Dramatic regulatory updates are necessary in Canada if the country is to meet its climate goals. According to a presentation given to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance by the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating (CIPH), there are three integrated regulatory and planning pathways that the federal government should create to harmonize departmental and jurisdictional plans for the transition to net-zero. The three streams should focus on training workers, technological development, and consumer awareness.
“In the coming years, Canada’s plumbing and heating industries will face increasing regulatory and labour pressures as we continue our work to advance decarbonization and reach net zero by 2050,” reports CIPH as part of its Pre-Budget Submission for the 2024 Federal Budget, which was released on Aug. 4.
Nealy 80 per cent of building emissions come from heating spaces and water. “Adapting to systems that use cleaner fuels and run more efficiently requires a rapid increase in the efficiency of new builds, and a long-term strategy to perform deep retrofits on Canada’s existing building stock,” reports CIPH.
Like so many industries, the plumbing and heating industry has been dealing with a labour shortage. According to BuildForce Canada, it is suggested that by 2032, overall hiring requirements in the industry will exceed 299,000 due to the retirement of around 245,000 workers and growth in worker demand will exceed 54,000. “Without proactively addressing these employment gaps, the industry will continue to be dragged down, economic growth will stall, and jurisdictions across Canada will be unable to adequately hit their climate targets,” reports CIPH.
Recruiting new workers and upskilling those already in the industry will help ensure that those in the industry are prepared for the up-to-date technological advancements set to roll out. According to CIPH, a training pathway should include highlighting the skilled trades as a respectable career choice, bringing trade education into grade schools, and building out existing trades to ensure that all are net-zero-ready.
Environmentally friendly tech
As new technology is introduced in the industry, regulations need to be kept up. “To keep the industry sustainable and adapt to more long-lasting components and structures, regulations must be modernized alongside technology’s continuous improvements and shift towards environmentally friendly methods,” according to the letter.
This means that efficient heating and cooling systems cannot be prohibited by higher costs for consumers, businesses, and institutions, reports CIPH. This means the marketplace should be ready for the long-term increased adoption of newly developed and improved heating and cooling equipment.
CIPH suggests that some type of technology pathway should focus on bringing all stakeholders to the table to share expertise in order to ensure there is a long-term solution, best practices are leveraged, and the proper financial support is in place for the industry to research and develop new technology.
When it comes to consumers, education and incentives are key to ensuring the end-user adopts more environmentally friendly plumbing and heating technologies. “High costs and lack of knowledge are often cited as the key deterrents to making the change to environmentally friendly technologies. Providing education and economic incentives — including creating and implementing supports that will make new technologies cost-neutral compared to current costs for water and space heating needs — to support Canadians in the long-term as they make these significant decisions will allow our industry to provide them with the on-the-ground support that they need, and with the best technologies to see to Canada’s goal of net-zero by 2050,” reports CIPH.
A consumer pathway, according to CIPH, would focus on these incentives and deterrents. It would accomplish the end goal by presenting easy-to-understand information, addressing the realities of cost in the short- and long-term, changing the current culture around the plumbing and heating sectors, and outlining realistic timelines toward a successful transition.
These rapid changes have the potential to create confusion within the industry. As such, “to meet the net-zero goals set by the federal government, product manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and trade contractors in our sector will need to successfully navigate a rapidly transforming market.”
To make things more complicated, a lot is riding on the upcoming release of the Canada Green Building Strategy. However, if the strategy doesn’t clearly define pathways, the industry will be held back from doing its essential work, reports CIPH. “Shortages, coupled with rapid prioritization of – and shift towards – net-zero policies in the built environment, have led to a perfect storm of pressures across the industry.”
CIPH surveyed its membership and found that 62 per cent of respondents had lost contracts, been forced to turn them down, or had paid late delivery penalties due to a lack of skilled workers over the past year. In addition, 43 per cent of respondents had cancelled or deferred planned investments due to insufficient skilled labour.
While there is work to be done in preparation, the association recognizes some of the work that the federal government has made over the last several years towards supporting the plumbing and heating industries, including Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, the National Adaptation Strategy, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and the introduction of Bill C-50 — the Canada Sustainable Jobs Act.