Jan 17, 2022
Canada has been vocal about reaching a net zero future, but
order for the country to get there, it’s going to require a combination of new technology and social behaviours.
Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of Destination Zero and former Executive Director of Climate Action Network-Canada, joins thinkenergy this episode to discuss how we can build more resilient energy systems, how Indigenous communities are leading the charge on renewable energy development, and what it will take for Canada to reach its proposed net zero future.
Listen to Catherine’s in-depth conversation with Dan Séguin and
hear why she believes the antidote to despair is not hope, it’s
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. Hey, everyone, welcome back. On today's show, we're going to talk about what's on everyone's mind. Net Zero. Today's show is going to be a great one, Canada's Amazing Race to net zero emissions by 2050. The topic of climate change is something all generations Baby Boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z's acknowledge as urgent and critical for the future of our planet. Now, imagine in the not too distant future where Canada is 100% powered by clean, renewable energy, and all vehicles on the roads are electric, producing zero greenhouse gas emissions. So to be clear, net zero will be reached when we remove as much or more greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere than we put into it. And this utopia is not science fiction, but rather an ambitious action plan that Canada aims to achieve by the year 2050. In fact, with less than three decades to go, the race is on to achievable targets and solve the greatest challenge of our lifetime. On another piece of information, the road Bank of Canada just released a report in October 2021, stating that this transition to net zero emissions could have a price tag of, get this, $2 trillion that 60 billion a year. Wow. Right now, we're putting as much pollution into the atmosphere as we did a generation ago emitting 730 million tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases each year. To get back on track, the federal government has committed to getting Canada back to around 500 million tons by 2030. And some of our listeners may not be aware of our very own organization, hydro auto holding, just announced its commitment to reach Net Zero operations by 2030. At first for any municipally owned utility company in Canada. That's pretty amazing. So here's today's big question. Say Canada reduces emissions by 500 million tons by 2030. What is it going to take to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions between 2030 and 2050? Now joining us today is Catherine Abreu, the executive director of destination zero, and former executive director of Climate Action Network Canada. Catherine, I'm hoping you can shed some light on how the general public can sort spend from substance as it relates to net zero conversations that seem to be gaining enormous momentum. Now, Catherine, are you ready to dive into today's questions?
Catherine Abreu 03:42
Dan Seguin 03:43
The term Net Zero gets thrown around a lot, but is often misunderstood. Arguably, there's historically been a lot of attention and understanding around one half of the net zero equation, which is lowering our emissions profile. But there's another side to net zero as well, which involves removing or absorbing emissions from the atmosphere. Now, I'm wondering if you can speak to the second part in more details. What does it involve? And how important is carbon removal and absorption to Net zero efforts, Catherine?
Catherine Abreu 04:25
Hey, Daniel. Yeah, thanks for this question. It's a really, really important one. I think often when people hear the phrase net zero by 2050, and we've been hearing it a lot in the last couple of years, especially, you know, it's easy to get really distracted by those phrases, net and 2050. And for me, the operating word in that phrase is zero. And so what net zero means is that we are getting as close to zero emissions as possible. That being said, there will be remaining sources of emissions that were not able to mitigate in time by by mid century. And, and so we use that term net to talk about building up our capacity to sequester those emissions, either through natural means, which is the preferred choice by improving our agricultural lands, you know, turning our farms into places that can help capture some of that carbon by reforming some agricultural practices, restoring natural ecosystems in particular forests, which, of course, you know, requires number one for us to protect those forests, make sure they're not being chopped down. And as much as possible, protect them from the growing forest fires, that we're seeing rage across Canada, restoring other natural ecosystems, like wetlands, which are actually really huge carbon sinks, they store a lot of carbon. And so that's, that's, you know, the primary focus for that part of the net, is let's restore those natural ecosystems. So that we can sequester more of that carbon in the future, if we're not able to actually bring it down to zero, because, you know, some of that carbon is going to be coming from buildings, that will, we'll still be putting out some of that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the future. And we won't be, you know, we may not necessarily be able to get every single building to zero emissions by 2050. So that's one potential source. Of course, industrial sources are another example. And restoring those natural ecosystems has a whole bunch of other benefits, right, like, improves our health and well being to be able to access those natural species, or those natural spaces, I should say. And it helps with species restoration, because of course, the the twin crises to climate changes the biodiversity crisis. And the other side of the of the net of the net equation is technology. So technology that will actually capture carbon from an industrial process or from the air and turn it into something else, ideally. So carbon capture, utilization and storage is the phrase that's often used on that front. CCUS is the acronym. And we have some of those technologies in operation right now. Generally, they're operating in extremely small scale in a very niche pilot project area. And they're being helped along by huge government subsidies, these carbon capture technologies are right now quite expensive. And so that's why we often say when we're talking about Net Zero that, while those technologies will likely be a part of our future, particularly in industrial applications, we probably right now need to be focusing on those solutions that we know are going to work, and that don't require such huge government subsidies. And those solutions are really in those those ecosystem restoration solutions that I was talking about at the outset.
