Canada needs to develop digital policy to reach net zero, report finds

A new report has found that digital policies are being overlooked by Canada as the country continues on its path towards net zero

The report, by independent connectivity consultants FarrPoint, examined the digital policies that G7 economies have or are planning to introduce as they work towards becoming net zero by the year 2050.

Digital policy is viewed as a vital way for governments to work towards their net zero commitments. Additionally, studies have shown that digital solutions could bring down greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by up to 20 per cent, eliminating 120 megatonnes yearly. 

FarrPoint’s research concluded that Canada, similar to the rest of the G7, has no actual national digital policies designed to support climate action and the delivery of net zero targets. 

According to the report, the development and inclusion of digital policies within government’s sustainability commitments is a clear opportunity to create positive outcomes. Additionally, it’s also an opportunity for Canada to lead the world in digitally enabled climate action.

The report highlighted how, during the COVID-19 pandemic, lifestyle changes actually caused global emissions to fall by 5.8 per cent in 2020. These changes included working from home, travelling and commuting less, changes in consumer behaviour such as online shopping, and digitally enabled entertainment. However, as cases lower and restrictions lift, the report said GHG emissions are on the rise again.

FarrPoint recommends transitioning away from broadband and cellular network infrastructure competition, which would limit emissions from construction, allocate assets more efficiently, and make sure that network and infrastructure owners can make a return on their investment. The U.K. Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) is now reviewing the impact its interventions in broadband and mobile infrastructure markets may have on net-zero GHG emissions. 

The report also revealed that a combination of tax incentives should be introduced to encourage changes in working practices such as prioritizing remote working, as well as to promote the delivery of public services digitally and aid the wider digital adoption within the economy by reducing financial barriers to entry. 

Also, the report recommends that all digital procurement and investment requiring public funding should prioritize projects with credible carbon reduction plans, to reduce the ecological impact of infrastructure investment.

“Like many countries, Canada’s efforts to combat climate change are developing but there is still much more work to be done if it is to achieve net zero commitments. Across the world, digital services and solutions have been overlooked as a mechanism to achieve our collective environmental goals,” said Andrew Muir, chief executive of FarrPoint. “It is vital that governments, organizations, and consumers alike recognize that digital policy is climate policy. In creating this report, we have been able to provide a clear path forward to kick-start a conversation in Canada on the crucial role digital can play in reaching net zero.”

FarrPoint’s report notes that the seven sectors identified and tracked by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will benefit from GHG emissions reductions as a direct result of digital policies. These sectors include energy, industry, buildings, transport, land use, land use change and forestry, waste, and agriculture.

Muir added that improved digital policy also could help drive emissions down to reach its 2030 goal of a reduction of 40 to 45 per cent of 2005 emissions, a huge step on the journey towards net zero.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Samira Balsara
Samira Balsara
Samira is a writer for IT World Canada. She is currently pursuing a journalism degree at Toronto Metropolitan University (formally known as Ryerson) and hopes to become a news anchor or write journalistic profiles. You can email her at [email protected]

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