Report: Canada's $60 Billion Opportunity

Canada’s share of the growing  global market for low-carbon goods and services—such as wind turbines, solar panels, efficient vehicles, and efficient buildings—is worth about $8 billion today, and could grow to $36 billion by 2050.

With the right government leadership, the opportunity grows to $60 billion by mid-century.

That is one conclusion of the final report from the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRT), a respected federally-funded research organization that lost its funding in the 2012 federal budget.

The new report, Framing the Future, Embracing the Low-Carbon Economy, focuses on Canada’s share of the booming global clean energy and clean technology market that many believe will shape the 21st century.

The report notes that the global market for low-carbon goods and services is about $339 billion in 2010, and estimates that under current conditions it will reach $3.9 trillion by 2050. With a favorable policy environment,  2050 investments  more than double, reaching $8.3 trillion in annual spending.

For Canada, the low-carbon investment opportunity primarily lies in efficient vehicles and low-carbon buildings, hydropower, and wind.

Even under a business-as-usual scenario, the document notes, “efficient vehicles, buildings, industrial processes, hydro, solar, and wind are positioned to grow.”

In short, the NRT’s modelling establishes that Canada’s low-carbon sectors will expand substantially, and could ramp up even faster with government leadership.

The round table estimates that direct jobs in Canada’s  low-carbon economy would grow from approximately 42,000 today, to 91,000 in 2050. With a favorable policy framework, that number grows to 159,000.

Counting spin-off jobs, the report estimated about 96,000 jobs in 2010, rising to 224,000 in 2050.

The report notes that Canada must “define a long-term path that takes it from the energy and emissions-intensive economy of today to a future that harnesses innovation and skills to achieve real emissions reductions and drive sustainable resource use.”

All of which begs the question: What is the supportive policy that would grow Canada’s share of the booming global market from $36 billion to $60 billion, and grow the jobs from 91,000 to 159,000? You guessed it, it’s a price on carbon. The Round Table calls a carbon price “fundamental to achieving the required efficiency gains and innovative drive to support low-carbon growth.”

There are real risks to delaying policy action, the NRT says.

“Delaying Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy could limit firms’ access to international markets, compromise Canada’s reputation abroad, and impose economic costs associated with the lock-in of high-emitting infrastructure and equipment,” the document states.

While provincial carbon pricing regimens exist in Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta, Canada’s current federal government has consistently and definitively stated that it will not place a price on carbon.

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