Editorial: How many zeros in a net-zero carbon-emissions future?

Among the zeros in the push for a net-zero carbon emissions future in Canada are those too often missing when it comes to cost calculations.

That is a major mistake for clean energy advocates and public policymakers because without accurate accounting estimates in how much the transition to renewable energy is going to cost industry, government and consumers, a viable and affordable net-zero plan cannot be produced.

This is not to say that B.C. and the rest of the country should not be pushing hard to reduce and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental pollutions.

But everyone involved needs to know how much any given plan is going to cost so that investments, incentives and alternatives can be accurately deployed and so that the efficiencies and sacrifices required can be prepared.

For example, shifting the global maritime shipping sector to less carbon-intensive fuels is going to require trillions of dollars.

Container shipping lines alone cannot absorb that cost. All links in the global supply chain, including end users, will have to contribute if anything approaching net zero is to be achieved there.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC) has estimated that $1.6 trillion in Canadian upstream oil and gas sector revenue that would normally flow to government is at risk between now and 2050 under various net-zero emissions scenarios.

That is a lot of revenue that will not be available for all the public spending that governments now oversee.

But as the CEC points out, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s discussion paper on options to cap and cut oil and gas GHG emissions on the road to a net-zero 2050 includes no economic risk analysis of cash flow and other financial fundamentals that will be affected on that journey.

The numbers might be daunting, but keeping businesses and the public in the dark about those financial fundamentals will only make any net-zero initiatives harder to achieve.