09 May 2022 - Stakeholder national workshops

Identifying bottlenecks to Canada's transport decarbonisation - a stakeholder workshop

The PARIS REINFORCE project hosted a virtual workshop, on May 9th, 2022, to discuss and refine the project’s modelling results on low-carbon pathways for Canada with stakeholders from the public and private sector as well as academia. The workshop aimed to receive feedback for the Canadian whole-energy system low-carbon pathways modelling that the project consortium had already undertaken, as well as identify bottlenecks hampering the decarbonisation pathways and to co-create guidelines for a transformative policy mix that could overcome those bottlenecks, with a particular focus on the transport sector.

The workshop began with a brief introduction on the overall aims and objectives of the PARIS REONFORCE project, from the coordinating side (Dr. Alexandros Nikas, National Technical University of Athens). Following this, Dr. Kathleen Vaillancourt (ESMIA) gave an overview on the modelled decarbonisation pathways for Canada, developed using the North America TIMES Energy Model (NATEM). Key takeaways for continued modeling from stakeholder feedback included:

  • The need for a multi-scalar perspective that takes into account the particularities of each province
  • A suggested focus on modal shifts in the transport sector, rather than simply replacing existing fossil fuel vehicles with non-fossil (e.g. electric) vehicles

Dr Jakob Wachsmuth (Fraunhofer ISI) complemented the whole-system modeling overview with a zoom-in on the sectoral analysis, including decarbonisation of transport, the role of oil, electricity, hydrogen, and efficiency and he concluded with a discussion on tentatively identified and yet to be elaborated bottlenecks to decarbonisation.

In the interactive second part of the workshop, organised by Dr. Philine Warnke (Fraunhofer ISI), participants assessed the importance of the different identified bottlenecks through online polling, specified how they could hamper the decarbonisation of the transport sector and then discussed how they can be effectively addressed by a future policy mix.

Key takeaways

A number of important bottlenecks to decabonisation were highlighted: Limited decarbonisation options for modes other than road transport, uncertainties around (BE)CCS technologies, potential job losses in the oil sector, lack of tools to model transport reduction, demand for large-scale investment in infrastructure rollout, strong role of provincial governments, inadequate urban planning, lack of low carbon solutions for HDVs, consumer uptake of e-mobility. The most highly ranked in terms of importance were CCS-related uncertainties, lack of options for decarbonisation of freight, and urban planning failures, which were then discussed in more depth.

As one important group of bottlenecks for decarbonisation, stakeholders highlighted the substantial uncertainties around CCS technologies. While many actors in Canada place high hopes on CCS playing a major role for decarbonising both the oil sector and carbon-intensive industries, actual implementation of CCS is surrounded by considerable unknowns. These unknowns include the future cost reduction prospects of CCS, given that at this stage its costs remain high and there is thus a lack of confidence in how much CO2 capture can actually be delivered by this set of technologies. Stakeholders emphasised that the lack of a clear taxonomy for acceptable CCS performance criteria (e.g. around acceptable capture rates to make it a genuinely low-carbon technology) as well as regulatory barriers (in particular around land tenure systems) have slowed capital allocation. Furthermore, it was pointed out that the geographical separation between capture sites and storage sites could also prove a hindrance to successful project deployment. Also, questions over longevity of policies and carbon price volatility were thought to hamper long term investment. Finally, lack of legitimacy of CCS especially in connection with enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and tax rebates for the oil industry was highlighted. There are fears that CCS may divert attention from transformative changes away from fossil fuel based economy and reduction of energy consumption. According to participants, many Canadians feel that powerful actors dominate the discourse and there is little space for alternative narratives. Accordingly, key elements of the transformative policy mix were a clear taxonomy and roadmap generating trust in truly effective decarbonisation technologies and guiding capital allocation. This would need to be complemented by a strong regulatory framework including clear property rights surrounding captured and stored CO2.

Regarding decarbonisation of freight transport, stakeholders pointed to the lack of roadmaps for modal shifts. In addition, it was felt that thorough analysis of alternative technologies for HDVs and rail transport, which is currently largely diesel based, is urgently needed.

A second group of key bottlenecks centred around urban planning. Stakeholders emphasised that current municipal plans are not all aligned with climate goals and the role of local governments in achievement of net zero/transport decarbonisation is unclear. Accordingly, urban planning is largely not conducive to lower and decarbonise transport activity. Attempts to curb urban sprawl and increase density of cities are scarce.

Participants highlighted that long-term planning and robust measures towards a just transition that focuses equally on innovation and exnovation are key for a successful transformative policy mix. An important element of this would be targeted support to transitioning of the workforce from the oil and gas sector within the affected regions. Differentiated modelling on a regional or even local level would be an important enabler for such tailored strategies. At the same time, the importance of intergovernmental coordination of efforts to decarbonise was stressed. Other key elements of a possible policy mix would be tax schemes to govern the use of roads.

Across all these themes, governance issues resulting from multi-scalar structures were emphasised as a key challenge to effective decarbonisation pathways. Another crosscutting issue was the need to advance models by building bridges to advocacy and socio-technical analysis communities and better incorporate also social and behavioural change.

Menti voting - Canada PARIS REINFORCE workshop

The presentation is available here: