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Pathways to net-zero carbon: Government of Canada allocates $1 million for two Polytechnique Montréal projects

April 11, 2023 - Source : NEWS

Canada’s Net-Zero Advisory Body (NZAB) has announced that $1.05 million in funding, drawn from the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund, will go to two Polytechnique research projects that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. The projects will be led by the Institut de l’énergie Trottier and by Chemical Engineering Professor Guillaume Majeau-Bettez.

Carboneutralité. (Image : Adobe Stock)

During the Americana 2023 environmental forum in Montréal, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, announced financial support of close to $10 million for 16 research projects to be conducted in Canada to identify, accelerate and evaluate mitigation actions that can help the country achieve net-zero carbon by 2050.

The Net-Zero Advisory Body (NZAB), a group of independent experts tasked with providing advice on how Canada can best achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, selected two projects to be carried out at Polytechnique Montréal in the coming years. They are among five Québec-based initiatives that received support totalling some $3 million.

“Achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 is not just a plan for the environment, it is a plan to build a cleaner, more competitive economy,” said Mr. Guilbeault. “Canada is well positioned to provide the world with the cleanest products and services that will create good jobs for Canadians for decades to come. Investments in research that support independent advice and new perspectives on pathways for action are the best way to ensure sound evidence-based decision making and foster the conditions for successful, sustainable improvement.”

Marie-Pierre Ippersiel, President and CEO of PRIMA Québec and NZAB Co-Chair, added: “The Net-Zero Advisory Body is proud to announce this new research to help inform our independent advice on Canada’s pathways to net zero. We hope these projects will also catalyze new ideas and insights for researchers and policymakers across Canada.”

Following are details of the research projects to be led by members of the Polytechnique Montréal community.

Project: Contributions of Biomass in Achieving Net-Zero
Awardee: Institut de l’énergie Trottier
Government contribution: $450,000
Length of project: Two years

The funds allocated to the Institut de l’énergie Trottier (IET) at Polytechnique Montréal will help improve our understanding of issues involved in using biomass as part of the decarbonization of the Canadian economy.

As pointed out in the Canadian Energy Outlook 2021 document produced by the IET, Canada’s objective to achieve net-zero by 2050 is forcing stakeholders in the energy transition to profoundly rethink pathways for decarbonization, because the approaches developed with the previous targets in mind are now obsolete. These new constraints are significantly altering the anticipated role in the energy system of biomass energy—renewable energy sourced from organic matter—and they underscore the usefulness of a strategic approach to sustainably managing this resource. As such, the project will develop an overview of the various biomass use chains, incorporating both energy and non-energy uses, and then create an assessment and comparison matrix to enable analysis of possible exploitations consistent with achieving net-zero emissions.

The exercise will provide insights into questions surrounding the availability of the resource, its role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over different time horizons, and the costs of the various infrastructures required to exploit it as an energy source. In addition, the IET institute will initiate and sustain honest dialogue with various stakeholders—including producers, processors and users, along with specialists from academia, government and the private sector—in order to ascertain the technical, social and economic challenges involved and ensure that they are considered when implementing required transformations.

Project: Societal Opportunities and Risks of Metals Mining for Achieving Net-Zero by 2050 in Canada
Awardee: Guillaume Majeau-Bettez, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
Government contribution: $600,000
Length of project: Two years

The research project led by Professor Majeau-Bettez aims to assess the opportunities and risks involved in extraction in Canada of the strategic minerals needed for the transition to net-zero, as well as contribute to defining standards of excellence, based on environmental, social, governance and Indigenous indicators, for exploitation of strategic mining resources in the country. The project also seeks to define the role of strategic metals in achieving sustainable net-zero carbon, in relation to the technology packages and economic strategies planned.

The researchers will explore net-zero and decarbonization scenarios with a view to better understanding the previously proposed pathways, mapping future pathways, and identifying the potential shortfalls and limitations in the process of developing sustainable net-zero transitions. They will also estimate future demand for strategic metals based on net-zero pathways and geo-located production capabilities. Then, an assessment methodology will be established by “disaggregating” the strategic metals needed for Canada’s net-zero transition, using a database, to enable eventual comparison of the environmental profiles of those metals, whether extracted in Canada or elsewhere, and to quantify the environmental consequences of various procurement scenarios across Canada.

After establishing a methodology for the social impacts and social acceptability challenges related to strategic metals extraction during the transition, both in Canada and abroad, the project team will conduct a socio-economic and environmental assessment of the production and consumption of the strategic metals involved in Canada’s net-zero pathways. Lastly, they will make recommendations on the impact of development of strategic metals mining in Canada on the country’s net-zero and sustainable-development objectives.

Postdoctoral researcher Anne de Bortoli and analyst Maxime Agez, of the Centre international de référence sur l’analyse du cycle de vie et la transition durable (international reference centre for lifecycle assessment and sustainable transition—CIRAIG), industrial engineering postdoctoral researcher and CIRAIG analyst Carole Brunet, along with professors Cécile Bulle, Sara Russo Garrido and Marie-France Turcotte of Université du Québec à Montréal, are all members of the project team.

Congratulations to everyone who will be involved in these research projects!

Learn more

Institut de l’énergie Trottier’s expertise
Institut de l’énergie Trottier website
Professor Guillaume Majeau-Bettez’s expertise
Department of Chemical Engineering website
Environment and Climate Change Canada website

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