Canada is on the road to Net Zero, just not moving nearly fast enough.

Capital flows, from public and private sources, have increased significantly, although still well below where they need to be to decarbonize our energy-intensive economy. Consumers are moving, too, opting for electric vehicles, heat pumps and other climate-minded technologies at ever-faster clips, although still not at rates that can be transformative. And while a wide range of Canadian businesses remain focused on Net Zero strategies, the general public is still wary and unwilling to see government policies or market trends that threaten their standard of living.

Since the Paris Agreement in 2015, Canada’s limited progress has been affected heavily by subsidies, and those have largely come from the federal government. For the energy transition to speed up, the biggest provinces will need to commit more, to assist industries and consumers adopt new technologies. The federal government will also need to ensure its package of climate policies and regulations—on oil and gas emissions, methane and electricity—are refined to ensure they attract capital rather than chase it away, and unleash innovation rather than constrain it. Time is not an ally, either, which means those policies need to be investment-minded and outcome-oriented.

As Canada enters the middle third of this critical decade—“the decisive decade,” as the 2020s have been called—a more pragmatic approach can get us closer to our goals. The following ideas are designed to add to that get-it-done approach on climate action.

1. Heavy Industry

Transform Alberta and Ontario into low-carbon hydrogen hubs. Supply-side consortiums will boost production of the energy source and ensure there’s enough supply certainty to justify moving away from conventional hydrogen.

  • What’s involved: Convening industry, government and investors to prioritize production locations, end-uses, and execution plans to produce more low-carbon hydrogen.
  • What’s required: A coordinating entity, estimates of volumes and geographic distribution of hydrogen demand, and legislated policies to support low-carbon hydrogen production and delivery.

2. Buildings

Expand recycled building materials through a robust green material labelling system. That would raise builders’ confidence and advance the development of low-carbon cement, recycled wood, and steel.

  • What’s involved: A national inventory system that captures building material characteristics, specifications, conditions, and availability.
  • What’s required: Creation of circular economy targets, changing legislation for demolition, and stricter waste regulations for municipalities.

3. Agriculture

Create a national monitoring program for carbon markets. The program would record and verify methane emissions and measure the health of natural assets tied to carbon markets.

  • What’s involved: Build out of existing federal and provincial remote sensing systems.
  • What’s required: An operational framework including principles and standards for data collection and measurement, led by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

4. Electricity

Leverage artificial intelligence to build smart grids. A tech-savvy system can better manage electricity demand response in real time and help lower costs for consumers.

  • What’s involved: Deployment of AI-enabled devices, including smart thermostats in homes and businesses that are connected to the operator’s supply and demand management systems, and can be controlled remotely.
  • What’s required: Change building codes to require smart thermostats and introduce relevant legislative provisions that gives operators access to, and control of, smart thermostats.

5. Transportation

Transform commercial fleet with a countrywide charging network. Sharing the high upfront cost of charging infrastructure would boost EV adoption.

  • What’s involved: Automakers, Big Box retailers and logistics firms working together on a cost-sharing model to expand charging network.
  • What’s required: Government incentives to encourage industry to raise industry-wide adoption and pool resources to build a common, nationwide charging infrastructure.

Many of these ideas will require more collaboration, between governments and industries, and within sectors and networks. History has taught us that large-scale and rapid transformation can’t happen without networks and a collective will to look and think beyond boundaries. Emissions, after all, have little regard for boundaries. So, too, should the next chapter of climate action.