Clean technologies can pave a path to innovation and sustainable economic growth. The global clean-tech industry has huge economic potential for Canada. Clean energy technology is efficient and diversifies energy sources. It also reduces negative environmental impacts, especially by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Worldwide, the clean technology economy is worth $1-trillion, and is expected to grow to $3-trillion by 2020. Canada currently captures only one per cent of the global clean-tech market. The 2010 report by the National Roundtable on the Economy and the Environment (NRTEE) ranks Canada sixth in the G8 for clean energy performance, and eleventh in the G20.
“The future is low carbon,” the NRTEE stated 2012, but Canada is a laggard in the emerging low-carbon economy. Sustainable Prosperity reports that instead of anticipating and preparing for the inevitable energy future, Canada is sitting on its hands, and we will be forced into changes for which we are ill prepared. “Lost market opportunities, strategic disadvantages … and higher costs of mitigating climate change,” will result, according to the Mowat Centre.
Canada could become a world leader, increasing our clean-tech market share six-fold to $60-billion by 2020. Once one of the world’s top energy research and development funders, today Canada’s funding is short term and poorly coordinated. Clean-tech innovators have to compete with large artificial advantages of fossil fuel companies. While costs of their greenhouse gas emissions are huge, those costs are not on their balance sheets. The Conservatives promised to do away with oil and gas subsidies, but they continue to give them an incredible $1.3-billion in unjustifiable tax breaks.
The Pembina Institute’s “Competing in Clean Energy: Capitalizing on Canadian Innovation in a $3 Trillion Economy” points to three necessary policy changes:
Targeted clean energy support
Fossil fuel companies have a subsidized advantage over clean-tech entrepreneurs. Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), the arms-length agency that has supported Canada’s clean-tech industry, has allocated $560-million to 226 clean-tech projects since its establishment in 2001. The Mowat Centre and the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources have praised their work. In 2013, the SDTC funding rate was cut by 60 per cent. To support clean-tech innovation, we must at the very least restore the $100-million in annual funding to the SDTC. It’s a tiny price to pay for energy innovation, especially when compared with the $1.3-billion oil and gas subsidies.
National energy strategy
Canada is the only major industrialized country with no national energy strategy, just patchwork provincial and federal regulations. Unbelievable, when so much of our economy depends on natural resources and energy production. A national energy strategy should support clean-tech and show leadership in developing a clean energy economy. It might also allow us to put Canadian energy first, and use our strategic energy resources to meet domestic energy needs before we further increase exports.
Pricing carbon is the most crucial step to support fledgling clean-tech industries. Carbon Fee & Dividend is a simple, transparent, revenue-neutral carbon pricing system that would be easy and inexpensive to administer. Under Fee & Dividend, polluters will pay for their carbon emission equivalents only at the source, and the revenue generated from these payments will be paid directly to consumers on a per capita basis. Fee & Dividend will use the marketplace to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, guide Canada toward a transition to sustainable energy, while benefitting Canadian consumers.
These recommendations merge conservation and economics. Future governments must take clear action to support Canada’s clean-tech industry. Canada will become a world energy leader only when we proactively support clean-tech innovation.
Green Party MP Bruce Hyer represents Thunder Bay-Superior North, Ont.