Summer Rewind: Positive Energy in a Polarized World
Summer Rewind: Positive Energy in a Polarized World
To address climate change, we must be united, working together towards a common goal. But differing perspectives have created a complex and polarized debate: renewable energy versus fossil fuel versus nuclear power. These discussions require an open mind and constructive dialogue to find solutions that work for all stakeholders. In thinkenergy episode 106, Dr. Monica Gattinger, li, unpacks how we can build a stronger way forward for Canada – together. Related links Positive Energy: Positive Energy, Twitter: The Institute for Science, Society and Policy: The Institute for Science, Society and Policy, LinkedIn: Monica Gattinger, LinkedIn: Monica Gattinger, Twitter: To subscribe using To subscribe using To subscribe on --- Subscribe so you don't miss a video on Check out our cool pics on More to Learn on Keep up with the ------------------------------ Transcript: Dan Seguin 00:06 This is thinkenergy. The podcast that helps you better understand the fast changing world of energy through conversations with game changers, industry leaders, and influencers. So join me, Dan Seguin, as I explore both traditional and unconventional facets of the energy industry, Dan Seguin 00:28 Everyone, welcome back. Energy and climate change are important topics that have been increasingly discussed in recent years due to the significant impact they have on the environment, the economy, and society as a whole. The effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and loss of biodiversity are widely recognized by the scientific community. However, there are different views on the best ways to address these issues, particularly in terms of energy policy, and the way we live, work, consume and travel. While some advocate for the transition to renewable energy sources, others still argue for the continued use of fossil fuels or the development of other technologies such as nuclear energy. Dan Seguin 01:27 These differing perspectives have created a complex and often polarized debate. It is important to approach these discussions with an open mind, consider the evidence and engage in constructive dialogue to find common ground and solutions that work for all stakeholders. We've often heard that working together and respecting different opinions are essential for effective collaboration and innovation. For climate change, it's more important than ever, that we come together to work towards a common goal. So here is today's big question. When it comes to energy, and climate, are we able to consider diverse perspectives so we can identify blind spots, and challenge assumptions that will ultimately lead to a stronger way forward for Canada. Today, my special guest is Dr. Monica Gattinger. She's the director of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy. She's a full professor at the School of Political Studies and founder Chair of Positive Energy at the University of Ottawa. Monica, welcome to the show. Now, perhaps you can start by telling our listeners a bit about yourself, and how the positive energy program that you found it at the University of Ottawa came to be? Monica Gattinger 02:55 Thanks, happy to. I'm a professor at the University of Ottawa. And I've been a student of energy, Dan it kind of pains me to say it, for but going on three decades now. And I guess about maybe 10 years ago or so around 2014-2015, you might remember at that time, there was a lot of contentiousness in the energy sector, particularly around pipeline development. And I think, you know, I felt a certain frustration that I'd go to energy conferences, and we'd all kind of get concerned about this. And, you know, I don't know, throw our hands up in the air, but what was happening, and then walk away, come back at the next conference to do the same thing. So the idea that I had was to create an initiative that would convene leaders who were concerned about these issues of public confidence and energy decision making, convening them together to try to identify what some of the key challenges are. And then I would undertake a research team, some solution focused, applied academic research to actually feed that process on an ongoing basis. So it's, you know, not just conferences, we walk away conferences, we walk away, it's, let's put in place a process to actually excuse me to actually get to some solution seeking on the challenges. Dan Seguin 04:11 Okay, now, I have to ask you, because I love the name, given how polarizing energy has been for a number of years now, is the name meant to have a double meaning? Monica Gattinger 04:20 Yes, it is. You are exactly right. That was you know, at the time when we created that name, that was precisely what we were trying to do, which is let's have some positive discussions about energy. I think the other thing I'd point to is, you know, for us, and it's always been the case that energy is all energy. So yes, at the time when we created positive energy, you know, what was in the news was big pipelines. But many of these issues and the challenges that we address with our work, apply to all energy sources, whether it's, you know, electricity, oil and gas at the upstream downstream, midstream sectors, so we really wanted to try to foster a pan Canadian approach on on the issues with energy as the core. Dan Seguin 05:10 Monica, in one of your research reports, you acknowledge that division is eroding public trust and preventing progress. Why is that happening? Is it a lack of understanding around climate change and Canada's goals? Or is it more about the method or policies in place to get there? Monica Gattinger 05:32 That's a super important question, Dan. And it's really at the heart of what we're aiming to do with positive energy. So if you look at where we're at now, on energy and climate, there's, you know, a tremendous global move towards net zero. And, of course, this is going to mean just a wholesale transformation of our energy systems and broader economy. So, you know, there are bound to be disagreements of division over how we go about doing that. And I think, you know, one of the crucial things about this energy transition in comparison to previous energy transitions, is that it's going to be largely policy driven, like, yes, there will be market developments, but policy is going to be playing such an important role. So to your question, you know, a lot of this is around the methods or the policies that we're going to be putting in place