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Canadians support government investment in renewables and clean nuclear energy to fight climate change despite competing economic priorities, reveals new study

From policy, small nuclear reactors to behavioural changes, Canadians believe government, industry, and all Canadian consumers must play a decisive role to dramatically reduce emissions
February 18, 2021

OTTAWA (February 18, 2021) – Despite being more than a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a state of emergency due to the prevailing pandemic, nearly all (91 per cent) of Canadians still consider climate change a serious issue. New data reveals that most Canadians believe there needs to be a holistic approach to tackling climate change with decisive commitments from the government. This includes 86 per cent who believe the government should invest in clean technologies including renewables and nuclear energy, and 56 per cent who believe it is important or very important that Canada should increase its reliance on nuclear as a clean energy source. 

The newly released study conducted by Abacus Data and commissioned by the Canadian Nuclear Association, explores Canadians’ sentiment around climate change and their expectations and level of support for government intervention to tackle the issue. It follows a prior study completed in August 2020. 

“The new data indicates the level of concern around climate change remains extremely high among Canadians, at similar levels from around six months ago despite the continued challenges we face due to the pandemic,” said John Gorman, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA). “It’s clear there is strong support for the government to implement a mix of solutions to address the challenge, including investing in renewables and clean nuclear technologies. We continue to see that the more understanding Canadians have, the more they support zero-emissions nuclear technologies to help reach our net-zero 2050 goal. This includes investment in small modular reactors (SMRs), which Canadians believe bring value to replace carbon-based fuels with clean electricity, decarbonize high emissions industries, and transition remote communities away from reliance on diesel.” 

Key Study Findings:

Canadians are most concerned about environmental and extreme weather repercussions due to climate change. 

  • 83 per cent are very or extremely concerned about the environmental impact such as on agriculture, clean drinking water, melting glaciers, and increase in transmission of diseases.
  • 78 per cent are very or extremely concerned about the impact of extreme weather conditions such as extreme temperatures, flooding, droughts, and wildfires.
  • 68 per cent are very or extremely concerned about the financial impact from damage or maintenance due to extreme weather conditions.
  • 64 per cent are very or extremely concerned about the prospect of higher insurance costs due to extreme weather patterns.

Canadians believe a mix of solutions are important or very important to tackle climate change and lower emissions, including adopting and investing in clean energy technology and shifting consumption behaviours.  

  • 83 per cent believe industries must adopt cleaner energy technologies.
  • 78 per cent state Canada must leverage new technology to offset emissions in the natural resources sector.
  • 74 per cent believe the government must implement the necessary policies to change energy consumption behaviours of consumers and industry.
  • 68 per cent cite that Canadians must dramatically reduce their energy consumption.
  • 56 per cent state that Canada must increase its reliance of nuclear as a clean energy.

In knowing that the federal government has committed to a net-zero emissions economy, and that achieving this will require nuclear power and other low emitting power sources such as hydro, solar and wind, Canadians want a made-in-Canada nuclear technology approach.

  • 51 per cent believe Canada should invest in the development and production of new nuclear technologies to produce new jobs in the sector and sell the technology internationally.
  • A further 42 per cent feel they need to learn more to form an opinion.
  • Conversely, 8 per cent state that Canada should not invest in nuclear energy technology and should instead buy the technology internationally.

Majority of informed Canadians express support for government investment in small nuclear reactors (SMRs) when presented with their potential uses. 

  • 63 per cent of Canadians support or are open to support government investment in SMRs (16 per cent strongly support; 24 per cent support; 23 per cent are open to support) when informed that small nuclear reactors have the capacity to bring non-emitting electricity and heat production to remote communities and industrial extraction sites, as well as be added to larger grid as electricity demand grows.
  • A further 30 per cent would like to learn more before forming an opinion. Only 7 per cent would oppose government investment.

Canadians’ support for nuclear includes its benefits for remote communities, pursuit of a green economy, and to help decarbonize high emissions sectors.  

  • 65 per cent agree that investing in SMRs can help remote communities that are not connected to the electricity grid to transition away from reliance on diesel.
  • 63 per cent agree investing in nuclear technologies can help Canada pursue a green economy and increase the pace of replacing carbon-based fuels with electricity.
  • 60 per cent believe nuclear energy can help decarbonize key economic sectors challenged with high emissions such as oil and gas, mining, and the production of cement, fertilizers, etc. 

“As concluded by multiple studies, scientists, environmentalists, and the federal government, there is no energy model that gets to net-zero without nuclear in the mix – and we are seeing significant support for investing in clean nuclear technologies among Canadians,” said Gorman. “It’s also encouraging that Canadians see the importance of a holistic approach and that we all have a role to play; from government, industry, and the role we as consumers must play to be more energy conscious.”

About the Poll

The survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over between January 29 and February 3, 2021. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.1%, 19 times out of 20. The full study can be found at https://cna.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Canadian-Nuclear-Association-Report-2021-January-1.pdf.

About the CNA

Since 1960, the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) has been the national voice of the Canadian nuclear industry. Working alongside our members and all communities of interest, the CNA promotes the industry nationally and internationally, works with governments on policies affecting the sector and works to increase awareness and understanding of the value nuclear technology brings to the environment, economy and daily lives of Canadians.

For more information:

Media Contact

Gehna Singh Kareckas
Director of Communications
(613) 979-4272
communications@cna.ca