Dan Seguin 07:58
Okay, in your view, Catherine, what are the most promising and impressive carbon reduction and removal technologies from the perspective of maximizing the ability to achieve net zero by 2050? What are you most excited about when it comes to the vision and opportunity of net zero?
Catherine Abreu 08:20
So yeah, I'm going to give you an answer that's maybe a bit unexpected, because I think when we imagine technology, we often think about it in very like mechanical terms, right? We think about, oh, what's the new, flashy, shiny piece of technology that we're going to apply, and that will save us from ourselves? I think, also, as humans, we tend to be very preoccupied with silver bullet solutions. So we're saying what's the new cool technology that we can invent that's just going to solve climate change for us in the future, and we don't have to worry about it. And so often get worried in the in the carbon capture conversation, that that's where people's minds go. And when in reality, we're looking at a huge mix of solutions. And the technologies that we're going to be working with some of them will be those, you know, mechanical technologies that we imagine that many of them will actually be social adaptations, right? So kind of healing based technologies, new ways of doing thing, things. And so to link it back to our earlier conversation about what net zero by 2050 really means, you know, we can think about a different way of approaching agriculture. So that farmland is turned from a carbon source, which it really is right now. It's the third largest source of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions in the world. So we can think about how to turn it from a carbon source into a carbon sink. So how do we, you know, how do we innovate in the agricultural sector to improve the Have those those agricultural lands capacity to sequester carbon. And I would say that that's actually the thing that I feel most excited about, because I think we have huge, largely untapped potential in that arena. And that conversation around agricultural transformation and the role that farmers can play in a netzero future is just picking up steam here in Canada. And I think it's going to be a really, really important one for us in the next decade. Because making farmers a part of the solution is also a big a big and exciting possibility. In terms of the those hard Technologies, a lot of room, as I was saying earlier, it's still relatively undeveloped. And so it's hard to say which one is going to win the day, right, which when we might be seeing used in some of those industrial applications more often in the future, that's likely to come kind of post 2030. So over the course of the next decade, will be really, really focusing on the things that we have at our fingertips right now. But there will be this kind of technological evolution that happens in parallel. And, you know, perhaps by the 2040s, and the 2050s, there will be some carbon capture technologies that are widely used, or more widely used. And so really, I think what we have to be focusing on is striking this balance between investing in the solutions that we know we have now that we have right at our fingertips, and that we just need to scale up. And then also, taking a look at some of the innovation and the evolution that's happening and carbon capture technologies, mostly in the private sector. There are there are private sector proponents that are thinking through that problem right now. And perhaps, you know, in the next decade, that's a little bit where where we'll be pivoting and thinking about how we're using some of those existing solutions at the scale we need to while also bringing in some of these newer technologies.
Dan Seguin 11:55
Okay. There, there seems to be a lot of excitement around the GHG reduction potential associated with electrification. What's your vision of the role of clean electricity and electrification of other sectors when it comes to helping to fulfill our country's GHG reduction requirements?