when it comes to energy transition. And I think our work really starts from the, you know, the very strong belief that if we don't have public confidence in government decision making over energy and climate, we're not going to be able to make ongoing forward progress on either energy or, or climate objectives. And for us, public confidence is, you know, the confidence of people, whether as citizens, as consumers as community members, but it's also the confidence of investors, right, we know that we're going to need a tremendous amount of new energy infrastructure, without the investor confidence to make that happen, we're not going to be able to to, you know, achieve the emissions reductions that are envisioned envisaged. So for us that whole question of division, and how do we address division, where it exists, is just fundamental to our efforts. Dan Seguin 07:17 Okay. Now, do you think we lack a shared positive vision as Canadians on the future? And how we get there together? How do we build bridges? Is this what you're trying to achieve with positive energy? Monica Gattinger 07:32 Yeah, I'd say yes or no, on the shared vision. So you know, we do a lot of public opinion, polling researchers, as you might know, Dan, and and, you know, uniformly Canadian scores, government's very poorly, on whether they are succeeding and developing a shared vision for Canada's energy future. That said, you know, I don't see it all as a whole bad news, there is remarkable alignment of views among Canadians on many aspects of the country's energy future, I think sometimes what, what we tend to hear, you know, are the voices in political debates and in the media, and in the end in the media, that are on you know, sort of opposite ends of a spectrum, if you look at, you know, sort of where Canadians are at, in general, you know, in terms of the majority opinions, they're often much more aligned than what you might think, by listening to some of our political debates or reading the media. So I think what we're trying to do at positive energies is a few things. One is, you know, to really try to see just how divided we are, and a lot of our work has brought forward that we're not as divided as we might think, on some of these issues. And the second thing we're trying to do is provide a forum for people who do want to work constructively and positively to chart a positive path forward, provide that forum for those to do that, and then to undertake academic research to support that. And one of the things that we found is that there's just a tremendous appetite for that kind of initiative. Dan Seguin 09:05 Okay, Monica, hoping you can shed some light on this next item. What do you mean, when you see that Canada is at a log jam when it comes to charting our energy future? Monica Gattinger 09:19 That's a great question. Because, you know, when I think about when we wrote that, that was a few that were written a few years ago. So it kind of answers that question a little bit differently now than I would have if you'd asked it at the time that we wrote it. So if you think about it, cast your mind back to 2015. And the creation between the federal government and the provinces of the pan Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, there was a lot of alignment between the federal government and provinces and territories around climate change. And then we had some electoral turnover and new governments coming into power at the provincial level and the round sort of the 2018 period and that relative peace between federal and provincial governments began to be overturned. And so that, you know, the log jam that we were referring to was really written at that period of time, we were seeing a lot of fractiousness between the federal government and provincial governments. And don't get me wrong, we still see, we still see some of that, but certainly not to the level we did at that time. So I think it over the last few years, we've seen much greater alignment emerge in the country, notably around the concept of net zero, which we think is really, really, really constructive progress. I think, where we see some of the challenges now is moving to implementation, right? How do we move to reduce emissions and actually roll up our sleeves and do it in a way that will build and maintain public confidence? That's, you know, that's very much where we're casting our efforts these days. Dan Seguin 10:50 Okay, cool. And what are some of the weaknesses you found in energy decision making? Monica Gattinger 10:56 So I think there are a few that I would point to, you know, one would be and our current work is zeroing in on this more than we have in the past, is the whole question of energy security. And by that what, what we're referring to is the reliability and affordability and availability of energy. So in the absence, I mean, Dan, you know, you work at hydro Ottawa, so you would know, when you know, when the lights go out. People are nervous, it really captures their attention. I'll put it that way. And so in the absence of, you know, reliable, affordable energy, it's going to be very difficult to make ongoing progress on emissions reductions. So that whole question of energy security is one of the what I'd say is sort of the weaknesses in the frame that policymakers are often bringing to, to energy decision making, I think a second area that really is going to need some attention is our policy and regulatory frameworks for energy project decision making. I mean, we know, let's say, you know, take electrification, if we're going to be moving forward on electrification in a meaningful way. Most reasonable estimates assume we're going to need to double or triple our generating capacity in the country, and all the infrastructure transmission, local distribution, all that goes along with that, that's going to require building a whole lot of infrastructure. And so there's definitely some weaknesses there in our existing frameworks for doing that. And then the third area I'd point to is collaboration between governments. And so yes, federal and provincial, but it's also increasingly, municipal governments as well need to be collaborating with other levels of government and indigenous governments too, so bringing together that collaboration across jurisdictions is an area where there's a lot of a lot of strength that we're going to need to be building. Dan Seguin 12:47 Okay, Monica, following up on this theme, positive energy has conducted a number of public opinion surveys since 2015, to