Image credit: SimonSkafar

Safe bets and wild cards

In our February 2021 report Canada’s Net Zero Future, we analyzed over 60 possible scenarios in which Canada reaches net zero by 2050. Our analysis unpacked the significance of larger drivers—both within and outside Canada’s control—that could affect how Canada’s path to net zero evolves. 

We found that some solutions showed up consistently across all possible scenarios, but that others came with more uncertainty in the role they might play. We call these “safe bets” and “wild cards.” 

Safe bets

“Safe bets” are solutions that show up no matter how Canada’s transition plays out. They leverage existing technologies that face no major barriers to scaling, such as electric vehicles, energy efficiency  and non-emitting electricity. Scaling up safe bets is critical to meeting Canada’s climate goals, particularly the 2030 target. 

Wild cards

“Wild cards” are big-risk technologies with potentially big rewards like direct air carbon capture or hydrogen fuel cells—that could prove critical to unlocking the deeper, cost-effective reductions needed to reach Canada’s 2050 goal. But which ones will prove viable, cost-effective and scalable enough to play a big role remains uncertain. 

Canada must create incentives for the widespread deployment of safe bets. At least two-thirds of the emissions reductions needed to get to Canada’s 2030 target will rely on quickly and decisively scaling up proven technologies, and this can be done by building on existing policies. 

But that alone won’t be enough.  To reach Canada’s longer-term goal, our modelling shows that wild cards will also be critical. Wild cards require supportive policy now to drive their development and advancement, so that they will be ready when we need them.

Read Canada’s Net Zero Future

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