Canadian Industries Can All Benefit From Climate Action
Development and Innovation Jean-François Huc, Board Member at BioAmber, and Pierre Gratton, President & CEO, Mining Association of Canada, unite to discuss Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
It’s not often that an established resource sector, like mining, finds itself on the same page as a bio-chemicals company. We both represent major industries in Canada, but each develops different products aimed at unique markets. Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy is a business opportunity for all of us, however, so here we are: sharing a byline and jointly calling for Canada to become a global leader in clean growth and climate change.
Why do we see clean growth as a major business opportunity? Because it’s the direction the world is heading in, and if Canadian companies can be at the front of that curve, then other countries will look to us to supply the low-carbon innovations, products, and expertise they need. That will be good for business, good for jobs, and good for our economy.
Many Canadian businesses are already positioning themselves to capture this opportunity.
Canada’s mining industry is one of many industries that are finding innovative ways to be more competitive with fewer carbon emissions. Mines such as Diavik in the Northwest Territories and Glencore Raglan in Quebec are pioneering renewable energy use, while Goldcorp’s Borden gold mine, northwest of Sudbury, will be the first in Canada to switch entirely to electric vehicles for all of its underground operations. This will not only eliminate the emissions from diesel-powered vehicles but will also drastically reduce the amount of ventilation the mine requires, which can account for up to half of its overall electricity demand.
More innovations like this could soon make Canadian mining the cleanest in the world.
Other industries in Canada are making similar moves. Forestry has stayed competitive while reducing carbon emissions by a remarkable 66 percent since 1990. Oil and gas have been pioneering carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that the International Energy Agency says will need to account for one-sixth of all emission reductions by 2050. And the chemical industry has BioAmber at the forefront of innovation, a company that is competitively commercializing a renewable, sugar-based biotechnology process that cuts over 90 percent of carbon emissions from chemical manufacturing.
The clean growth opportunity is also being seized by Canada’s growing clean-technology sector, which is dedicated specifically to developing products that improve environmental performance. The clean tech sector has already created over 55,000 jobs across Canada and is poised to supply a global market expected to be worth more than $2 trillion by 2020. That’s good news for Canadian innovators focused on everything from energy storage and carbon-neutral cement to portable water treatment, mini nuclear power reactors, and smart thermostats.
Now is the crucial time to build on these successes and seize the clean growth opportunity. We can increase Canada’s clean-tech exports and expand markets for cleaner products from our resource and manufacturing sectors, all while taking a giant step toward meeting Canada’s climate goals.
Smart government policy is needed to realize this potential and to help further unleash private sector innovation.
First, a price on carbon emissions can be good for business. It’s meant to help stimulate the innovation that will improve energy efficiency, cut costs, lower emissions, and make Canadian companies more competitive in the low-carbon economy. A carbon price, implemented properly, wouldn’t add to our business tax burdens. Instead, it would incentivize carbon reductions by shifting how taxes are paid. Moreover, it could do this while using the revenues to help businesses, particularly in trade-exposed sectors, to remain competitive while making the low-carbon transition.
Several provinces are already demonstrating that this approach can work for both the environment and the economy.
The government should also make a major investment in clean infrastructure. Our economy is in need of both new and renewed energy, transportation, and urban infrastructure, including in northern and remote regions. If done right, a major infrastructure investment could lock in a low-carbon advantage for Canadian industries, most of whom depend on public infrastructure at some point to produce and/or distribute their products.
Finally, the government can help spur clean innovation in ways beyond just introducing a price on carbon. Clean innovation faces many unique market barriers and failures. By providing incentives and helping to remove barriers, smart government policy could catalyze private sector innovation.
Building a high-performance, low-carbon economy is a major economic opportunity and a vital environmental responsibility. If you are noticing more and more industries coming together, it’s because seizing this opportunity and fulfilling that responsibility are something that we can all get behind.
That’s why the two of us joined over 100 other CEOs and civil society leaders last November in calling on Canada’s Prime
Minister and Premiers to be bold on climate action and clean development. The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, announced in December, was an important first step. We look forward to working with our federal, provincial, and territorial leaders to make sure that this hallmark strategy is executed in a way that helps
Canadian industries excel in the low-carbon economy of the 21st century.
Pierre Gratton and Jean-François Huc both participate in the Smart Prosperity Initiative, a movement to harness new thinking to accelerate Canada’s transition to a stronger, cleaner economy. www.smartprosperity.ca