The Future Belongs to Those Who Show Up
Author — Dan Woynillowicz Category — Electricity, Transportation
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Clean Energy Ministerial 2012 - 650

If you want to be a player, you have to show up and play.

For business leaders, that means you attend and speak at industry conferences. For academics, it means you press the flesh at key research symposiums. And for governments seeking an edge in the booming global clean energy market? Well, they send their top people to the Clean Energy Ministerial—the only regular international meeting of energy ministers that exclusively focuses on clean energy.

Unfortunately, it appears Canada didn’t get this memo (again).

Next week, the Ministerial gets underway in Seoul, Korea with the goal of accelerating the transition to a global clean energy economy. Cabinet-level leaders of 23 countries will compare notes, learn about the latest innovations, and engage with private-sector leaders under more than a dozen themes—presumably while enjoying kimchi.

For example, the Multilateral Solar and Wind Working Group will work to lower the incremental costs of providing solar and wind energy in all regions of the world. The electric vehicle initiative will be comparing notes on how best to accelerate the global scale-up of electric drive vehicles. Other working groups will address smart grids, sustainable cities, hydropower, lighting, and more.

Participating governments collectively represent 90 percent of global clean energy investment, and 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. There are no negotiations, no texts to approve. It’s purely about collaboration.

The United States is sending Dr. Ernst Moritz, its secretary of energy. The United Kingdom is sending Greg Barker, the minister of state, energy, and climate change. China is sending Cao Jianlin, that nation’s vice minister for science and technology.

Canada is sending its assistant deputy minister of Innovation and Energy in Natural Resources Canada’s Technology Sector.

If that sounds like a mid-level representative, well, it is. The Natural Resources Minister didn’t attend last year, either. He was in Washington DC at the time, pitching Keystone XL.

Its a similar deal with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future. IRENA is the principal platform for international cooperation on renewables, and promotes the adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy.

More than 100 nations—plus the European Union—are members. Canada is not among them.

This is unfortunate, to say the least. And it’s little wonder the United States is leaving us behind on clean energy.

Canada boasts a rich array of clean and renewable energy resources and, thanks to provincial leadership, is moving up global clean-energy investment ranks. We have niche areas where we can thrive in the growing low-carbon economy, both at home and in rapidly growing markets like China. But by not meaningfully participating in international forums and summits, we are missing out on opportunities to share our strengths, learn from others and build the relationships that will prove critical for future trade in the clean energy marketplace.

It’s time we changed that.

Because the future really does belong to those who show up.

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