Note to my grandkids: The global climate emergency is a solvable problem. It starts with listening and understanding.

Earlier this week, 16 year-old Greta Thunberg berated world leaders at the UN on their failure to act on climate change.  Tomorrow, youth across Canada will call a global climate strike, to call for immediate and decisive action on the global climate emergency…

Meanwhile the Canadian government, most country signatories, are struggling to meet their Paris commitment.

Canada is taking action to reduce energy use including by improving energy efficiency, encouraging fuel switching and developing “net-zero energy ready” building codes. Canada’s climate plan is supported by historic investments in public transit ($28.7 billion); green infrastructure ($26.9 billion) such as renewable energy, smart grid and electric vehicle charging stations; clean technology initiatives ($2.3 billion); and the Low Carbon Economy Fund ($2 billion).   Government of Canada

Everybody is talking, but nobody is listening

Millions of people are now yelling…but as Greta describes in her speech leaders aren’t listening.  Nor are  Canadian voters….

There may be a growing consensus across the country that climate change is a problem, but roughly half of Canadians — and a majority of Conservative voters — aren’t willing to spend a single extra penny to tackle it.  Global TV report on Ipsos poll (Sept 26)

The solution starts with better communications

Climate change is a very technical issue.   Greta’s speech to the UN went into details that were way over my head.  I’m an interested, fairly intelligent and informed person (I think).   After reviewing Greta’s transcript, I went to her source, the IPCC.  I gotta tell you, it just made me very confused.   While Greta did one heck of a job in front of the UN, her remarks aren’t (from my own reading of the same documents) an accurate representation of what the IPCC says.   Unfortunately, what she said has now turned into a new “truth” to her audience*.   Greta’s actual words:

“So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.

“To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.

“How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.

* The IPCC documentation looks at different scenarios, with probability of each outcome.   One scenario described has a 50% probability that the outcome will result in staying below 1.5 degree rise, the second outcome has a 67* probability of the same result.    The battle cry is now 50% is not acceptable.  “We need a 67% reduction in GHG emissions.”   Will that misinformation make the politicians sit up in their seats?

Don’t get me wrong, I really admire what Greta has accomplished, and how she has united people to take action.  When, half of Canadians still refuse to address the problem, it will take a great deal of effort to swing the pendulum to saving the planet.  The ultimate solution is better communications.   We need to hit people over the head with problem, and the available solutions.

Sorry Justin, A 2050 commitment is not enough

There are viable, proven solutions available.  It all starts with a plan, a solid global climate change management plan, laid out in simple to understand language, with the ability to measure the results in real time.   It has to start today, with action and active engagement of the population.   Net Zero emissions by 2050 is not something that people will believe or support.

Let me take a crack at this.

The problem from a Canadian perspective

The Canada National GHG Inventory puts emissions around 730 Mt annual emissions.  The Canadian government has committed to reductions of (30% below 2005 levels) 219,000,000 tonnes (219 Mt), of CO2 equivalent.  That may not be enough.  According to the Auditor General, Canada is not currently on track to meet its own commitment.

We need to reduce GHG emissions.  Here’s a graphic illustration of what that means.  One thing you will notice very quickly is that GHG emissions is a northern hemisphere issue.

Fossil-fuel derived GHG emissions in Canada fall into four, roughly equal buckets;

  • Fossil-Fuel Derived Emissions Megatonnes CO2 (2017)
    Primary Oil/Gas energy production                 183.7
    Secondary demand from buildings                 194.8
    Secondary demand from transportation                 183.1
    Secondary demand from industry                 113.7

We believe that buildings are the best candidates for rapid reduction in GHG emissions

Buildings are the single biggest contributor to GHG emissions, period.   They are also the easiest to change.

People are already demanding energy efficient, sustainable buildings.   Buildings that are energy hogs will be deeply discounted in financial value.

People can leverage this financial motive and use it to drive change in buildings.

Oh, and the secret…we can demonstrate that a well designed solution will actually reduce operating costs (from both savings in energy/water and service costs).

Finally, the very governments that are responsible for managing our environment can, themselves, demonstrate their commitment within their own buildings.

Use a proven model.  The Aussies have demonstrated a change management program that works

There is a performance-based change management model, for commercial buildings, that has been proven to work in Australia.   It’s not perfect, but it’s a model that can be rapidly deployed in Canada, with some significant improvements.   (See NABERS Australia )   

Note: Our current Canadian program, Energy Star Portfolio Manager, an implementation of the US Government’s own Energy Star program, has been a failure.

Australian real estate is significantly more energy efficient than the Canadian building stock.  This directly translates into about a 50% reduction in energy intensity and GHG emissions, taking into consideration differences in local climates.  In fact, in Canada buildings in harsher climates are typically more efficient than Vancouver and other mild climates.   Sorry Vancouver, but by no means are you “The Greenest City”.

Australia has achieved about 50% reductions in GHG  emissions, with market-driven change management.  We can do the same, to save about 27 Mt annually in GHG emissions, just in commercial & institutional buildings alone.    Residential buildings, especially multi-family, municipal infrastructure, and then industry will be the next targets. It can be done.

Set a timeline

The Canadian government has already committed to a 30% reduction in pre-2005 GHG emissions by 2030.  That’s just 10 years.

Take Action:

  1. Require cities across Canada to have mandatory real-time* building energy consumption reporting, similar to NABERS in Australia for commercial, municipal and institutional buildings.  New York City is enacting the Climate Mobilization Act, but it too doesn’t go far enough.  The City of Vancouver has talked about this for at least 8 years, and still have not taken action.   *None of these programs currently require real-time energy reporting, only annual reporting.  Given the time frame, we can’t wait a year to measure results.
  2. Replace manual assessment processes with AI-based expert systems, to reduce the cost of analytics and make smaller buildings economically feasible targets.
  3.  Digitize service processes to capture building operational costs, and improve building operational efficiency, reducing costs and improving profitability.   It has been demonstrated that energy efficiency is good for profitability and asset value.
  4. Communicate with stakeholders in real-time, demonstrating progress and success.  Engage youth and all stakeholders.
  5. Save the planet!



Try our interactive Smart City Energy, GHG & OpEx dashboard (prototype)