New mandate letters give nod to green buildings as a climate solution
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released the mandate letters that will guide the work of ministers and their respective departments. A review of the letters indicates that CaGBC’s message to the government on the power of green buildings as a force for positive change was well-received. Many of the letters include references to buildings as a way to meet climate objectives, increase employment and innovation, and strengthen communities through greater resilience and sustainability.
CaGBC is pleased to see that the federal government recognizes the urgent need to act quickly to decarbonize Canada’s buildings. Much of CaGBC’s pre-budget and pre-election recommendations on retrofits, decarbonization and workforce transition are represented in the mandate letters.
CaGBC called on the federal government to implement a national retrofit strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and in our recent study, “Decarbonizing Canada’s Large Buildings,” to decarbonize the electricity grid. These asks include specific milestones and objectives, funding and support for zero-carbon transition plans, supports for de-risking retrofit investment, and advancing the national retrofit building code. Among the calls to action in the mandate letters, we can find:
- References on the next steps to take by the federal government to achieve a 100 per cent net-zero electricity system by 2035.
- A national net-zero emissions building strategy that the Minister of Natural Resources should develop and implement. The strategy will include new construction and deep retrofits of existing buildings, as well as energy labelling requirements.
- A continued focus on the National Infrastructure Assessment, which now includes buildings.
- Net-zero emission building and a retrofit code by 2024 under the responsibility of Ministers Champagne and Wilkinson
CaGBC called on the government to accelerate decarbonization by taking a leading role and advancing a low-carbon supply chain. Our recommendations included bringing crown corporations under the Greening Government Strategy; pursuit of the Zero Carbon Building Standard certification; funding for a made-in-Canada, low-carbon supply chain; and support for energy modelling. Mandate letters reflect these asks:
- Supporting the decarbonization of buildings is a part of the Minister of Finance mandate.
- Referenced in numerous letters was the need for a federal “Buy Clean” plan that will prioritize the use of “made-in-Canada” low-carbon products and technologies; and
- The promise of a Low-Carbon Building Materials Innovation Hub also featured in Minister Wilkinson’s mandate letter.
To meet the demand for low-carbon buildings and retrofits, CaGBC asked the federal government to prioritize funding for workforce development. This included asking for funding for industry-led solutions, and collaborative approaches to re-skilling and upskilling programs. Among the related asks in the mandate letters:
- Guidance to align climate and workforce development agendas with a “Just Transition.”
- The creation of a clean jobs training centre.
- Redesigning the Canada Training benefits program to reflect the need for low-carbon expertise.
The mandate letters ask ministers to take bold, concrete action and to “move faster and go further” to build a healthier, more resilient future. The building sector must also embrace this challenge and invest in new zero carbon buildings and deep carbon retrofit that enhance the quality of life for all Canadians. The focus leading up to 2030 and then 2050 must be on reducing carbon emissions, growing green building jobs and creating a low carbon supply chain.
These mandate letters are a strong step towards decarbonizing Canada’s buildings, but much work needs to be done at the implementation level. This includes work on energy benchmarking, disclosure and labelling for all buildings, and the necessity of transition planning for deep carbon retrofits. Let’s get started.