Green Buildings, Good Jobs
To reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Canada must implement a unified Green Homes and Buildings program, expanding the progress it has already made through its recently implemented initiatives.
To ensure Canada’s approach to decarbonizing our housing and commercial infrastructure effective, we will need to spend big. We call for a $65.5 billion dollar investment over a 5-year period.
A Green Homes and Buildings Strategy
To meet its commitment to mitigating the impact of climate change, Canada must dramatically reduce its energy consumption. It must also adapt its buildings to cope with the increasing number and severity of extreme weather events. However, Canada’s building stock was not designed to meet these new challenges.
Building energy use must be reduced substantially to meet mitigation and adaptation goals. Standards of new construction must be much higher, and the existing building stock must undergo deep retrofitting to achieve successful energy conservation objectives.
Our current housing and building stock result in an enormous amount of energy waste: when electricity-related emissions are accounted for, 18% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to the buildings sector.27 It is even more when we include manufacturing, transportation and decommissioning activities associated with the construction process.
Energy efficiency and conservation are our cleanest, cheapest, and most productive energy sources: the cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use. Investing in energy efficiency and conservation boosts productivity, reduces costs, cleans our air and water, and creates jobs throughout the economy.
An energy efficient economy is a strong, competitive economy. It has lower electricity bills due to energy savings, freeing up capital for investment and discretionary income for personal spending. Energy efficiency is also unique among energy sources in that it pays for itself through savings over time. While we tend to think of energy savings in relation to our housing stock, there are major savings to be made in commercial and public buildings across the country.
Canada needs a bold plan to transform this country’s housing and building stock. This means expanding the federal approach so it can adequately meet the climate challenge.
Improving Canada’s approach to energy efficiency must focus on two key areas:
- Green Homes: providing deep retrofits to Canada’s existing residential dwellings and ensuring future homes meet net-zero standards.
- Green Buildings: Making our current and future commercial and institutional building stock carbon neutral.
In both areas, Canada must improve its various building and energy codes to speed-up the process of decarbonizing Canada’s physical infrastructure.
Gaps in Canada's Green Homes and Buildings Strategy
Canada has committed to a net-zero economy by 2050. However, our current approach to energy efficiency falls short.
For the past decade, our annual retrofit rate has been below 1% for residential buildings and 1.4% for commercial buildings.28 At that rate, it would take over 100 years for Canada to reduce its existing building stock to net-zero, even though the government has committed to a net-zero economy by 2050.
To reach net-zero emissions in the building sector on time, we will need to retrofit our building stock at a rate of 5% per year, at a minimum.
The federal government introduced plans for a Green Buildings Strategy in 2021. But the funding it has provided for its initiatives is not nearly enough to decarbonize our building stock to meet the government’s ambitious climate targets.
Gaps in Canada’s green infrastructure policy stems from a lack of funding for its current retrofitting programs, inadequate focus on the needs of low-income Canadians, too little attention to workforce training and a lack of a universal building code that is up to the challenge of meeting net-zero emissions.
Meanwhile, building sector emissions will continue to grow, despite a momentary decrease in emissions in recent years due to
the pandemic, if action is not taken. As the buildings sector continues to be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the second largest consumer of energy across Canada’s economic sectors, actions in this sector would have a substantial effect on emissions reductions.