Making clean energy Canada’s global brand
Author — Merran Smith Category — Carbon
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When it comes to taking a pan-Canadian approach to climate action, a Chinese proverb says it all: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

The math is clear. Canada’s efforts to date—led predominantly by several provinces and laudable on many levels—won’t add up to the commitments made in Paris to cut our emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

So in the coming weeks and months, our federal, provincial and territorial leaders must continue the hard work of moving forward the first pan-Canadian framework on clean growth, economic resiliency and climate action.

As business and civil society leaders, we applaud and encourage a collaborative effort to achieve our commitments.

Success means a stronger federation that takes action to protect our environment and communities from the worst impacts of climate change. It means rolling up our sleeves to be good global actors who live up to our international commitments. A recent Nanos poll found 77 per cent of Canadians support or somewhat support just that—a national plan that ensures Canada achieves its international climate change targets.

Graphic: Canadians want a national climate action plan

But success also means ensuring Canada prospers in the transition to a low-carbon economy. For all sectors of the economy, the global clean innovation race is underway. The market increasingly is rewarding the countries and companies actively shaping this climate-safe future. This means that, as a country, we will also need plans in place to benefit from this clean energy transition and, during the transition, ensure the competitiveness of our emission-intensive, trade-exposed industries.

More than 600 major corporations globally—with a combined market cap of US$12 trillion—are already factoring the Paris agreement into their business planning, according to a new report by the Carbon Disclosure Project. The future of global business and climate action are increasingly and intrinsically linked.

When it comes right down to it, solving climate change is an innovation challenge.

Getting to this future means that, in true Canadian fashion, any framework must recognize our diversity — amplifying and building on efforts by provinces that have already brought in carbon pricing, or introduced world-leading innovations like carbon capture and storage, or adopted policies like advanced building codes, renewable energy targets and cleaner fuel standards as part of comprehensive climate action plans.

At the same time, just as Canada is more than the sum of its parts, any good climate plan must see the federal government provide national leadership and lend meaningful support to boost the efforts of its provincial and territorial partners.

Today, 80 per cent of Canadians live in a jurisdiction that has, or will soon have, some form of carbon pricing. That’s a huge achievement and we will soon see that number reach 100 per cent under the pan-Canadian approach.

Study after study shows that carbon pricing is the most flexible and least expensive way to reduce emissions. Carbon pricing is becoming the new normal globally, using the market to spur innovation and stimulate investment in low-carbon technologies and solutions.

Today, 40 national jurisdictions and over 20 cities, states and regions have a carbon price, including seven of the globe’s 10 largest economies, according to a recent World Bank report.

In 2017, China will implement a national carbon pricing system—a game-changing move. Once China’s system is in place, the World Bank estimates that nearly half the world’s carbon emissions will be generated in a jurisdiction with carbon pricing.

Graphic: China will start pricing carbon pollution nation-wide in 2017.

The federal government’s commitment to ensure that some form of carbon pricing that rises over time is in place right across the country is an important step. Also crucial will be the commitment to working with the provinces and territories to ensure Canada’s emissions-intensive and trade-exposed industries have a level playing field when competing against jurisdictions with weaker or non-existent climate policies.

But we know carbon pricing alone won’t be enough to meet our climate objectives. Federal and provincial governments must continue to work together to implement a coherent, yet flexible approach to regulation, innovation and infrastructure development.

When it comes right down to it, solving climate change is an innovation challenge. Canada can be a leader in developing and exporting a broad range of sustainability-related innovations. And we can have the lowest-carbon mines, mills and factories anywhere. This can be our calling card to the world—if we make this part of our national vision and take the bold steps needed to achieve it. Clean innovation is a competitive advantage that can draw jobs and global capital investment to all sectors of our economy.

As business and civil society leaders, we support efforts to ensure Canada is a climate action leader and strong competitor in the transition to a global clean economy.

That’s why we see great promise in federal and provincial leaders working together on the pan-Canadian clean growth and climate change framework. After all, history tells us Canada works best when Canada works together.


Co-authored by Merran Smith, Executive Director at Clean Energy Canada, and Marcia Smith, senior vice-president of sustainability and external affairs at Teck Resources. This piece originally appeared in iPolitics.ca

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