The Minister of Natural Resources (the Minister) yesterday announced the launching of a public engagement process for the proposed Canada Green Buildings Strategy (the Strategy). The Strategy will aim to mobilize national action to reduce emissions by 37 percent from 2005 by 2030 and create a net-zero-emissions buildings sector by 2050. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has also published a companion discussion paper outlining the scope and key themes of the proposed Strategy (the Discussion Paper). This bulletin briefly summarizes the Discussion Paper and provides important details regarding the public engagement process.
The Minister’s announcement noted that the Strategy will focus on (i) increasing the rate of building retrofits, (ii) ensuring buildings are resilient and net-zero-ready from the start, and (iii) transforming space and water heating. In addition, the Strategy will be backed by a $150 million commitment made in Canada’s Emissions Reduction Plan (read our earlier bulletin here).
The Discussion Paper provides the following three potential outcomes for the Strategy to reach the net-zero target for Canada’s building sector:
- Build net-zero carbon and climate-resilient from the start. The Discussion Paper provides that Canada must ensure that new buildings achieve the highest levels of energy, carbon performance, and climate resiliency. To achieve this, all new buildings must (i) be net-zero carbon-ready no later than 2032 and (ii) conform to the latest applicable codes, standards, and guidelines for climate resilience no later than 2030.
- Increase the rate of deep, climate-resilient building retrofits. The Discussion Paper provides that the majority of buildings will still be in use in 30 years and that this will require retrofitting all existing buildings and taking advantage of joint opportunities for resiliency upgrades. The Strategy is likely to promote the deep retrofit rate reaching 3-5 percent of buildings annually by 2025, with applicable codes, standards, and guidelines for climate-resilient retrofits to be referenced in building retrofit programs at all levels as soon as possible.
- Transform space and water heating. The Discussion paper notes that the majority of emissions from buildings come from space and water heating equipment (such as natural gas- and oil-fired furnaces). The Strategy will likely include targets for electrifying space and water heating and ensuring that building envelopes are well insulated with phased timelines for the transition off of fossil fuel heating systems.
The Discussion Paper notes that new climate actions will be required to transform the market and policy environment in the following six thematic areas:
- Leading by example. All levels of government must demonstrate leadership by holding themselves to higher standards for transitioning to all net-zero emission, climate-resilient buildings, and aligning spending power with this overall goal.
- Mandating change. Governments must use existing legislative authorities and develop new ones to set measurable, ambitious requirements to provide market signals to building owners, manufacturers, and financial institutions to make the significant investments needed to achieve a net-zero buildings sector.
- Enabling investment decisions. Canadians, businesses, and investors must be provided with enough information on the performance of building types and cost-effective strategies when making emissions reduction investment decisions.
- Growing Canada’s advantage in building practices, technology and building materials. Low-carbon and climate-resilient, high-performance technologies, building materials, and construction practices must be cost-competitive and common practice in building design, construction, and operation.
- Training and incentivizing the future workforce. Governments across Canada must ensure that there is a skilled workforce to support decarbonizing buildings and enhanced climate resilience.
- Enabling informed actions. Investment decisions, public sector programming, and evolution of the Strategy must be informed by robust, transparent data, and modelling that is also readily available to market participants.
Interested stakeholders are encouraged to participate in the public engagement process by reviewing the Discussion Paper and completing an online survey or submitting written comments by September 16, 2022. NRCan notes that it will review the feedback as it prepares to release the Strategy in Spring 2023.