Speech for The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Appearance at the Canadian Club

Speech for The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Appearance at the Canadian Club

Speech

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Introduction

Good afternoon, everyone.

I want to thank the organizers at the Canadian Club for inviting me to speak today.

And thank you all for joining me.

I see former cabinet ministers Navdeep Bains and Lisa Raitt are here today, so there is life after politics. I would also like to salute my friend and colleague, the MP for Toronto‑Danforth, Julie Dabrusin.

It feels good to attend an event in person again.

And it’s always good to be in Toronto.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather today is the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, and most specifically the traditional and Treaty territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

The Climate Crisis

Some people know me as that guy who climbed the CN Tower.

It’s true. I did it … to call attention to Canadian climate ambitions under the Kyoto Protocol.

That was over twenty years ago, and thankfully my days of having to climb the tallest structure in Canada to draw attention to climate change are over, although being in elected office remains a bit of a high wire act. Many of you have probably seen the environmental satire Don’t Look Up. Well, since then, my motto is “Don’t look down!

But more seriously…

As a society, we’ve moved beyond the need to convince people that climate change is real.

People can see it with their own eyes.

And we’re beyond wondering if climate change might change the way we live.

It already has.

At last November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference—COP 26—we moved well past discussions about why we shouldn’t take ambitious action.

The science has long been clear on the cause. It’s carbon pollution.

Each year, the world emits 47,552 million tons (that’s megatonnes for the geeks in you) of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Those emissions will remain there anywhere from a few years to a few thousand years. They are heating our climate at a rapid rate. We know this to be true.

Extreme weather events we only used to see once every hundred years now happen regularly.

In Canada, damage from extreme weather events has cost the economy around $31 billion over the past forty years.

Many urban cities like Toronto have a high concentration of concrete buildings and roads, and they aren’t equipped with drainage systems that can handle heavy rainfalls or flash floods.

One Toronto flooding event in 2018 cost over $80 million in damages.

It’s costing our health, too. Heat-related deaths and health issues related to pollution are being recorded more frequently in Canada and all over the world.

Governments everywhere are acknowledging the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to do so rapidly.

Canada has its own ambitious targets: to reduce our GHG emissions by 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and to achieve net-zero by 2050.

Canadians want to be part of our national effort to fight climate change. They’re taking daily action as individuals, and as members of local communities.

They’re looking to be part of the solution.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about how much recycled content is in a product, or what a product’s carbon footprint is.

Look around. Across all economic sectors, in all segments of society, people are already shifting from asking why they should care about the environment to how—at this pivotal point in history—they can make a difference.

A Healthy Environment and Economy Go Hand‑in-Hand

My activist past is well known.

Greenpeace. Équiterre.

I’ve been active in the environmental sphere all my adult life.

What you might not know about my history is that for ten years, I also worked as an advisor for firms such as Deloitte and Canadian venture capital fund, specializing in climate-friendly and sustainable technologies.

Having seen it from all sides, I understand the value of building bridges and partnerships.

Today, I’m speaking to you as Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change. I represent a government that sees that the environment and the economy go together, hand-in-hand.

This is not a phrase we simply made up because we thought it would sell environmental protection to Bay Street investors.

In every facet of society, there is a recognition that a clean future is the only future – and that a clean economy presents great opportunities for those who are ready to take the reins.

By 2025, clean tech’s contribution to Canada’s GDP is expected to grow to nearly $80 billion from $26.7 billion in 2016.

And this year, global clean technology activity is expected to exceed $2.5 trillion.

Markets are already acting. Smart money is going towards forward-thinking actors.

We’ve reached a point where investors and businesspeople, producers, and consumers have the smarts, the desire, and the plans to turn this global environmental challenge to our economic advantage.

This is our window of opportunity to act.

All of us here—government, industry, indigenous peoples, and civil society—can act together to create the conditions we need for success with clear market and policy signals that will help mobilize capital and labour towards a truly sustainable economy.

Frankly, we’re a little behind the curve.

Our top competitors in the US, Europe, and other countries are already moving in this direction, and they’re moving fast.

Many industrial sectors are finding ways to do business cleaner, with fewer emissions.

New industries are popping up to satisfy the public’s demands for cleaner goods and services.

To varying degrees, governments are backing and rewarding those forward-thinking market actors.

There is a major market evolution taking place, and Canada has the choice now to lead or be left behind.

Or, to present this argument as a counterfactual: Does anyone really believe—with conflict in Europe reshaping global energy supply chains; with devastating extreme weather events like the BC floods and landslides; with Canada warming at twice the global average—does anyone really believe we can simply continue to do business as usual?

