Science positioned as a key component of Ottawa’s climate change plan

Guest Contributor
November 4, 2002

Technology development and innovation are being touted as a major component of Canada’s strategy for meeting its commitments under the Kyoto climate change protocol. The first widely publicized indications of how the federal government plans to use science and technology (S&T) in the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is contained in Achieving Our Commitments Together, Ottawa’s draft plan for its national implementation strategy released October 25.

The draft plan draws heavily from Canada’s First National Climate Change Business Plan, released in October 2000.

In the document, a phased approach to reducing emissions is outlined, and S&T is front and centre from the beginning. Phase One commits Canada to various science-related initiatives ranging from enhancing the awareness and understanding of the science and impacts of climate change to more tangible activities such as increasing the availability of new technologies, promoting commercial opportunities and host of new targeted investments.

Among the latter, the investments will be aimed at four components intended to “equip decision-makers with the knowledge, capacity and experience to make informed decisions and lay the foundation for future actions.” These include the use of “science, impacts and adaptive capacity” to “reduce scientific uncertainty in areas important to Canada’s objectives and increase understanding of impacts as a basis for developing options to adapt to climate change”.

The government is also committing to “set a positive example” by improving the energy efficiency of its building and vehicle fleets, improving energy consumption practices and acquiring environmentally friendly products and equipment.

Under Phase One, seven economy sectors will be targeted – agriculture, buildings, electricity, forestry (carbon sinks), industry, municipalities and transportation.

Biocap has a role

One organization that is anxious to tackle many of the challenges associated with climate change is Biocap Canada, which received $10 million in federal funding earlier this year (R$, April 3/02).

The Queen’s Univ-based research organization is a key coordinating and funding agent of the national strategy in the area of biomass with a particular interest in three areas:

“Increase the availability of new technologies that help reduce GHG emissions and promote commercial opportunities, at home and abroad, for Canadian companies that are developing new technologies low in GHG-producing emissions.”

Draft Plan on Climate Change

  • Emissions reduction in agriculture (crops and animals), including quantification and measurement of emissions, development of new technologies and development of management best practices.

  • Increasing the carbon stock of Canadian forests. This includes the measurement of carbon sinks using instrumentation and remote sensing technologies, modelling at local, regional and national scales and increasing carbon stocks through technology development and new plant varieties; and,

  • Alternative energy sources for the production of bio plastics, bio fuels and bio processing technologies.

  • “I see this as a major opportunity. Biocap is a meeting table for stakeholders to come together to identify solutions using biological tools,” says Dr David Layzell, Biocap’s executive research director. “We’re part of a national coordinating mechanism, working closely with the federal government and bringing in university and private sector players.”

Given the short period of time Canada has to comply with its Kyoto obligations, Layzell says it’s imperative to act quickly and decisively.

“We can do a lot of science in five years and it should be enough time if we invest wisely and coordinate and focus our efforts in appropriate ways,” he says. “But network funding is expensive, so we have to rely on using other granting vehicles such as the Networks of Centres of Excellence and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council as a way of delivering the research.”


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