Catherine Abreu 12:20
I love this question. I spent the early part of my career regularly attending utility review board meetings and thinking through integrated resource planning processes for utilities. And so I I'm a dedicated electricity nerd. And I think, you know, we often don't talk about that as much as we need to in Canada, because we have an electricity, we have electricity systems across Canada that are already over 80% non emitting. And so for us electricity is is maybe a little bit less a part of the climate action conversation than it is in other places that have much more greenhouse gas intensive electricity systems. But of course, that that really differs across the country. So you know, we have pretty GHG intensive electricity systems on the East Coast in Canada, you know, through the prairies. But why we focus in on that is because clean electricity is where it all starts, that's the foundation that we have to build a decarbonized society from a clean electricity system is what we need to power electric vehicles. Whether those are personal vehicles or public transportation vehicles, clean electricity is what we need to depend on to build our net zero homes. Right, you can't have a netzero home if if that home is, in part using electricity that's being generated from greenhouse gas emitting sources like coal. And so all of these other sectors that we want to decarbonize even industry, right, huge potential for electrification in industry. But the only point of electrifying industry is if that electricity is cleaner than the sources of energy that they're using right now. So all of those other sectors need to decarbonize. And the way they're going to decarbonize is by using a clean electricity system. And I think also part of why that conversation is big here in Canada is because we are at the starting point of having a relatively clean electricity system when compared to other jurisdictions. And so here in Canada, we have the potential to, you know, scale up the renewable the clean, renewable energy that's in our energy mix already. So moved from over 80% clean electricity across Canada to closer to 100% clean electricity in Canada and their government commitments that put us on that track. And we also have the potential to think about scaling up our exports of clean electricity. And I think that's actually an important conversation because Canada has a very greenhouse gas intensive export economy right now, a lot of our exports, you know, they are fossil fuel intensive. And so they have a really high carbon footprint. And we need to be thinking about how to substitute those high carbon exports with low carbon exports, as our economy decarbonize is, and clean electricity is a big part potential there. So yeah, so that's really the foundation of of the social and economic transformation that we're talking about it from as we shift from fossil fuel based energy sources, to clean renewable energy based sources.
Dan Seguin 15:32
When folks hear about plans for reaching net zero by 2050, their immediate reaction is to be concerned about potential increase of in energy costs, or perhaps about losing their jobs, depending on the sector they work in. What would you say to these folks, Catherine?
Catherine Abreu 15:53
the concern of a rising energy costs is a huge one. You know, we've actually seen that rear its head pretty substantially this year, in the late half of 2021, with rising energy costs across Europe, relating mostly to the rising costs of gas. And I think actually, a big lesson that we're learning from the energy cost crisis that many parts of Europe and other parts of the world are experiencing right now is that the fossil fuel market is actually quite volatile. And that volatility has impacted Canada quite a bit as a major oil and gas producer already. But it's starting to impact not only, you know, production, and jobs related to that production of fossil fuels, it's starting to also know penetrate energy systems that rely on those fossil fuels. And, and so we need to be correcting for that volatility. And a part of how we do that actually, and this is maybe counterintuitive to a lot of folks, because there's a lot of misguiding rhetoric out there around renewable energy. But part of how we make energy systems more resilient, is by incorporating more renewable energy more distributed renewable energy generation into those systems. And then another important piece is energy efficiency. So you make those energy systems really lean as much as you can, by cutting energy waste, right? So we want to me making sure that we're not losing energy as it's transferred from where it's created to where it's used, we want to make sure that when it's used, it's used as efficiently as possible. And so those investments in energy efficiency help make the energy system more stable. And then when we make that energy system run on renewable energy, and when we're talking renewable energy, we're talking about a mix here of water when sun and storage, of course, and then we see that, that there is a new kind of resilience put into that system. Because often those energy sources can help us lock in long term prices that are much more stable than the volatile energy prices associated with fossil fuels. So so that is the kind of longer term solution that we're looking to hear. And I said the word distributed earlier. And distributed. So here in Canada, and in most parts of North America, we're used to energy generation happening kind of far away from where we live, right? It's like big coal plants, big natural gas plants that are far away from where we live. And we don't really see them operate very often. And there's huge long transmission lines that get it to our neighborhoods, and then big distribution networks that get it to our homes. With renewable energy, we have the we have the potential to to bring that generation closer to where we need it, where we actually need the end product of the energy. And that can really help build more resilient energy systems as well, because the energy doesn't have as far to go. It's closer to where the demand is. And we maybe have, you know, instead of relying on this one source of energy, we have several sources of energy kind of in the neighborhood that we can be turning to. So So I think that's the Yeah, that's the really like, that's the crux of this kind of transition that we that we need to be going through and in the long run in the long run, that can really offer much lower and more stable energy prices for people. But unfortunately, we've heard a lot of misguided or I think, intentionally misrepresented rhetoric around renewable energy and it having a high cost. And the only reason that that it appears to have a high cost is because fossil fuel energy has been subsidized so heavily for the last century by governments that those fossil fuels tend to have an artist officially lower cost, but we are paying for that artificially lower cost as taxpayers. And so part of the equation here is is leveling out the playing field between fossil fuels and renewable energy by supporting the growth of renewable energy and stopping subsidies to fossil fuels.
