The world was watching closely for two weeks as global leaders came together in Paris for COP21, the global combat climate conference. The result: nearly 200 countries have agreed to limit the “increase in the global average temperature to below 2 ̊C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5 ̊C above pre-industrial levels”. Supporters call this a historic achievement, but what does this agreement mean for people like you and me?
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who supported a limit of 1.5 ̊C rather than the 2 ̊C many rich countries were supporting, must now determine how Canada can achieve this goal. She will have to work with the provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to develop more stringent policies, and these policies will have an impact on the lives of many Canadians. It is important that we understand the value of these policy changes, and how an energy efficient home will not only help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also help save energy and money, and maintain a more comfortable home.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged the need to work with Canadians to achieve these goals. In his first address to Parliament as Prime Minister, he said that the government would “not be able to meet the challenges [they] are facing… unless we have Canadians in our corner.” He understands that once Canadians want to help reduce the effects of climate change, we will voluntarily make choices in our daily lives that will help Canada reach its goal.
How can we help Canada reduce its contribution to GHG emissions? According to Ensight, nearly 2/3 of Canadians perceive climate change as a threat to Canada. However we likely feel powerless and do not believe we can reverse the effects of such a global phenomenon. We may understand that highly-insulated, energy efficient homes can help reduce GHG emissions through reducing heating and cooling loads, but if we make the choice to properly insulate our homes and buildings rather than investing in a granite countertop or hardwood flooring, will others also do their part to make smarter choices for the environment?
Solutions are coming into the market place. Two systems have been or are being introduced in Canada that are intended to help Canadians make smarter choices. Labelling and benchmarking systems provide owners with a deeper understanding of the energy performance of their homes or buildings. The new EnerGuide Rating System (ERS) is a consumer-friendly tool used to measure the energy performance of a home or building, and this can be used to label existing homes that can be compared to homes that perform more efficiently than those built to code, such as ENERGY STAR for New Homes (ESNH) or R2000. High-performing homes or buildings will be labelled as such, which may set them apart from others, particularly to those who are interested in the helping the environment.
These labels help Canadians differentiate homes by their energy efficiency, and make it easy to compare their home’s performance with their neighbours’. Many of us are keen to “keep up with the Joneses”, so if you know that your neighbours have higher performing homes, will you be more likely to comply with these norms? It is likely.
Equally important, the labels may demonstrate that a building is likely more comfortable and less expensive to heat and cool, reducing ownership costs. And it’s with these cost savings that you could use to invest in that granite countertop or hardwood flooring. If you want to do your part to help the environment, you may want to consider using a benchmarking system to evaluate your home’s energy efficiency and getting an energy label. Not only will you enjoy a more comfortable home, but you will also be able to use the money you save on utility bills to invest in other things, like a trip to the Caribbean or new countertops. All while helping Canada achieve the goals set in the COP21 agreement.