Canada and the Green Transition: Perspectives on the Way Forward

Chapter 3: Canadian Public Opinion and the Green Transition

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Key Messages




  • Broadly, Canadians understand the climate crisis is real, and that the window of opportunity to address it is lessening
  • Canadians clearly support an energy transition, even in oil and gas provinces (though less so). Further, 75% support an energy transition that takes place in 25 years or less, in line with current scientific expectations for addressing a 1.5-2 degree temperature limit. However, Canadians do not agree on what an aggressive or balanced timeline ought to be
  • Further, Canadians have a strong (and likely unrealistic) expectation that the economy can be decarbonized, and that we can still develop fossil fuels such as in Alberta’s oil sands (47% of respondents agreed with this statement, with only 30% in disagreement)
  • Region, ideology and party affiliation, as well as beliefs concerning the oil and gas industry are the most powerful variables associated with support for a faster energy transition. Other factors such as gender, children in household, education, and support for nuclear are also important, but to a lesser extent
  • Canadian trends in public opinion are not characterized by the kind of extensive style polarization seen in the U.S., but divisions are more marked with regard to support for carbon pricing, pipelines and nuclear power




  • While Canadians are ambivalent about full Indigenous control over energy developments, over 82% support the Canadian government negotiating an accord with Indigenous peoples to reduce conflict and uncertainty over energy development
  • Canadians strongly support local communities receiving more benefits and accommodation from co-located energy developments.




  • Canadian support for renewables is very high, across the nation. In fact, support for renewables is likely the least contentious green transition policy option
  • Support for nuclear energy is variable, associated with preferences for a faster transition timeline
  • There is strong support for technological options such CCUS as a means for decarbonizing industrial activity
  • And there is strong consensus that Canada must support and retrain oil and gas workers if we pivot away from fossil fuels. This implies important support for a clear and well-defined Just Transition plan aimed at the West





  • Avoid policies that support divisive ambitions such as pipelines or a carbon tax, and instead consider non-divisive industrial development policies
    • Pursue climate policies focused on areas that Canadians support strongly. This could include renewables, CCUS, and improved electrification
    • Pursue climate policies which provide flexibility for regional differentiation and federalism, but still have strong climate outcomes
    • Develop policies that accelerate the energy transition given citizen support for transition within 10-25 years
    • Focus on policies that address Canadian priorities for equity across vulnerable communities, such as supporting substantive partnerships with Indigenous communities, rigorous re-training or development in fossil-fuel dependent economies, and addressing energy insecurity in low-income areas
    • Be prepared to spend money to develop such policies, and also emphasize costs of inaction in Canada and globally to motivate support and develop the rationale for spending





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