Members of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources spent four days in Sarnia and Hamilton, learning how industries in Ontario’s petrochemical and steel capitals are reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The four-day fact-finding mission (from November 14 to 17 2016) was part of the committee’s study on Canada’s transition to a lower-carbon economy. The committee is examining the five sectors responsible for the majority of GHG emissions: electricity, transportation, oil and gas, buildings and emission-intensive trade-exposed industries.
The committee hopes to table interim reports on electricity and transportation early in 2017 and a final report later that year.
Because dozens of companies in the Sarnia-Lambton region, including petroleum refineries and plastic manufacturers, rely on fossil fuels, the government’s goal to reduce GHG emissions to five per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 poses a challenge.
Senators Richard Neufeld and Dennis Patterson met community leaders and chamber of commerce members who support clean energy, but stressed governments must understand the economic, social and environmental impacts of their climate change policies.
“The people we met at the chamber of commerce support the shift to a cleaner economy,” said Senator Neufeld, “but they also stressed the need for greater collaboration between the oil and gas sector and renewables.”
Chamber members felt the government should “proceed with caution” on any carbon-pricing mechanism. Canada can’t afford a policy experiment that gets it wrong, they argued.
Senators Neufeld and Patterson, along with senators Paul Massicotte and Percy Mockler, visited NOVA Chemicals plastic manufacturing facility and BioAmber’s bio-chemical plant. Chemistry Industry of Canada Association President Bob Masterson called for a carbon policy that allows for economic growth.
In Hamilton, ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s senior management team said the world needs more Canadian steel. President Sean Donnelly acknowledged his company’s steelmaking plant is Ontario’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter. But because steel made in Canada is three times cleaner than Chinese steel, an increase in Canadian steel production to replace dirtier steel made elsewhere, could help reduce global carbon emissions, he said.
The trip highlight was a forum with students, faculty and community members at McMaster’s Great Hall where senators Massicotte, Mockler and Neufeld heard from students about the challenges and opportunities a lower-carbon economy offers.
As Senator Massicotte said, “We can’t afford not to do something about climate change. The question is: how do we balance environment and economy?”
The committee hopes to meet with Canadian businesses, policy experts, students, and environmental groups in the new year with scheduled trips to Québec and Atlantic Canada.