gauge Canadian support for the country's climate commitments and their views on our international credibility. What are some surprises? And have you seen any change in attitudes since you started the surveys? Monica Gattinger 13:11 Yeah, we've done a lot of work. We have a fantastic partnership with Nanos research, we've been working with Nick Nanos and the Nanos team since 2015, we've done lots of public opinion polling along the way. And so I think, you know, one of the things that has surprised me the most about this, and maybe it's just my own naivete as as a, you know, an academic researcher, but is just the pragmatism of Canadians, you know, many of the questions that we put to Canadians come back with very pragmatic and balanced responses. So there seems to be that recognition on the part of, of Canadians of the need to take a balanced approach to energy and climate issues. So I'll give you just a couple of quick examples. So we've been tracking Canadians level of climate ambition, we started doing this actually, during the pandemic. And so we asked people on a scale of zero to 10, where zero is now the worst time and 10 is the best time to take action on climate, you know, what, what, how would you score things? And, you know, the majority of Canadians, you know, score things strongly, they want to see climate action. We've seen some weakening of that, notably, as we've got some weakening of the economic conditions that has weakened people's appetite. So that's sort of one thing we, you know, Canadians want climate action. On the second. Second thing I'd point to is, we've done a lot of tracking as well, around Canadians views on the importance of oil and gas to Canada's current economy and to its future economy. And so, you know, there again, we see what you might expect, which is people there's a recognition that oil and gas is important to Canada's current economy. Views tend to drop off a little bit in terms of its importance to the future economy, but much stronger than I would have anticipated in terms of the level of, you know, opinions when it comes to the strength, or when it comes to the importance, apologies of oil and gas and Canada's current and future economy. One thing I'm just going to, you know, like heads up, we've got a study coming out very shortly. And we've seen a jump in Canadians' views around the importance of oil and gas to the country's current and future economy. And we're thinking that this might be because of economic conditions having changed, you know, the war, Russia's war in Ukraine, just creating a different kind of an environment for Canadians opinions, then the last thing I point to that, for me is kind of been surprising, but in a not always fun way is that we've also been tracking Canadians views on government's performance on energy and climate issues. And then it doesn't matter what aspect of government performance we ask people about, they always score it like so weak, like weak to the point, when we first asked this question, I'm like, Nick, do people you know, just kind of score governments weekly? And so this is just, you know, typical stuff. He's like, No, Monica, that's really low scores. So I think there's a recognition there on the part of Canadians that governments have a lot of work to do, that this is difficult stuff, to to to take on. But that we're going to need to if we're going to be able to achieve some of our climate ambition in the country. Dan Seguin 16:27 Now, let's dig into the research. First, can you tell us who you're convening and bringing together to conduct your research and who your intended audience is? Who do you want to influence? Monica Gattinger 16:42 Yeah, so we're bringing together leaders, from business, from government and from government, we're referring to both policymakers and regulatory agencies, leaders from indigenous organizations, from civil society organizations, like environmental NGOs, and then academics, like myself. And our aim is really with the research and convening that we're undertaking is to inform decision making, you know, so the key audience for this from our perspective as government decision makers, whether policymakers or regulators at, you know, at at any level of government, really, more broadly, in our we're working very closely with the energy and climate community at large. So our intended audience isn't, you know, sort of the general public per se, although I like to think that we're sort of working on their behalf in terms of a lot of the work, a lot of the work that we're doing Dan Seguin 17:37 Great stuff, Monica, now, let's talk about your first multi year research phase, public confidence in energy decision making. Why is it important to start here? Monica Gattinger 17:49 Yeah, for us, this was really crucial to try to dig into and understand why we are facing these challenges to public confidence in decision making, for energy and climate issues. And, you know, believe it or not, we spent about two years trying to dig into that problem and identify all of its different, all of its different components. So we published a study in that first phase of research called system under stress, where we were focusing on energy decision making, and the need to inform, sorry, to reform energy decision making in that study, and this was sort of how we unpack this challenge of public confidence. We use this metaphor of elephants, horses, and sitting ducks. And so the elephants were elephants in the room. So at that time, one of the big issues that was, you know, informing or leading to challenges in public confidence was that there was a belief on the part of quite a few folks that governments were taking insufficient action on climate change. And as a result of that, not having a forum, you know, to move forward action on climate change, many folks who were concerned about that or raising those issues in regulatory processes for individual energy projects, right? And if your regulators say, well, that's not part of my mandate. So what would we do with this, and that led to some challenges. Another Elephant, you know, another elephant in the room at that time was reconciliation with indigenous peoples, that there was insufficient action on the part, you know, on the, you know, in the minds of many around reconciliation with indigenous peoples and so, you know, some of the big challenges that indigenous communities were facing, whether missing, murdered indigenous women, you know, potable drinking water, economic conditions, a whole...