Recent Canadian headlines reveal a country trying to figure out how to spur clean economic growth in a way that includes and empowers the people, communities and sectors that built Canada into the strong nation it is today.
Pipelines, LNG plants, ocean protection and the link between carbon pricing and competitiveness are all flashpoints in a difficult but critical national conversation.
It’s been nearly a decade since B.C. began tackling climate change with world-leading policies, including a carbon tax. Now, with new leadership from Ottawa, climate action is happening from coast to coast to coast. This month, the prime minister and premiers will gather in Ottawa for a First Ministers meeting to negotiate a plan for clean growth and climate action. A pivotal moment in the national conversation.
In B.C., climate leadership has helped build a leading clean technology sector. B.C. has the highest number of clean tech jobs per capita in Canada.
B.C. has a lot to share. We have evidence that carbon pricing can cut emissions without hindering economic growth. B.C. fossil fuel use is down 16 per cent since the carbon tax was introduced, while real GDP grew 9 per cent between 2007 and 2013—both better results than the Canadian average.
So B.C. is a proof-point in the broader national conversation that there is such thing as a low carbon advantage. In other words, done correctly, climate leadership is good news for the economy, creating jobs and growth.
As other Canadian jurisdictions move to adopt carbon prices of their own, B.C.’s experience offers many valuable lessons. British Columbia’s original design built in rebates aimed at ensuring that low-income citizens didn’t face costs they couldn’t afford. Equally important, the B.C. government has now recognized that ensuring our trade-exposed industries have a level playing field when competing against jurisdictions with weaker climate policies is key to ensuring competitiveness.
In B.C., climate leadership has helped build a leading clean technology sector. B.C. has the highest number of clean tech jobs per capita in Canada, with exports and expertise flourishing in everything from clean energy to green buildings and from smart cities to pollution abatement.
Traditional sectors are also benefiting from, and building on, this low carbon advantage. Policy leadership and incentives, along with strong corporate leadership, mean that B.C. is now home to some of the lowest-carbon mills and mines in the world. And there is also a symbiotic relationship between our resource sector and B.C.’s emergence as a clean-tech hub. A growing number of start-ups are developing solutions to improve the environmental performance of our resource sector—solutions that we can export to the world.
But B.C.’s leadership is part of a broader national picture, one that will be more robust with a national plan.
This is why we have joined more than 60 CEOs and civil society leaders from across Canada in signing a letter to the First Ministers ahead of their meeting next month, urging them to take bold action on clean growth and climate change.
We believe that building a high performance, low carbon national economy is a major economic opportunity and a vital environmental responsibility for Canada. We applauded their moves to develop a Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change, and offered our support for a united effort to advance smart policies.
The right moves now by government and industry will equip us to compete in a rapidly changing world in which the clean technology market is expected to exceed $2 trillion annually by 2020.
To meet this economic opportunity, we need timely action using a range of approaches. A strong, transparent clean growth framework should include world-class standards for energy efficient buildings, transportation; a greening of government procurement; technology funds to help green industries; and training and immigration programs that build the skills for an advanced, 21st century economy.
Putting a price on carbon to reflect the real environmental costs is another piece of the policy puzzle, and is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions, stimulate innovation and drive energy efficiency. Coordinated Canada-wide carbon pricing, rising predictably over time with robust measures to protect trade-exposed industries and low-income Canadians, can do much of the heavy lifting towards meeting our climate targets.
Canada has a proud history of action to capitalize on the opportunities created by global economic change, and now it’s time to step up once again and show the world what Canadians can do when faced with a challenge.
We have no doubt that together we can lay the foundation for a stronger, cleaner economy, and a better future for all of us.
This article was originally published in the Vancouver Sun and co-authored by Marcia Smith, senior vice-president of sustainability and external affairs at Teck Resources.