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Global energy crisis: Canadians remain among the world’s top energy users

Canadians are, and will remain, among the biggest consumers of energy over the next decade.

Keystone XL may be dead, but the fight over Canadian oil is alive and well
Oil sands, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Image - eryn.rickard (CC BY 2.0)
Oil sands, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Image - eryn.rickard (CC BY 2.0)

Canadians are, and will remain, among the biggest consumers of energy over the next decade even as policies ramp up to make the country more energy-efficient, a global energy forecast suggests.

As the pivotal moment of COP26 approaches, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) new World Energy Outlook makes it clear that this clean energy progress is still far too slow to put global emissions into sustained decline towards net-zero.

COP26 also comes at a time when the price of fossil fuels around the globe is surging, and the world’s consumption of coal is growing strongly this year, pushing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions towards their second-largest annual increase in history.

CBC Canada is reporting that the IEA’s World Energy Outlook, published Wednesday, shows Canadians used more than 300 gigajoules of energy per person in 2020 – three times the world average and one of the highest per-capita rates in the world.

Canada’s energy use was slightly higher than what Americans consumed, and almost twice the energy demand recorded in the European Union. But the report also says Canada’s power demand will fall below 300 gigajoules per person by 2030 if policies being enacted now are put into effect.

The IEA report doesn’t break down Canada’s energy use by source. A report earlier this year from BP, however, said that in 2020, 61 percent of the energy used in Canada was supplied by burning oil and gas, 25 percent was from hydroelectricity, six percent was nuclear energy, four percent came from renewables like wind and solar power, and 3.7 percent came from burning coal.

Total energy supply (TES) by source, Canada 1990-2020

BP said oil and gas provided 56 percent of the world’s total energy consumption, while coal provided 27 percent, nuclear four percent, hydroelectricity seven percent, and renewables 5.6 percent.

Isabelle Turcotte, director of federal policy at the Pembina Institute, said many people blame Canada’s high energy consumption on its size and climate, and an economy that has been reliant on energy-intensive natural resource production.

“But it doesn’t have to be this way,” she said. “This doesn’t need to translate into high energy needs. We can see other countries that have similar climates being more energy-efficient.”

The IEA looked at three scenarios for energy use over the next few decades: one based only on existing climate policies, which would lead to warming of 2.6 C; one based on implementing all the policies promised but not yet enacted, which would lead to 2.1 C; and one based on getting to net zero emissions by 2050.

The only scenario that is safe for the Earth, and safe for humanity is the third scenario. It is only that last scenario – which would mean no new greenhouse gas emissions are left in the atmosphere – where warming could be limited to 1.5 C, the IEA said.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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