This is the final article in a 5-part LinkedIn series focused on how Canada can develop a long-term, sustainable and inclusive strategy for economic growth. Last week I discussed the importance of harnessing Canadian innovation to help solve the problems we face. This week I’m looking at how we can work together to address one of the most urgent challenges of our time – climate change.
This November, world leaders will gather in Glasgow, Scotland for COP26, the UN climate change conference. Expectations are high that the meeting will result in new levels of ambition to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). As the organizers of COP26 rightly recognize “we can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.”
Countries around the world will need to join forces if we want to keep global temperatures from reaching levels that pose an unacceptable danger. Similarly, here in Canada we will all need to work together to achieve the ambitious GHG reduction targets the federal government has set. To ensure success, collaboration must be coupled with a shared commitment to long-term sustainable economic growth.
Canada is well positioned to be at the forefront of the clean energy transition.
- we have a relatively low-emissions electricity grid;
- Canadian companies produce many of the products necessary to achieve net zero emissions, including aluminum, steel, cement, precious metals and various forms of lower-carbon energy;
- many Canadian businesses have made significant commitments to achieve net zero emissions by 2050; and
- our financial services sector is capable of mobilizing hundreds of billions of dollars to finance clean innovation.
In addition, we have significant research capacity and expertise in developing innovative technologies for Canada’s energy sector. Our leading energy and resource companies have the people, the technological know-how and the financial scale to lead the energy transition and create commercial opportunities that can benefit all Canadians.
Research into innovations such as hydrogen, battery storage, renewable natural gas, nuclear power and carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) can help not only Canada reach its net zero goals, but other countries as well. That’s why our energy companies are collaborating with each other, with governments and with stakeholders to work towards shared emissions reduction targets.
Some recent examples:
- The Oilsands Pathways to Net Zero initiative brings together five companies which account for 90 per cent of the country’s oil sands production. This unique alliance is working with the federal and Alberta governments to achieve net zero emissions.
- Suncor and ATCO are partnering on a clean hydrogen project in Northern Alberta.
- Shell is working with the Alberta government on a proposed CCUS project.
- Cenovus has entered into an agreement with Cold Lake First Nations to purchase renewable electricity.
- General Motors, Ford and Stellantis are investing in their Canadian operations to produce battery electric vehicles for the North American market.
- Rio Tinto is partnering with Alcoa in piloting the world’s first zero-emissions aluminum smelter.
All of these projects are stronger because they are focused on collaboration in the pursuit of shared goals.
But let’s be clear, our most promising emissions reduction opportunities cost money. In addition, private sector research benefits from a clear, long-term strategic plan. Public policy should incentivize investment in existing and emerging technologies and attract the capital necessary to support large-scale deployment and commercialization of promising low-carbon technologies.
For their part, Canadian businesses need to be transparent about the risks and opportunities that climate change presents and develop transition plans that position them for success in a future low-carbon economy.
Policymakers also need to be candid about the costs and benefits of the transition. Energy is a fundamental part of our everyday lives. Transforming the energy system will affect all that we do and everything around us. We must recognize that the clear and obvious benefits to clean energy will also come at a financial cost and affect the way Canadians currently use energy.
That is why we will need a long-term sustainable economic strategy to ensure Canada continues to grow while investing in the energy transition.
In April, the Business Council of Canada released its third major report on climate change. Clean Growth 3.0: Achieving Canadian Prosperity in a Net-Zero World is the result of months of research and consultations with employers, environmental groups, policy makers and other stakeholders. I encourage you to take a look.
We don’t have all the answers, but one thing is clear – we will all need to work together to ensure a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future.
August 3, 2021