sector, and civil society must work together towards clear, ambitious and achievable targets, timetables and accountability mechanisms.

This important work includes engineers.

Engineers, according to the Professional Engineers Act, must ensure that life, health, property, and the public welfare are protected. Engineers know that protecting the environment is essential to promoting a sustainable and healthy lifestyle for current and future generations. As the advocacy body and voice of the engineering community, OSPE is fully committed to fighting the climate crisis. Engineering input and expertise is vital towards combatting climate change.

Ontario Engineers’ Top 6 Actions on the Climate Crisis include:

1. Calling for Radical Change to Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Planning Framework
Engineers on OSPE’s Energy Task Force know the current framework is not suited to the new paradigm, structure, technology developments, interdependencies, and market trends happening throughout the energy industry. Radical change is required. Ontario needs to address the need to review and change the roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities of the Ministry of Energy, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), and the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), to address the shortcomings of the current framework. This framework must be sustainable to protect the environment and address climate change. The long-term planning goal of the energy industry in Ontario must be to provide a clean, reliable, resilient, affordable and sustainable supply of energy to all customers—residential, commercial and industrial.

2. Pushing for the Electrification of the Transportation Sector
OSPE supports the need for adopting electric vehicles (EVs) into the public transit system to address greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. Transportation upgrades must consider the infrastructure needed to support the transition towards a net-zero economy, from clean and renewable energy sources through the entire energy system and its end-use. Investing in EVs provides the opportunity of achieving short-term results, while allowing clean sectors to grow sustainably over time. According to the Windfall Centre, if EVs were to reach a 10% share of the total vehicle population by 2025, Ontario would experience a GDP increase of over $3.6 billion. Ontario would benefit from a growing industry that would be modern, efficient, and create new employment opportunities across the province. To ensure Ontario accelerate the electrification of its transportation system, the Ministry of Transportation should:

  • Work with the federal and municipal governments to allocate specific resources to the electrification of the public transportation system.
  • Develop and implement an incentive program for electric vehicles, until mass adoption “tipping point” is achieved.
  • Permit free or discounted access for EVs to all tolled highways in Ontario.
  • Establish a robust network of electric vehicle charging stations across Ontario.

3. Ensuring All Infrastructure Projects Are Sustainable
OSPE welcomes needed investment in infrastructure that is “shovel-worthy”, and able to provide long term benefits to Ontarians. To build long-term sustainable infrastructure, it is important that the government consult appropriately with stakeholders and the communities affected. These consultations must be transparent and information should be shared throughout the entire process.

For example, OSPE urges the Ontario Government to answer the concerns raised through its plan to build the Bradford Bypass, which would run through Ontario’s Greenbelt, as well as cancel its plan to build Highway 413. All levels of government should retain expert engineering input on transportation infrastructure to guarantee short and long-term planning that best serves the needs of the Greater Toronto Area for the upcoming years.

4. Advocating for a Sustainable Minerals sector in Ontario
Engineers have been a key stakeholder group engaged in the development of Ontario’s first ever Critical Minerals Strategy. Engineering input was clear: each step in the supply chain, including exploration, construction, mining and manufacturing must be a sustainable practice. Ontario can play a leading role in supplying leading industries and supporting the low-carbon transition through its critical minerals.

5. Ensuring Engineers Have the Skills Required to Succeed in the Energy Efficiency and Green Building Sector
As Ontario and Canada transition towards a low-carbon future, the energy efficiency and building sectors will be at the forefront of change. To accelerate this, it is important to strengthen the capacity of the existing workforce and attract more people to work in these sectors, especially engineers.

In 2018, the green building sector directly employed approximately 436,000 workers across 51,000 establishments in Canada within the following key industries: construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, professional and business services and utilities, all of which employ engineers. Together, these generated $82.6 billion in estimated energy efficiency operating revenues in 2018.

In the next 10 years, targeted investment and policies in support of green buildings can lead to 626,080 direct green building jobs in Canada. Engineers are key to planning and executing the green projects that will provide these jobs. Without engineers this sector will not flourish. Further investment in this sector would not only help fight climate change but would also stimulate the economy by creating more jobs for Ontarians. OSPE is calling on the Ontario Government to invest in green jobs.

6. Calling for Ontario’s Building Code to be Net-Zero
The building sector accounts for about 22 per cent of Ontario’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Reducing this sector’s carbon footprint is key in achieving Ontario’s and Canada’s climate targets. The National Building Code (NBC 2020) and the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB 2020) contain new guidelines for energy efficiency in homes, small buildings, and commercial and institutional buildings.

NBC 2020 section 9.36 focuses on energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to support a long-term goal of a net zero energy ready (NZER) model building code by 2030. Provinces have the option to adopt these provisions. Ontario should adopt these sections of the NBC 2020 into the Ontario Building Code O.Reg. 332/12 and define clear steps and deadlines to achieve a NZER code by 2030. By doing so, not only would Ontario decrease its carbon footprint, but would also create jobs moving forward, especially under the lens of more energy efficient buildings and retrofits. This would also provide opportunity to lower life cycle costs to building owners and retrain workers in particularly hard-hit sectors. Ontario could learn from other jurisdictions, like British Columbia, who in 2017 became the first North American jurisdiction to create a regulated pathway for net-zero energy-ready buildings, through its BC Energy Step Code.

Looking ahead to 2022
Highlighting ways to combat the climate crisis will continue to be a key focus for Ontario’s engineers for years to come. OSPE will be hosting members-only consultations in 2022 to further discuss and develop recommendations for government, bring forward topics for OSPE’s 2022 Engineering Conference, and get feedback from members on how to collaborate across the industry.

Visit OSPE’s events calendar for more information.

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