An oil company, a bank and a consumer products giant are among a group of companies and civil society leaders asking Ottawa and the provinces to ratchet up efforts to tackle climate change, calling it an economic imperative.
Leaders of 26 companies signed the letter, including Shell Canada Ltd., the Royal Bank of Canada and Unilever, as did organizations such as the United Steelworkers and the Broadbent Institute. It gives the Prime Minister and premiers a to-do list to ensure Canada remains economically competitive while meeting its commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The letter, which is from the Smart Prosperity Leaders’ Initiative, a group that promotes a green economy, was sent on Tuesday, and provided to The Globe and Mail.
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government prepares to unveil its new agenda on Thursday, and with the latest round of international negotiations on climate change under way in Madrid, the group hopes to drive home the message that climate change doesn’t have to be addressed at the expense of the economy. The pitch comes at a key moment in Canadian climate politics as some premiers fight what they call Ottawa’s “job-killing carbon tax.”
“We must ramp up our efforts, and focus on implementation to achieve real progress for a stronger, cleaner economy,” the letter said. The group added that the transition to a clean economy is estimated to be worth $26-trillion globally by 2030.
“We are going to lose the economic future of our country if we don’t take this trend seriously and create jobs and investment out of it,” said Annette Verschuren, chair and chief executive officer of NRStor Inc., an energy storage company, and a co-chair of the initiative.
The October election pitted climate advocates against the oil patch. The group argues that it’s not an either-or choice.
While addressing climate change will create a new economy, Ms. Verschuren said it doesn’t have to mean shuttering the energy sector. Instead, she said, the industry will have to move to lower-carbon production and extraction methods that will open new markets.
The group represents a cross-section of Canadians from youth and Indigenous leaders to Bay Street. It’s calling on the federal and provincial governments to focus on issues like green infrastructure, an agile and stringent regulatory system, policy certainty, tax reform to drive growth in clean tech, skills development and transitioning workers affected by the changes.
A growing contingent of companies in the oil sands are trying to address their emissions, said Michael Crothers, president of Shell Canada.
The Calgary-based executive, who spoke to The Globe from the Netherlands, said customers are prompting companies to act. For example, he said the Dutch arm of his company allows drivers to buy emissions offsets at the gas pumps. Mr. Crothers said it has had a 20-per-cent uptake.
Mr. Crothers said he’s confident politicians of different stripes will be able to depoliticize the issue because it’s what people want. “In the end, governments have to listen to Canadians,” he said.
In the same way an election settled the free-trade debate in 1988, Stewart Elgie, a co-chair of the Smart Prosperity Leader’s Initiative, said he believes the debate on climate change was settled in the fall vote.
“Having a partisan fight about a new direction is common,” he said. “But we need to get past that and then come together as a nation to tackle what is really the challenge and opportunity of our time.”
The Globe and Mail, December 4, 2019