Net zero is possible but requires strong policy. There are many potential pathways for Canada to reach net zero by 2050, but success depends on increased policy ambition across the country.
Two types of solutions are key to the transition to net zero:
- “Safe bets” are low-risk solutions including proven technologies;
- “Wild cards” are high-risk, but potentially high-reward solutions that are still in early stages of development. They should be treated as distinct but complementary (not competing) policy priorities.
Based on our research, we offer the following recommendations for policy makers from all orders of government:
Policy can and should send clear signals to proceed with these safe bets and provide strong incentives throughout the economy. The policy architecture to create these incentives is already in place across Canada. Governments must now proceed with policy implementation, and households and businesses with adoption.
Canadian policy should commit to multiple potential wild card solutions. It should create an enabling environment that reduces barriers to innovation, creates opportunities for the development of emerging technologies, incentivizes involvement from private and civil sectors, and remains flexible to unpredictable technological and global change.
Climate accountability frameworks can help establish clear expectations for future stringency of policy by breaking long-term targets into discrete, manageable, short-term segments. They can also help the public keep governments accountable to their climate targets and policy commitments, as well as create regular opportunities for course correction. And they can help manage the risk and uncertainty associated with wild cards.
Reducing emissions will not inevitably lead to a just and equitable society. And factors driving the transition to net zero (both within and outside our control) could, in the absence of supportive policy, exacerbate existing inequalities. Where impacts are driven by factors outside our control—such as policy action in the rest of the world— governments should implement the necessary supports to minimize and mitigate these risks. When factors driving the transition are within our control—notably Canada’s own policy actions—policies should be used to advance a range of social, economic, and environmental benefits.