UofT NU Decarbonization Alliance

In 2023, Climate Positive Energy collaborated with The Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs and Northwestern Paula M. Trienens Institute for Sustainability and Energy to launch the University of Toronto-Northwestern Decarbonization Alliance innovation hub. The hub aims to catalyze research and dialogue on progressive decarbonization efforts to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, and to foster interdisciplinary dialogue spanning the social sciences, humanities, physical sciences, and engineering to generate joint research. This international collaboration aligns well with the mission of University of Toronto’s Office of the Vice-President, International, which fosters this Alliance.   

The collaboration launched in the fall of 2023 with a two-day workshop focussed on a series of keynote presentations from leading faculty at Northwestern University and the University of Toronto to foster collaborations and sharing of ideas and best practices. As part of the launch, Climate Positive Energy committed $20,000 and the Office of the Vice President International committed a further $20,150 annually for 2 years towards a joint project that would support shared post-doctoral fellowships to work on overlapping decarbonization research between the two universities.  

We are pleased to now share the names of the 2024 award recipients: Professors Daniel Posen and Heather MacLean from the University of Toronto, and Professors Jennifer Dunn and Kimberly Suiseeya from Northwestern University.

Recognizing that the transition to net-zero will require changes to the mix of technologies and associated supply chains for meeting both local and regional energy needs, the research team proposes to assess how mineral supply chains constrain the North American energy transition. 

The researchers aim to: 

  1. create scenarios assessing technology needs using an energy system model; 
  1. develop a database of critical material requirements for these scenarios; 
  1. assess key mineral availability and potential expansion timelines in North America, taking into account policies like the Inflation Reduction Act; 
  1. evaluate life cycle socio-environmental impacts of mineral production; and 
  1. use the results from items 3 & 4 iteratively to constrain and re-imagine scenarios from item 1.  

The team will not only consider how Canada and the U.S. might collaborate – or compete – for North American and international critical minerals, but also how mining on land that is on or near tribal lands or in ceded territories is reflected in mineral supply estimates, and how governance of these lands may impact mineral supply. 

Success in this project will provide valuable information to decision makers in government in designing policy that advances decarbonization technologies, while avoiding unintended negative social and environmental effects of mining. 

“Climate Positive Energy is pleased to establish this alliance between Northwestern and the University of Toronto to help amplify strengths and resources that can contribute to our collective decarbonization efforts,” said Shatha Qaqish-Clavering, Executive Director of Climate Positive Energy. “The awarded project aligns well with both institutions’ goals of decarbonization, and I look forward to seeing the impacts of this strong, multidisciplinary research partnership.” 

“We were thrilled to build the Decarbonization Alliance with Northwestern and with the Climate Positive Energy institutional strategic initiative at U of T,” added Gwen Burrows, Assistant Vice-President, International Engagement & Impact. “We look forward to continued engagement and progress towards climate change mitigation, adaptation, and awareness initiatives as we work together towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions.” 

We extend our congratulations to the faculty funded through this initiative.