A computer model for evaluating policies developed at Simon Fraser University will play a key role in helping the country reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government has adopted ISTUM, or intra-sectoral technology use model, to estimate the costs associated with reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and develop policies that will help the country get closer to its reduction targets in the next century.
The model was designed by Mark Jaccard, an associate professor in the school of resource and environmental management, when he was a doctoral student a decade ago. He's since refined it, while recent PhD graduate John Nyboer has collected massive amounts of data for analysis on everything related to technology use -- from home and business energy consumption to production costs -- for the entire country.
ISTUM works by keeping track of all data related to technology, then simulating the behavior of households and firms when they make decisions to acquire something that uses energy. It can then search out opportunities for energy savings or efficiencies and look at what policies or policy changes are needed. "In other words, we can use this model to say 'here are some policies we want to develop or change, which could include adding regulations, extra fees or subsidies, creating incentives or providing more information to consumers ' all different ways in which you might try to influence people's decisions when they buy equipment," explains Jaccard, a member of the B.C. Greenhouse Gas Forum. He has also spent the past four years as one of two Canadian appointees to the intergovernmental panel on climate change and is director of SFU's energy research group, which includes Nyboer and colleague Alison Baillie.
The SFU model has been used for energy efficiency in industry as well as by the provincial government and has become the new tool in the federal government's greenhouse gas reduction plan.
"Energy efficiency and fuel switching are the two pillars of greenhouse gas reduction policies we look at," notes Jaccard. "There are other approaches -- reducing the population, or the standard of living -- but neither is on the political agenda. We're saying, tell us what the population and standard of living will be, and we'll work on the technical side to see what policies are needed to effect the mix of technologies out there. In that sense, this is an immediate policy tool."
Governments are interested in the year 2010, as the deadlines chosen in Kyoto last winter "are driving everything," says Jaccard. "They're saying, finally, at the international level, there is a binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Are they attainable? In my opinion, not with the policies they're currently working with.
"I think we're going to have an iterative process, where the government will try certain policies, realize they're not getting us far -- in fact, the model will help to predict that -- then move towards stronger policies, with ongoing public education."
Materials provided by Simon Fraser University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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