Political engagement and consultations put energy efficiency on the national agenda
With climate change goals being taken seriously, CEEA is poised to lead the way for energy efficiency policy
After conducting over 30 meetings in Ottawa at CEEA’s Day on the Hill event in November, the future looks positive for energy efficiency at the national level, especially after the signing of the framework on climate change.. Engaged politicians at all levels was just one of the key takeaways during our three days of promotion and networking for the sector. After almost a decade of engagement-shy elected officials, people were still a bit surprised seeing ministers showing up at think tanks and bureaucrats taking meetings. It is now a new era.
Energy efficiency: The best way to meet climate commitments
We discovered there’s a great desire to learn, which translates into new opportunities for the sector and CEEA. The big difference from our government meetings last year was the new government suspected CEEA was important, now it understands how and why it is important.
Awareness about energy efficiency has definitely improved. The federal government has now been active on the climate agenda for a year. In addition, we have even more substantive analytical support. The IEA’s World Energy Outlook Special Report confirmed energy efficiency as the largest contributor to global GHG abatement. Energy efficiency can deliver 49 per cent of emission reductions by 2030 and produce energy savings. In terms of reducing GHG the IEA finds energy efficiency to be more effective than coal, fossil fuel subsidy reform, upstream methane reductions and renewables investment.
Parliamentary Secretaries support energy efficiency
Unfortunately Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna could not attend as scheduled, but we were lucky to have their experienced, and impressive Parliamentary Secretaries speak – Kim Rudd and John Wilkinson respectively. Both of them had overwhelmingly positive messages of the critical role that energy efficiency will play in terms of Canada meeting its climate objectives.
Strategic meetings for members
We had strategic meetings with politicians from all parties. Some of our more enlightening discussions were with François-Philippe Champagne, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance as well as with the chairs and members of significant committees such as Natural Resources and the Environment. They were interested in learning more about financing mechanisms and have asked to review our tax amendment proposal. Understandably they also want to see every Canadian touched by the opportunity of energy efficiency – not just urban Canadians but those in less dense parts of the country.
Politicians and bureaucrats are truly serious – they understand energy efficiency is an effective tool to accomplish their climate goals. There will be upcoming roundtables on the greening of the federal government, showing that the government can lead by example and to ensure they’re doing everything they can, and that it is done properly. They were interested in both the economic and environmental opportunity that energy efficiency can deliver.
Engagement across all levels in Ottawa
While the previous Conservative government was interested in energy efficiency as a way to save money and to use Alberta’s resources more sustainably, they were not as attracted to the concept of conservation.
Under this government Opposition members are feeling more engaged. We met with two NDP MPs who told us the women’s caucus has been resurrected. It was not active during Harper’s time on the Hill. So women MPs from all parties are now talking to one another again, which has opened another way to get things done in Ottawa and makes the democratic process more inclusive.
Overall we found that when doing political meetings they were kept at a workable policy level that can lead to something achievable, rather than just going through the motions of consultation. These discussions at the political level are also helpful to public servants who need to supply different options to the government. So this was a great opportunity for members and sponsors.
Business forum highlights energy efficiency opportunities
During our business forum Ottawa’s greening of government was portrayed as a serious effort and our speakers overwhelmed us with opportunities for energy efficiency. Saleem Sattar from the Department of Defence was clear about what it is doing – they are moving forward to reduce GHG emissions and save energy. Taylor Graf from the Department of Procurement and Public Works was also clear about the opportunities for energy efficiency in federal buildings – and they want to ensure the investment is money well spent. Ultimately they are focussed on what the government will be doing through its greening of government initiative – a program to ensure government’s new buildings, existing building stock, and the buildings they lease meet the highest levels of efficiency and climate mitigation. Each department will have to report real numbers in their progress to the Treasury Board annually.
The OEE’s Patricia Fuller introduced us to new staff and also discussed the greening of government. She talked about the role NRCan has played in working with other departments to develop the federal government’s climate framework that was presented to the provincial governments last week. No doubt the OEE is very busy and a great partner for CEEA.
Genevieve Bourget from Global Affairs Canada, told us about how Global Affairs and the trade commissioners can assist businesses looking to expand their markets outside of Canada.
Energy efficiency in the shadow of the U.S. election
Our insiders’ panel brought to light some concerns about the level of consultation going on, questioning how the government will be able to manage the information. As journalist Susan Delacourt noted, it means the public service has to deal with more information but without more money or people. Susan Scotti from the Business Council of Canada mentioned that as well. Overall the U.S. election was perceived as unsettling in the face of the new U.S. political reality. While we’re not sure whether the three amigos will still exist given the trade deal atmosphere in Washington come January, Sarah Goldfeder, a former U.S. Diplomat, and principal at Earnscliffe, said don’t presume anything – energy efficiency may still be fine. By looking at the economic benefits of energy efficiency instead of climate change it may be ok. That is something we have been familiar with doing at CEEA, but the real threat of climate change has made the case for energy efficiency stronger than ever.
Posted December 13, 2016
Elizabeth McDonald is president of CEEA