Addressing Energy Poverty

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that over a billion people don’t have access to basic energy services, and more and more countries in the developed world are talking about how to address energy poverty in the face of rising energy prices. What can Canada do to contribute to this global challenge?

VIEWS FROM OUR POLITICAL COMMENTATORS: NDP, CONSERVATIVE AND LIBERAL

BY KATHLEEN MONK

BY KATHLEEN MONK

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has yet to reach its first anniversary, but anyone would agree that climate change and energy have played a dominant role in the Liberal’s first year in office. From COP21 in Paris, to the bilateral meeting in Washington, to the recent declaration from the North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa, Trudeau’s government has been clear that Canada is committed to combatting climate change and moving to a low-carbon economy.

After 10 years of inaction on climate change, industry executives, NGOs and lobbyists are watching this new political reality unfold with great interest, yet, there are many issues to be mindful of as our country adopts this new approach.

While the government’s focus has been on adopting low-carbon solutions to move to a clean energy economy, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reminds us that over a billion people across the globe still don’t have access to electricity. Furthermore, close to three billion people don’t have access to clean cooking facilities, relying on firewood, charcoal, and animal dung to heat their homes and cook their food. The resulting air pollution from these “dirty” energy sources impacts both the environment and public health and disproportionately affects the health of women and children around the globe.

While the Canadian government made a modest commitment during COP21 to support renewables in energy poor countries, policy writers and our elected officials must ensure that the burden of transitioning to a low carbon economy isn’t unfairly borne by the world’s most vulnerable populations. If we fail to take into account existing inequalities there is a real risk that the sustainable economy of the future won’t be sustainable.

“Close to three billion people don’t have access to clean cooking facilities, relying on firewood, charcoal, and animal dung to heat their homes and cook their food.”

“Close to three billion people don’t have access to clean cooking facilities, relying on firewood, charcoal, and animal dung to heat their homes and cook their food.”

For a sustainable future, governments across the globe must commit to technology transfer to vulnerable communities and make provisions for climate adaptation funding. Here in Canada we can look to our remote Canadian communities, particularly First Nations and Inuit communities, as a place to start. These communities have poor energy security and are forced to import all their diesel fuel for the year in a period of a few months. The federal government could make an important step toward addressing climate change and energy insecurity in these remote and northern communities by investing in research and implementation of renewable energy tech, which could be shared with other vulnerable communities around the world.

“The federal government could make an important step toward addressing climate change and energy insecurity in these remote and northern communities by investing in research and implementation.”

Ultimately we know a transition to renewables (with offsetting rebates for low-income households) will reduce vulnerability to volatility in non-renewable energy prices and improve overall energy security. However, to be successful and sustainable governments must acknowledge the need for policies that support a ‘just transition’ to a new energy future, where the impact of societal and policy changes helps to improve quality of life for all.

Kathleen Monk is a public affairs and communications strategist with over 15 years of experience in media, government and the non-profit sector. She appears regularly on CBC The National’s preeminent political panel, The Insiders, and provides analysis for CBC News Network’s Power and Politics.


BY TIM POWERS

BY TIM POWERS

Let me profess my ignorance. Some will probably say that is long over-due. Energy poverty was not something I had previously given much thought to. But this data is worrisome as apparently 1.2 billion people— nearly one in five globally—lack electricity to light their homes or conduct business. Forty per cent of the world’s population — 2.8 billion people — still rely on wood, charcoal, animal, crop waste or other solid fuels to cook their food and heat their homes.

Canadians have always tried or taken leadership roles in addressing other similar global challenges of disparity. But on the energy front this is really an arena where we can help and are not ring fenced by political partisanship. At some level, all of our federal political parties overlap in wanting to maximize the value of our energy or clean energy potential. Simply put bringing more Canadian energy supply to the world has the ability to get more people power.
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Establishing global energy access can only be achieved if the private sector continues to use innovative technology that a) can develop affordable and renewable sources of energy that can be replicated and used across the globe, and b) can develop faster, safer, and more affordable methods for getting Canadian energy products to market. Investing in research and development here at home and ensuring that innovative companies have access to capital is critical for driving innovation. Canada needs to focus on fostering an environment where Canadian companies can continue to develop new energy technologies, which can be used to address the global shortfall in energy access.

