Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada’s buildings necessary to meeting Paris Agreement targets
November 16, 2018
Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Canada’s buildings is necessary to the reduction of Canada’s carbon footprint. This can be done by using less energy for heating, using energy more efficiently, and switching to electricity for heat sources where possible. Not only will these changes protect the climate, they may help Canadians save money in the long-term and improve the comfort of the spaces in which they live and work.
Residential, commercial and industrial buildings account for 17% of Canada’s GHG emissions, when the emissions associated with electricity used in buildings are included. Burning fossil fuels for space heating accounts for the largest share of these emissions. Policy measures identified by federal, provincial and territorial governments could reduce 2030 emissions by nearly 20% below 2015 levels.
The Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources has released a report entitled Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment, which examines the impact of the transition to a low-carbon economy on Canada’s buildings.
Our homes and buildings deeply influence how we live; they reflect who we are, individually and collectively, and represent not only our inheritance from the past but also our legacy for the future. The choices that we make today about construction materials and heating options for buildings will last for generations, so it is important to understand how our buildings contribute to, and are affected by, global climate change.
The report highlights the many benefits and challenges of reducing GHG emissions in Canada’s building sector. Benefits include lower home heating costs and reduced impact on global climate change. Challenges include the high cost of renovations to adapt to green energy and the limited availability of low-emission energy sources for heating homes in remote and northern communities.
Incorporating energy efficiency and emissions reduction measures into new buildings is practical because new buildings can be designed to be higher-performing from the outset. For existing homes and buildings, energy efficiency investments may pay for themselves over time through reduced energy costs but deep retrofits that achieve emission reductions of 40% or more are still very expensive. For that reason, innovation is needed to lower the costs of retrofit technologies.
Federal policies to reduce building sector emissions may affect the affordability of homes and buildings. Investments that improve energy and emissions performance of existing buildings over the long term can sometimes have a high upfront cost. For this reason, the proposed national retrofit code could disproportionately burden vulnerable populations and people living in northern and remote communities and regions without access to low-emission energy sources.
This report is the last of five interim reports on the study of Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. A final report will be released later this year, summarizing the findings of all five reports with recommendations to the federal government.
- The building sector in Canada comprises 14.1 million households and 482,000 commercial or institutional buildings.
- Canadians spend 90% of their time indoors, making buildings an ever-present and essential part of modern living.
- In 2015, Canada’s building sector, including buildings with electricity-related emissions, emitted nearly 111 Mt CO₂E², accounting for 17% of the country’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“Canada must rise to meet the challenge of mitigating the impact of man-made climate change. This is a matter that goes beyond our borders. It is our responsibility to pursue the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in this country. This is a worthwhile goal and we are convinced that making strategic and calculated choices about the carbon footprint of buildings today will leave an enduring, low-carbon heritage for future generations.”
- Senator Rosa Galvez, Chair of the committee
“Canada needs to develop policy that supports the affordable transition to green homes and buildings. We know the technology exists to make the changes needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but we also know that many Canadian homeowners and businesses cannot afford to make the necessary changes. Any policy surrounding building codes or retrofitting of existing buildings must balance the urgent need to reduce emissions with affordability.”
- Senator Michael L. MacDonald, Deputy Chair of the committee
- Read the report entitled Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Canada’s Built Environment
- Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #ENEV
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