Dan Seguin 20:20
Okay, as a customer focus company, Hydro Ottawa understands price and affordability sensitivities. What's your view on how we can meet the massive challenge of decarbonisation of our energy system without creating hardships for some?
Catherine Abreu 20:37
Yeah, there are a lot of models that I think we can learn from around the world. And actually, right here in Canada, there are some really precedent setting models in provinces across this country, to address the concerns around energy affordability, while also carrying on with this very necessary energy system training and session that we have. So a part of how you do that, number one, I mentioned energy efficiency earlier, you can turn energy efficiency into a tool to save people money, and you can target that tool to the people who need it the most. So I a large part of my background, and all my Canadian family is in Nova Scotia. And there is this amazing energy efficiency utility in that province called efficiency, Nova Scotia that are efficiency, why now? but previously efficiency, Nova Scotia, and where they have dedicated programs that go into low income communities that go into renter communities, and help those households reduce their energy consumption, and save money on their energy bills. So that's one. And the other one we can think about is how we allow communities that are currently marginalized in our economic system to profit from the renewable energy revolution, whether that profit is in like hard financial terms, so they're actually going to make some money from it, or in reducing embedded energy costs in those communities. At so here in Canada, we actually already see that about 20% of renewable energy projects are owned by and operating in indigenous communities. And that's huge and exciting, because those communities have often run on, you know, their energy systems are often run on very expensive energy sources like diesel that are very polluting and unhealthy for those communities. And, and often those communities don't have access to economic, the same kinds of economic opportunities as others. And so seeing indigenous communities really lead the charge on renewable energy development in Canada is exciting, because it's bringing prosperity into those communities, it's bringing energy autonomy to those communities, it's giving them something that they can be training community members to do, you know, so it's job creating. So that's another one. And then I'll give one other example. In California, we have this really interesting model where when they introduced their cap and trade system, their carbon pricing system, they said, We're gonna take a portion of the money that we get from this carbon pricing system. And we are going to make sure that lower income households throughout California, have solar panels on their roofs. And we're going to pay for that to happen. And those households in those communities, instead of now getting a check, you know, so here in Canada, our carbon pricing system sends a check to everyone across the country. And that's useful. But in California, we see this model where it's like, instead of getting a check, I have an energy source embedded into my house at no cost, to me, that's substantially lowers my household energy costs. And so I maybe I'm not getting a check every month, but my energy costs every month are eliminated. And so I have much more income at my disposal, because I'm not spending that income on energy. And that I think, is a really powerful model that it would be interesting to think through applying here in Canada. How do we use some of this revenue that we're getting from carbon pricing to make sure that we're addressing energy affordability and the communities that need that?
Dan Seguin 24:26
I'm sure you're aware, there's an incredible amount of momentum around netzero pledges in the public sector governments from around the world and private sector as well. What are your thoughts around these Net Zero commitments from organizations? Is it spin or substance?
Catherine Abreu 24:45
Net-zero by 2050 isn't putting action off until three decades from now? net-zero by 2050 requires concerted action planning activity that starts right now ideally, that started a decade ago and continues on every day between now and 2050.
Dan Seguin 25:05
Canada comes in for criticism for its weak follow up so far on carbon targets. What do you say to Canadians who are skeptical about sufficient action not being taken fast enough?
