Report: Canada’s existing buildings hold key to climate targets

Report: Canada’s existing buildings hold key to climate targets

An office building receives an energy-efficiency retrofit in Edmonton. Photo courtesy of Roberta Franchuk, Pembina Institute

Governments at all levels in Canada are moving toward requiring new homes and buildings to be constructed to low-carbon, ultra energy-efficient standards by 2030. But Canada still lacks a comprehensive strategy to achieve the significant reductions in carbon pollution from existing buildings that are necessary to meet the country’s climate targets, according to a new report.

The Pembina Institute and The Atmospheric Fund’s paper titled Energy Regulations for Existing Buildings identifies key opportunities and challenges for the federal government to consider as it works with the provinces to create and implement such a strategy for existing buildings.

Although supporting measures such as financing, incentives, energy labeling and voluntary programs are critical tools, the paper points out that an ambitious and clear pathway set through building codes and regulations is essential for deep emissions reductions.

Energy use in buildings accounts for nearly a quarter of Canada’s carbon pollution, officials said.

The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change committed to the development of a national model code for existing buildings by 2022. Provinces, territories and municipalities could then adopt the model retrofit code as part of their building regulations.

Establishing the overall level of carbon reductions needed in Canada’s building sector, and setting targets for reductions from existing buildings are key considerations in the development of retrofit code requirements.

Reducing the energy used by existing buildings through codes will result in reduced operating costs for homeowners, due to lower energy or maintenance costs and economic benefits from retrofit activity and investment in the building stock. On top of that, every $1 million invested in energy efficiency generates $3-4 million in economic growth, officials said.

“Significantly reducing carbon pollution from our existing buildings is essential to making good on Canada’s climate commitments,” said Karen Tam Wu, director of the Buildings and Urban Solutions Program at the Pembina Institute. “We need the federal and provincial governments to work together to set out a clear and ambitious pathway to deep emissions reductions in the existing building stock.”

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