With the new Trudeau government in place, and the derelict state of 24 Sussex making the news, a number of groups have been calling for a green retrofit of the residence that since 1951 has housed the Canadian Prime Minster.
The Sierra Club is suggesting a green retrofit. The Climate Welcome group delivered solar panels as a gift for the Prime Minister over the weekend. The Emerging Leaders for Solar Energy group published an open letter promoting solar on 24 Sussex and how we can help (disclosure: I was one of the group’s inaugural co-Chairs). Even TV renovation stars like Mike Holmes have stepped up and offered their services.
Why the focus on the symbolic act of installing solar on a single residence? Of course, the climate movement is simultaneously focused on the more substantive issues like the role that Canada will play towards a global accord at the climate negotiations in Paris; the domestic energy and carbon policies that should be implemented at home.
But the campaign to “green” 24 Sussex is attractive because of how tactile it is. In Canada we’ve been looking for leadership and a win on the climate and energy stage for the past decade. Maybe we are a bit envious of the climate legacy Obama is gearing up for (not to mention the solar panels that were recently installed at the White House.
If we can win here (and by win I mean help the government understand that a green retrofit and installing solar PV or solar thermal will save taxpayer money over its lifespan, while also demonstrating clean energy leadership), then maybe we can start tackling the much harder and complex policy questions.
This campaign is also so appealing to Canadians because the goal is very clear, unlike in the murky world of international climate negotiations, complex policy instruments and carbon markets, where success is harder to measure and outcomes are harder to see.
Even though Canada’s clean energy investments have grown to $10B last year, and the clean energy sector employs more people than the oil sands -- these are just stats that get picked up on your newsfeed. It is hard to feel that progress. It is hard to touch and see these wins. It has been hard to feel optimistic.
And so the climate and environmental zeitgeist in Canada has found expression in other avenues over the last decade. The $285M+ donated annually to environmental charities in Canada to support their campaigns. The thousands of people buying green power credits from groups like Bullfrog Power. And increasingly, the everyday Canadians who are coming to firms like CoPower for simple green investments in clean energy. The Prime Minister has an opportunity to lead by example by making the historical residence a symbol of our low-carbon future.
So I am supporting a green, solar 24 Sussex, and you should too.