Catherine Abreu 25:20
Your skepticism is warranted, first of all. Yeah, I mean, it's so unfortunate, right, Canada's really never met a carb climate target, it couldn't miss. We've been setting climate targets since the early 1990s. We haven't met a single one at this point. And I'm really hoping that we can correct for that trend, by using tools that we now have at our disposal, through things like Bill C 12, the netzero Accountability Act, which is a relatively new piece of legislation, just about a year old in Canada. That brings some consistency and some transparency to the climate planning process in Canada. Because this is part of the problem in this country. Our climate planning has been totally ad hoc, so far, right. So we get a government that maybe cares about climate change, maybe they make a commitment on climate emissions reductions, maybe they follow through with that commitment, maybe we hear about how they're doing. Instead, we need this piece of legislation that tells us, okay, every five years, you're going to set a target. By the time you set a target, you have to produce a plan to meet that target within six months. Here's the external expert group that's going to review your plans, going to review your progress, make sure you're on track, make recommendations for how to course correct if you're not make recommendations for how to improve policy, find new opportunities to address emissions while continuing to grow the economy. And this is the model that we've seen employed in other jurisdictions that have been more successful in meeting their climate targets like the UK. So I feel buoyed by the fact and I was I was a big part of the fight to get Bill C 12. passed, it's not perfect, but I think it's a it's a really huge improvement in Canada's climate planning process. So I think we can feel buoyed by that. And that being said, governments across the board have been failing us have been failing their populations, on delivering the scale of ambition that's required to meet this crisis. And I think the thing that we have to do as individuals, if we are feeling concern and despair about that, is we have to activate as political citizens and demand from our political decision makers that they deliver on that scale of action. And I think that's maybe something that we're just coming to here in Canada, unfortunately, climate change has been a rather a rather politically polarized conversation in this country so far. But we're finally getting to a place where every party, regardless of of their of their political identity, understands the climate crisis is a serious issue, and they have to address it. And they need to be hearing from their voters, that their vote is going to be cast according to whether that party is doing what it takes to address this crisis. So So I would say that's it, like, let's have those legislative frameworks in place, let's make sure they're working. Let's make sure you know, we're engaging the independent expertise that we need to assess that. And let's, as a constituency as concerned citizens in this country, let us demand from our political decision makers, that they take the action that's required.
Dan Seguin 28:34
Okay, Catherine, to accelerate success, what are the countries that should Canada be looking to emulate or to learn from?
Catherine Abreu 28:43
There are lessons that I think we can learn from so many places, and, and likewise, there are a lot of other places I think can learn from us, right? We have we also have some good expertise to be sharing at this point. But I mentioned the UK earlier, I think we've really turned to the UK a lot to help us think through this new piece of legislation because the UK was the first to pass climate accountability legislation way back in 2008. And so they've really helped to model that, that system for the rest of the world. And there are now close to 30 jurisdictions around the world that have very similar systems, actually. So we just saw at COP 26, in Glasgow in November, that a consortium like now a global consortium of independent climate expert bodies has been created to to help continue this dialogue around how we actually hold countries accountable for their climate commitments. So that's, I think, a good one and we can also keep looking to the UK for how we detach our our economic growth, our GDP from greenhouse gas emissions because they have been incredibly successful in doing that in the UK. And that has been a big part of how they have been able to their climate commitments they they successfully decoupled their GDP from GHGs. And we are kind of approaching that point in Canada. But we need to kind of surpass it and make sure that our economic prosperity is not tied to increasing emissions. And that I think, has maybe been a bit of a challenge for a country like Canada that is traditionally very natural resource based, and and very oriented toward exploiting and exporting those natural resources, which is, which tends to be very carbon intensive. So so that economic transformation piece, how are we diversifying our economy? How are we investing in those sectors that are going to deliver prosperity, and we often think about those sectors as like, renewable energy. So we do this, like, we're moving from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy. So all the new prosperity and all the new jobs are going to be in renewable energy. But we can also think about sectors like the care economy, hospitals, nurses, long term care facilities, those are generally low carbon industries, right. And so and we know that we need to invest in them on the heels of the COVID-19 crisis. So we can be investing there. And of course, what that all comes along with is this question of just transition, how are we taking care of people and communities as we engage in this economic transformation, and they're really cool lessons that we can learn from other jurisdictions, they're like Scotland, they have done some really amazing work with just transition as they move away from coal. Similarly, in South Africa, we actually again at COP 26, in Glasgow saw this $8.5 billion deal struck with South Africa between a number of other countries, the US, EU, Germany, to support their just transition away from coal dependence. So I think we can also be looking to these other examples of economic diversification and just transition in parts of the world to inform the really necessary economic transition that we that we need to undertake here in Canada and the planning for that.
Dan Seguin 32:12
In Canada, where do you see the biggest opportunity to reduce greenhouse emissions in nature? And where do you see the biggest opportunity in technology?
