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The calamitous oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20th, 2010, is a stunning reminder of the safety and environmental risks associated with our energy systems.
It also highlights how important energy is to modern society as the world searches for energy in increasingly varied and remote places to meet our growing energy needs.
At the same time, energy consumption, which accounts for 84 percent of global carbon emissions, is threatening to irreversibly alter the earth’s climate, risking unprecedented economic, social and environmental hardship.
Countries around the world will require innovation in harnessing opportunities created in moving to safe and more sustainable extraction, production, transmission and uses of energy.
Transitioning to a lower-carbon economy will require a strategic examination of not only our consumption and production of hydrocarbons, but all our energy sources. All possible solutions need to be on the table.
As a major producer, exporter and consumer of energy, Canada cannot idly watch from the sidelines. There are just too many jobs, resources and wealth at stake. Canadians are amongst the world’s highest consumers of energy on a per capita basis in part because of the cold climate and the vastness of the country and there is little or no likelihood that our energy demands will diminish as we go forward.
On June 4th, 2009, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources undertook a comprehensive study to examine and report on the current and future state of Canada’s energy system.
Attention Canada! Preparing for our Energy Future is the committee’s first interim report and concludes phase I of our study. It represents the culmination of nearly nine months of study and research including testimony from Canada’s leading energy thinkers, research institutions and other stakeholders.
The message is clear: there is urgent need for a national discussion on energy. Canada requires a comprehensive Canadian Sustainable Energy Strategy now.
Groups such as the Energy Framework Initiative, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, Public Policy Forum, Energy Policy Institute of Canada, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canada School of Energy and the Environment, the Canada West Foundation, the Pembina Institute and the Energy Council of Canada are working on and/or have raised the need for a common energy framework in order that federal, provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders work together to better coordinate Canada’s future energy, economic and environmental policies so as to minimize risk and to take full advantage of opportunities of the new energy economy.
The report recognizes the importance of addressing climate change through carbon pricing and the need to improve the sustainable supply of existing and emerging sources of energy. It also discusses the importance of improving the ways we use and conserve energy as a means to address our energy and environmental challenges while also improving economic productivity.
This report recognizes the important economic relationship between Canada and the United States and the need to harmonize where practical our energy policy objectives for the benefit of both countries.
Canada’s electricity system is examined, including the potential for further provincial electricity market integration. This report examines items related to energy security, particularly with regard to maintaining and expanding Canada’s energy export markets.
The need to innovate and develop technologies that are in line with Canada’s competitive advantage is identified as a key issue in meeting Canada’s economic, energy and environmental objectives.
The report also identifies issues such as balancing the need for building new energy infrastructure while also addressing the environmental impact it may have on nearby communities. The need to implement effective and smarter regulatory frameworks is also explored.
The report concludes by encouraging the participation of all Canadians in a national energy discussion. To this end, the committee will be seeking views and opinions of Canadians in each region of the country over the coming year.
To facilitate this process, the committee has outlined key questions in how to move forward in developing a Canadian Sustainable Energy Strategy, which will help form the basis of recommendations in the committee’s final report expected June 2011.
This interim report is a work in progress. Therefore, it contains no recommendations. The report does not identify every issue. Rather, it represents a preliminary outline of the key issues to be considered in developing a Canadian sustainable energy policy framework for the future. Its purpose is to lay the groundwork for a national energy dialogue and to raise awareness amongst Canadians of the urgent need for a new and smarter energy strategy.