Synergies: Interactions Between Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in Canada’s Energy Supply Sector
This first Canadian portrait of the interactions between GHG mitigation and adaptation to climate change in the field of energy allows to educate policymakers and companies from the electricity sector about the complex interactions between mitigation efforts and adaptation to climate change
The measures taken in response to climate change usually fall into two categories: mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adaptation to the impacts of climate change. However, investments in adaptation may have an impact on emissions, while mitigation efforts can influence the exposure to climate risks.
Given the time constraints and resources available to address climate change, it is important to ensure that adaptation measures do not increase the emissions balance and that GHG mitigation measures do not diminish resilience to climate change. The energy sector is responsible for 37% of Canada’s total emissions (25% from fossil fuels and 12% from electricity) in addition to being a fundamental pillar of society. In that context it is imperative to develop a good understanding of the possible interactions and synergies between mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
Identify and characterize the interactions (synergies or conflicts) between adaptation and mitigation measures in Canada’s energy sector in order to inform climate change policies and maximize the impact of the efforts.
Selection of 10 climate change adaptation and GHG mitigation strategies in the energy sector; Literature review with a focus on Canadian examples;
Summary of impacts on the vulnerability of GHG reduction measures;
Summary of the emissions associated with adaptation measures;
Evaluation of measures according to four criteria: reliability, carbon neutrality, accessibility and security;
Review of each summary sheet by at least one Canadian expert;
Organisation of a workshop at Ouranos with experts to contextualize and improve the fact sheets.
At a time when the vast majority of funding for climate protection goes to emissions reduction, an enhanced focus on adaptation could lower the risks for investors and communities and reduce the economic, environmental and social costs of climate change. The following is a summary of the key interactions between adaptation and mitigation for the 10 sectors studied.
The production of wind energy can be influenced by climate change through changes in the geographical distribution and speed of wind. At mid-latitudes, more dense vegetation has a slightly negative impact on the production, as does the reduction in air density with increasing temperatures. In northern or mountainous areas, the operation of wind farms can be affected by frost events, changes in the type of vegetation and permafrost melting.
The production of nuclear energy requires large quantities of cooling water, explaining why plants are often located near lakes or coastlines. Nuclear power plants are thus exposed to a greater risk of storms and floods, of which the frequency and intensity may increase. In addition, for each degree of increase in the water temperature, the plant’s efficiency is reduced by about 0.5%. The energy output of the plants may also be temporarily reduced during droughts.
The production of solar energy depends on rainfall, humidity and cloudiness as well as on extreme events such as hail, lightning, strong winds and very high temperatures. Nevertheless, the projected impact of CC on solar production is still minor
The efficiency of natural gas for electricity generation depends on the ambient temperature, whereby losses of 0.5 to 5% are anticipated for a warming of 5°C. The infrastructure used for the operation and transportation of natural gas may be compromised by flooding and erosion, as these could result in the exposure of underground pipelines and also in an increased frequency of storms and forest fires. Melting permafrost may decrease the number of days of access to some Nordic wells. Conversely, ice-free summers can enable extended access to the resources of the Arctic Ocean.
The reduction of methane emissions in the oil and gas sector is robust to CC, except possibly an increase in air humidity, which accelerates the corrosion of certain types of pipes. In Canada, where industry has been operating programs for detecting and reducing leakages for twenty years, and it does not seem to have had any impact on the resilience of this sector to climate change.
The adaptation of infrastructures of the energy industry is even more cost effective when implemented during the initial construction or renovations. According to the 4th IPCC report, emissions resulting from adaptation measures are unlikely to be significant in most industry sectors. Even the construction sector plays a minor role in the annual emissions balance.
District Energy Systems
District energy systems are less sensitive to weather extremes than the more traditional distribution systems as their infrastructure is mostly underground. These systems reach 99.999% reliability factors (also called “five nines”), with no major interruption reported in North America to date. However, depending on their location, these systems may be more vulnerable to floods, storms, extreme rainfall and strong winds.
Bioenergy from biomass can be influenced by climate change effects such as temperature increases, changes in precipitation patterns and the increased frequency of extreme events. Global warming allows for a longer period of growth and a longer frost-free period. The main impact of climate change on forest biomass is that of increasing the frequency of fires, droughts and severe storms and the proliferation of insect pests
Carbon capture and storage increases the consumption of cooling water of thermal power plants (32–93%). This mitigation measure is thus vulnerable to rising temperatures and the frequency and intensity of droughts. climate change does not appear to impact the leakage rates of carbon storage technology
Various economic instruments are used across the country to support mitigation and adaptation to climate change, including carbon taxes, fixed tariffs and an emissions trading system. Other approaches using insurances or green bonds can also be used, although reglementation is generally needed to achieve ambitious targets.
Benefits for adaptation
Benefits for adaptation
This first Canadian portrait of the interactions between GHG mitigation and adaptation to climate change in the field of energy allows to educate policymakers and companies from the electricity sector about the complex interactions between mitigation efforts and adaptation to climate change.
The consideration of these interactions can contribute to reducing the risk of maladaptation while also decreasing the combined cost of the efforts required to reduce emissions while maintaining a robust energy infrastructure.
- Coop Carbone
- IQ carbone