Canada can also help reduce global energy poverty by developing new financial partnerships with countries suffering from an energy gap. Recent analysis by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that using public funds has been successful in leveraging private sector investment on climate projects by addressing certain risks for the private sector. To that degree, Canada recently pledged $2.65 billion over the next five years to address climate change in developing countries.

“We need to push the benefit of our products while at the same time demonstrating a responsibility in how we harvest them.”

Canada can also work to take more of its energy to markets whether that be oil, natural gas or hydro-electric power to name but a few. We need to push the benefit of our products while at the same time demonstrating a responsibility in how we harvest them.

Finally, Canada can play a role in using moral suasion to make energy poverty a top global priority. Currently, Prime Minister Trudeau enjoys much international popularity and can put that to use by pushing this issue.

Tim Powers, is the Vice-Chairman of Summa Strategies Canada and the managing partner of Abacus Data, both headquarter are in Ottawa. Mr. Powers appears regularly on CBC’s Power and Politics program as well as on VOCM in his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador.


BY STEPHEN HAMPTON

BY STEPHEN HAMPTON

On October 20 of last year, incoming Prime Minister Trudeau had one message for the world, Canada was back on the world stage. Since coming to power, the new Liberal Government has worked to establish Canada as a world player and as someone who will work with others to create positive change. Whether it was being a leader at the Paris Climate Talks or welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees, Prime Minister Trudeau has worked tirelessly to establish himself and Canada on the world stage as a responsible, inclusive, and caring country while repeatedly demonstrating that no issue is to big.

One of the many strengths and assets Canada has to offer is our energy resources both in the form of natural resources and Canadian innovation, which has allowed us to access our raw energy in a sustainable and environmentally conscience way. However, one area that needs to be addressed is the crucial and debilitating reality of energy poverty, which is a crushing reality for over one billion people worldwide. Canada has the opportunity to not only bring awareness to this problem but be a world leader in solving it.

Canada can be the leader the world needs by bringing awareness to the severity of energy poverty and by creating and implementing solutions that create real results. Whether it is working with international bodies to help create funds and action plans or committing Canada to export both safe and environmentally friendly energy resources to countries effected by energy poverty, Canada can and should be a leader in this space. To Canada’s credit, we have already begun to assist in fighting energy poverty with several multi-million dollar investments to support clean energy in places around the globe. One example of this was during the government’s first weeks when the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change announced the Government of Canada would be investing $150 million into the G7 African Renewable Energy Initiative.

“One of the many strengths and assets Canada has to offer is our energy resources both in the form of natural resources and Canadian innovation.”

“One of the many strengths and assets Canada has to offer is our energy resources both in the form of natural resources and Canadian innovation.”

Investing money is one important aspect, however, I think that the best course of action would be to capture and direct Canada’s innovation achievements and acumen to address energy poverty. Canada has already made an incalculable difference through our ability to extract our resources in a sustainable and environmentally conscience way. It is this innovative ability that can help provide Canada the leadership role in solving energy poverty worldwide.

Canada has taken a leadership role on several issues over our history and we know that better access to energy leads to healthier and better qualities of life. Far too often band aid solutions are applied to foreign policy issues, Canada has the opportunity to address the root causes of energy poverty and fix it. If there has ever been a government to lead the way, it would be this government led by a Prime Minister and Cabinet that is set on leaving a positive impact on the world both at home and aboard.

Stephen Hampton is a Consultant at Crestview Strategy, a public affairs agency with offices in Toronto and Ottawa. Stephen started his career on Parliament Hill and has worked for political campaigns at all levels of government.