Catherine Abreu 32:24
Yeah, so we have talked about this a little bit already. And I think those agricultural opportunities are really huge here in Canada, what we haven't really talked about is, is the devastation that we are seeing wrecked in our natural ecosystems, particularly in forests across Canada. And it's actually hard for me not to get really emotional when I think about it. And, and we have really seen, I think, I think many Canadians, if they, if they think about climate change, if they think about carbon sources and sinks in Canada, they assume that our forests are carbon sinks. And in fact, that has not been the case for several years now, our forests in Canada have really turned from carbon sinks, places that can store greenhouse gas emissions to carbon sources. And that is largely because of ongoing deforestation. And the devastating impacts of climate change that, that bring forest fires that bring, you know, more extreme weather events and also bring pests like the pine beetle. So I think a big part of where we need to be focusing our energy right now in Canada is, is figuring out how to reverse that trend, how to protect our forests, how to restore them, and unnecessary deforestation, deforestation. And, you know, I think a really groundbreaking report that came out this year was on indigenous stewardship of lands and how much lands that are stewarded by indigenous peoples around the world. They really outperform lands that are stewarded by by settler populations in terms of carbon sink potential and biodiversity protection. And so I think actually, a big part of the solution on the forest front here in Canada, is increasing the amount of forests that are stewarded by indigenous communities. So that's on the on the nature front, in terms of carbon reduction potential in technologies, or in the industrial sector, you know, the big elephant in the room and Canada's oil and gas sector. It's the largest and fastest growing source of emissions in the country, it's responsible for over a quarter of emissions in Canada outweighs any other sector in the country. And while we have been actually seeing significant emissions reductions in other sectors, you know, the Canadian electricity sector has reduced its emissions over 30% in the in the last couple of decades, right. So, you know, we've been seeing decarbonisation happen, it hasn't been happening as fast as it needs to, but it has been happening in electricity and buildings and transportation, well, not so much in transportation. I'll take that again, we have been seeing decarbonizing, it hasn't happening as fast as it needs to, but it has been happening and the electricity system and the building system. Meanwhile, we really haven't seen that happening in the oil and gas sector. In fact, emissions from the oil and gas sector have increased exponentially in the last 15 years. And so there's a huge potential for emissions reductions in that sector. And a lot of it involves methane reduction, by applying technologies that we have that we know work right now, that can actually create jobs well, while we apply them, and thinking through how we address our production trends to reduce those emissions. And we actually have now a promise from the federal government to cap emissions in the oil and gas sector and set reduction targets every five years. So I think that's a really good move in the right direction.
Dan Seguin 36:10
Now, in your opinion, Catherine, what can government's learn from environmental advocacy and activism?
Catherine Abreu 36:17
What can the government learn? I mean, obviously, there's so I think, like, what is it that you picture when you picture environmental advocacy and activism? Probably you picture people on the streets, right, the huge demonstrations that characterize the fall of 2019, when, you know, half a million people were on the streets of Montreal, and Greta Thunberg, spoke to the crowd there. You know, protests against fossil fuel infrastructure, the, you know, struggles that we're seeing in communities like what su attend right now against the coastal gaslink. That community really trying to protect their traditional territory and say no to more fossil fuel infrastructure. So I think that's really what comes to mind a lot of the time. But in fact, environmental advocacy and activism has a huge diversity of tactics associated with it, right. So there are a lot of really brilliant people who are also thinking through some of these creative solutions that we need to these tricky problems that we have to solve to address the climate crisis. So a lot of what governments can learn from environmental advocacy and activism is actually like really practical hands on ideas for how we tackle this crisis. And but maybe I'll maybe I'll take this answer in a different direction, and say that part of what we can learn is, is action, in the midst of despair. And I think we often ask ourselves, like, how do we have hope, when we're seeing the escalating impacts of the climate crisis, when we're watching the people we love and the places that we cherish, be so hurt by climate change? How do we in the face of that kind of despair? Respond? How do we have hope people talk about hope all the time. But what I often say is, you know, the, the antidote to despair is not hope, it's action. And the environmental community is all about action. That's, that's really what causes a lot of us to this work is the desire to stand in the face of despair, sand in the face of these devastating climate impacts, and do everything we can to mitigate some of the worst impacts of the climate crisis and figure out how we can build resilience and communities against those impacts. So I think maybe that's the that's the thing that I hand to governments is to say, we all need to be in this together that is the spirit of the environmental movement. And we need to be taking action despite the the challenge despite the scale of the crisis, despite the despair we might be feeling. And in fact that action is is what helps us pull ourselves out of that feeling of despair.
Dan Seguin 39:02
Is there an organization activist or movement that is inspiring you?
