Can We Punch Above Our Weight on Clean Energy?

Wednesday marked the first day of the 2013 Clean Energy Ministerial in Delhi, India. For the next few days, energy ministers from around the world will confab to discuss how best to advance clean energy technology and advance the global transition to a low-carbon economy.

To mark the occasion, the International Energy Agency released Tracking Clean Energy Progress in 2013, which examines progress in both the development and deployment of clean energy technologies. Alas, the overall conclusion of the assessment wasn’t encouraging—especially against the backdrop of accelerating climate disruption.

Photo licensed under creative commons via Aiden Whiteley (
Photo licensed under creative commons via Aiden Whiteley (

Repeating what has by now become a too-familiar refrain, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven noted, “We need a rapid expansion in low-carbon energy technologies if we are to avoid a potentially catastrophic warming of the planet, but we must also accelerate the shift away from dirtier fossil fuels.”

This followed close on the heels of another important report: 2012: Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? This annual analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Bloomberg New Energy Finance compares how the world’s leading economies are faring in the competition for clean energy investment.

China, the United States and Germany round out the top three slots, while Canada’s year-over-year ranking slipped from 11th to 12th in the G-20. But it’s not all bad news for our team: When Pew and Bloomberg ranked nations for clean energy “investment intensity,” a measure of investment per dollar of GDP, we achieved a much more respectable 4th place ranking.

Not that there isn’t plenty of room for improvement. We could be punching above our weight and showing the world we are about more than just our fossil fuel reserves.

Canada has abundant untapped renewable energy potential, which if realized could empower us to truly compete in clean energy. Unfortunately, Canada’s minister of Natural resources couldn’t make it to the Clean Energy Ministerial. (He has been prepping for a trip next week to  Washington DC and New York , where he is expected to talk up the benefits of the the Keystone XL pipeline.)

But on the plus side, leadership from our provincial and territorial premiers can help ensure Canada doesn’t miss out on the clean energy economy.

The Council of the Federation is moving forward with a Canadian energy strategy that includes the key ingredients for clean energy success and a transition to a low-carbon economy. There is much to be learned from the successful efforts of provinces like Ontario, which has both reduced its carbon pollution by aggressively phasing out coal-fired power and created new jobs and opportunities by ramping up clean energy.

Changes in GHG emissions by prov 2005-2011_PJ

From our perspective, much can be accomplished through a Canadian energy strategy focused on accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy, and Canadians agree. That’s why we’re rolling up our sleeves to help provincial, business and civil society leaders deliver just that. Stay tuned.

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