Premiers Grab the Climate Change Baton

It didn’t exactly ignite a clean-energy revolution.

But the Council of the Federation meeting of provincial premiers — which wrapped up last week in Halifax, Nova Scotia — did hit an important milestone: It placed the opportunity of the low-carbon transition and the imperative to finally do something about climate change squarely at the center of the Canadian energy agenda.

Canada’s provincial premiers closed out the two-day conference by committing to “a more integrated approach to climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and managing the transition to a lower carbon economy.”

That will doubtless please the more than 700 companies and organizations that recently came together to urge leaders to come up with a plan that would transition Canada to a clean and renewable energy economy. The eclectic group ran the gamut from oil sands workers to environmentalists, faith leaders to venture capitalists, from First Nations councillors to assembly-line workers.

They weren’t alone; a Harris Decima poll released the first day of the Halifax meeting suggested that Canadians want an energy strategy that fights climate change and reduces the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. According to the poll, two-thirds of Canadians believe a national energy strategy should reduce the country’s dependence on oil, gas, and coal (66 per cent pegged this as a “top” or “high” priority for such a plan.)

Meanwhile, only 33 per cent of those surveyed thought that expanding oil and gas exports should be a top or high priority. This is interesting because many of the energy strategy conversations to date have focused on fossil fuel exports as an energy strategy’s raison d’etre.

It appears the premiers were tuning in. The idea of a Canadian energy strategy is now moving forward with climate change on the agenda. Provincial energy ministers will evidently now be given the mandate to address carbon reductions — which historically has fallen outside their portfolios.

This regional interest is encouraging, because Canada’s federal government has shown little — if any — interest in seriously addressing climate change or boosting the nation’s participation in the global low-carbon economy, which is expected to crest $3 trillion before the end of this decade.

Canada’s provincial energy ministers will now pick up the energy-strategy conversation. Early next month, they’ll meet in Prince Edward Island. It will be interesting to see the extent to which they next raise the bar.

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
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