GOLDSTEIN: Trudeau’s climate targets could cost $18G to retrofit home

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So, how would you like to pay up to $18,000 to retrofit your home to help Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet his 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets?

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A study by the CD Howe Institute says that’s what it could cost for a typical, detached, single-family home.

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Spread the costs across all detached and attached homes (semis, townhomes, multiple dwelling units such as condo and rental apartments) and you might get away with an average cost of $14,500 and a range of $12,000 to $17,000.

It would also have to happen fast to even come close to meeting Trudeau’s emission targets, authors Charles DeLand and Alexander Vanderhoof say in their report, “Only Hot Air? The Implications of Replacing Oil and Gas in Canadian Homes.”

“Our modeling finds Canada would need to retrofit over 400,000 dwellings per year (1,158 per day) to fully electrify all dwellings by 2050 and meeting 2030 targets requires even more aggressive action: over 500,000 retrofits would be required per year,” said DeLand.

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“This is roughly equivalent to retrofitting the total number of Saskatchewan households each year for over 30 years.”

The price tag, the report says, would be between $4.5 billion and $6.3 billion annually and on a cumulative basis, $143 billion to $203 billion in 2022 dollars.

That compares to the entire $180-billion budget of the federal government’s “Investing in Canada’s Infrastructure Plan” of which housing infrastructure is only one part.

Despite these expenditures, Trudeau’s emission targets for housing still wouldn’t be met.

“Even in an extreme scenario where no new emitting buildings came on the market after 2022,” the study says, “emissions only fall by about 26% to 2030, still not enough to meet government targets (of 42%).”

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The authors note their proposal for reducing residential emissions due to the burning of natural gas and oil to heat air and water by retrofitting homes with electrical heat pumps, would be too costly to be practiced everywhere.

In the real world, “other emission-reducing measures will have to bear more of the burden (including) energy efficiency improvements to homes, building code revisions and combining heat pumps with natural gas furnaces.”

But the report is valuable in that it’s a needed dose of reality about Trudeau’s emission targets, where political and public discussion is almost entirely focused on emissions from the oil and gas and transportation sectors of the economy.

In fact, emissions from buildings, including residential homes, are the third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and there are seven sectors of the economy affected in all.

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Massive expenditures are required in all seven to meet Trudeau’s emission targets of 40% to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Another major issue is the feasibility of Trudeau’s target to reduce emissions in Canada’s electricity sector to net-zero by 2035 since that is crucial to meeting emission targets in every other sector of the economy.

That’s because they all rely on replacing fossil fuel energy with an increased reliance on electricity generated from non-emitting sources such as nuclear, hydro, wind and solar energy, whereas some of Canada’s electricity generation is still provided by fossil fuels including natural gas and coal which emit greenhouse gases.

The federal and provincial governments have some programs to assist homeowners in the cost of reducing the carbon footprint of their homes, but none come close to the costs needed to achieve Trudeau’s targets.

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