Catherine Abreu 39:07
This has been my entire career working in this space and I wouldn't have been able to make it my career if I didn't feel inspired every day by my colleagues and amazing community that I get to be a part of, so it's hard to name any one organization or any one movement. I will say that I am so continuously blown away and touched by the fierce and unrelenting advocacy we see from young people and you know, so we've seen the school strike groups fighting for future and young people mobilizing in various configurations to demand a livable future for themselves and their children. And, and that is I think something that gives a lot of us that lifts up a lot of us and gives us a lot have energy to continue our work. Because really, I was reading this Twitter thread the other day, and the author said, we are fighting because our future is shrinking. And it was, it was so read, it resonated so much to hear that it's true, right? I think for a lot of young people, the possibilities that they envision for themselves in the future, are getting smaller and smaller. And we, as a society, as a species, we need to be thinking about how we expand that future. Again, how we, how we invest right now to make sure that the people who are alive after after you and I are gone. Have all of the options all of the rich life that we have been able to, to explore. So So yeah, maybe I'll say that is that I feel inspired by so many organizations by so much of the movement and the passion, the intelligence is coming from young people right now it's giving I think a lot of us a lot of strength.
Dan Seguin 41:06
Okay, Catherine, how about you close us off with some rapid fire questions? Are you ready?
Catherine Abreu 41:13
Dan Seguin 41:15
No, Catherine, what is your favorite word?
Catherine Abreu 41:18
'Why?' it's my favorite word, my favorite question. And I'm happy that I really hope I never stop asking it.
Dan Seguin 41:25
Now, what is one thing you can't live without?
Catherine Abreu 41:29
Maybe I'll say my friend, my dog, Fred Pico. He's my nice constant companion and I wouldn't want to live without.
Dan Seguin 41:37
What is something that challenges you?
Catherine Abreu 41:39
I feel challenged by the reluctance that we see from governments to take action. And I feel challenged by that all the time. And we are constantly being told we have the solutions we need, we have the technologies. And the one thing standing in our way is political will. So I feel challenged by that. And that challenge is what brings me to work every day.
Dan Seguin 42:03
Now, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Catherine Abreu 42:06
This is a really important question. I have often said that my superpower would be to find the finest party wherever I am always. But I think I'm actually pretty good at that already. So maybe I would, say that I would love to have the power to aperate. So I would love to be able to just appear wherever I wanted to whenever I wanted to.
Dan Seguin 42:30
If you could turn back time and talk to your 18 year old self, what would you tell her,
Catherine Abreu 42:35
I would tell her that she's on the right track, and that her future is not going to look maybe exactly as she pictured it. But that her instinct to really give back to her community and invest in the people around her is going to lead her in the right direction.
Dan Seguin 42:51
And lastly, Catherine, what do you currently find most interesting in your world in your sector?
Catherine Abreu 42:58
That's a really good one. Um, so here's the thing. I actually think a lot of the time are my world that my sector is characterized by kind of like cynicism. And, and certainly a lot of us bring some cynicism to the mix. It's hard not to give in the state of the world. But I would say there's actually this interesting renewed optimism in my world right now, particularly on the heels of COP 26. And that's because it really does seem like the conversation is shifting. And we're starting to talk about the real things right now we're getting down to it. And a big part of that is actually that we're talking seriously about the energy transition. Finally, because this energy transition is the thing that's going to unlock our ability to address the climate crisis, and we need to accelerate that global energy transition. The final plenary at COP 26 All the countries of the world together in a room. It was about it was a debate. It was an hour's long debate about the energy transition. And that's huge, because we actually haven't seen as much direct talk about energy at cops in the past. So that's an interesting thing that's going on. I think a lot of us are actually feeling a little more hopeful that we're finally having these this real talk. So let's let's make sure it gets us to where we need to go.
Dan Seguin 44:18
Well, Catherine, this is it. We've reached the end of another episode of The thinkenergy podcast I truly loved and enjoyed our conversation today. If our listeners want to learn more about you and your organization, how can they connect?
Catherine Abreu 44:33
I've just started a pretty new organization called Destination Zero. And you can find us as destinationzero.Earth, that website is in development but you'll have a landing page right there that gives you my contact information and on Twitter, I'm @catabreu_
Dan Seguin 44:50
Again, thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you had a lot of fun.
Catherine Abreu 44:55
I really don't think so much Daniel.
Dan Seguin 44:58
Thanks for tuning in for anotherepisode of The thinkenergy podcast. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review where ever you're listening. And to find out more about today's guests or previous episodes, visit thinkenergypodcast.com. I hope you'll join us again next time as we spark even more conversations about the energy of tomorrow.