While many criticized the Liberal government for punting a proposed $2 billion Low Carbon Economy Fund—which Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced as part of the 2017 budget—to 2019, some commentators have seen the move as a positive step that views real climate action as slow-boiling and bottom-up.
In the same week that the American administration used the platform of the oval office to announce cuts to environmental protection and fresh moves to bolster coal, Canada signalled its intention to nurture a low-carbon culture, from research and development to deployment.
“This is money for Environment and Climate Change Canada to do the necessary, unglamorous work of policy change: to conduct technical reviews, write the regulations, and coordinate,” writes Erin Flanagan, federal policy director at the Pembina Institute.
In addition to the $1.4 billion dedicated to meat-and-potatoes funding for clean technology development and commercialization, the 2017 budget also promises far-reaching changes to our basic culture around energy use. Some $11.4 million will go towards phasing out coal-electricity by 2030 (even as the U.S. doubles down on the waning sector), while another $17.2 million will go towards strengthening clean fuel standards and retrofitting heavy-duty vehicles to produce lower emissions.
By 2030, according to the Pembina Institute, heavy-haul trucking is set to become “the largest energy-consuming segment of transportation globally,” and is already Canada’s fastest growing sub-sector of transportation emissions. This kind of funding—set to take effect in 2017—while not as slick-sounding as a Business Development Bank devoted to serving clean tech, is perhaps most crucial in forging systemic (and therefore long-term) changes in our energy consumption patterns.
“Canada’s new national climate plan lays the groundwork for all economic sectors to reduce emissions and make progress towards building Canada’s clean economy,” Flanagan says, “including an accelerated coal-phase out and a clean fuel standard for buildings, transportation and industry.”
If not ambitious in timescale, therefore, the budget’s research-and-development allocations are certainly ambitious in scope, even committing funds for the exploration of Canada’s abundant though as-yet unleveraged geothermal resources.
While some early analysis has written off the budget for its delayed implementation, it is perhaps the first in a generation to favour long-term seed growth in research and development and implementation over clean tech tokenism and quick-fix financing.
Indeed, when it comes to infrastructure spending, the Liberals have dedicated $20.1 billion to address chronic freight bottlenecking in Canadian cities over the next 11 years.
“Supporting transit is one of the most effective ways to cut down emissions and improve both air quality and economic performance,” writes Gideon Forman, transportation policy analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation.
"This is ongoing, stable funding needed across Canada," he says.
By Arman Kazemi, 6 April 2017
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This article was written for Clean Capital News a free bi-weekly publication dedicated to producing topical articles on sustainability and clean technology that advance our understanding of issues like climate change and help generate solutions for a more sustainable future.
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