So I’ve talked about why we have to act. Because the cost of doing otherwise is too high. Because the opportunities we’ll miss out on if we don’t lead are too great.

Now let’s talk about the path forward to building a healthy economy and a healthy environment.

Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP)

In the coming weeks, the Government of Canada will be tabling the first-ever Emissions Reduction Plan under the recently passed net-zero legislation.

This will not be some grand monument carved in stone, a tablet from the mount.

Rather, it will be the first critical installment of an ongoing legislated requirement to present such a plan in Parliament for each milestone target, no matter which party is in power.

This Emissions Reduction Plan will provide us with a roadmap towards our goal to cut our emissions by 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

That may sound daunting, but let me tell you why I know we can get there.

Our plan will highlight the opportunities for innovation and investment to make the required reductions across the economy.

Transportation

In transportation, we’re working closely with the automotive sector to transition to a market where 100 percent of new cars sold in Canada are zero‑emission by 2035.

The US, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and others are also moving aggressively on zero‑emission vehicle deployment.

Companies such as Ford, Stellantis, and GM have already announced plans for an electric future.

Countries such as Norway and Sweden, states such as California, and provinces such as BC and Quebec are progressing quickly on that front.

The barriers we used to have with electric cars are quickly disappearing.

For example, their price: electric vehicles are expected to match gas-powered models in price within three to four years.

And not only that, we’ve rolled out a program to make them more affordable for Canadians, something more than 125,000 people have already taken advantage of.

Their driving range: battery technology is improving exponentially.

And since 2015, we’ve invested a historic $1 billion to make EVs more affordable and chargers more accessible for Canadians.

The investments in charging infrastructure made so far will result in more than 25,000 new chargers coast to coast.

Electric cars aren’t limited to small cars now, either. You can order a fully electric pickup truck, such as the popular Ford F-150, which is expected to be launched later this year.

It’s no wonder electric cars are breaking sales records around the world.

Global sales of electric cars more than doubled in 2021 despite supply chain challenges.

As many electric cars are now sold in the space of a week as in the whole year of 2012.

With the transportation sector being the second‑largest emitter in Canada, the source of roughly a quarter of our GHG emissions, electrifying new vehicles will go a long way.

Electricity

Part and parcel of a fleet of electric vehicles is clean sources of electricity.

Our country already enjoys one of the cleanest energy grids in the world with over 80 percent of the electricity Canadians use coming from non-emitting sources, such as hydro and wind.

Getting to a 100-percent clean electricity grid will not only mean clean air, but significant business opportunities in clean energy and clean-tech investments.

We’re already making progress on reducing emissions by phasing out coal-generated electricity. And we’re doing it while ensuring a just transition to sustainable jobs for coal workers and their communities.

And some businesses are already riding the wave of technological innovation to make clean power not only a reality but also an attractive investment opportunity.

I was especially excited to see:

– the Travers Solar Project in Alberta, which will see 3,300 acres of land transformed with 1.3 million solar panels;

– and the Oneida Energy Storage Project, the largest battery-storage energy project in the world, right here in Ontario’s Haldimand County.

In a recent report outlining its priorities to achieve net-zero goals, the Business Council of Canada identified an expansion of the low-carbon electricity grid as its number two recommendation.

Using clean electricity to power our transportation sector, heat our buildings, and generate our manufacturing and industrial processes is widely recognized as a key pathway to achieving a net-zero economy by mid-century.

Of course, creating a clean economy also means integrating the power of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

We have a strong AI advantage in Canada that we can put to use to decarbonize including with precision agriculture and integration into vehicle manufacturing.

We know partnerships will be the key between all levels of government, and across economic sectors and communities.

The proposed Atlantic Loop is an exciting example of cross-provincial collaboration. It would bring hydroelectric power from Quebec and Labrador through to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

These are ambitious but achievable national projects.

Industry

Heavy-emitting industries are the first ones to tell you that they recognize achieving net-zero emissions is the way of the future.

From oil and gas to manufacturing, companies are investing in clean-tech innovations.

Carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies represent a major opportunity to capture emissions before they are released into the atmosphere from industries.

Carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies compress captured carbon into solid form, and either store it back down deep underground, or repurpose it into entirely new products.

Take for example the CO2MENT cement plant in Richmond, BC.

The company uses what’s called a “capture unit” to pipe airborne pollution through a rotating set of filters that screen out carbon from the air and reuse it for CO2-cured concrete, storing emissions permanently.

Canada is among the global leaders in this start-up carbon capture utilization and storage industry.

We are fourth in the number of CCUS patents granted, behind the US, China, and the European Union.

And while this technology is still only in its infancy, it employs thousands of Canadians.

In agriculture, there are transformative new technologies that make biogas out of farm waste and manure, and digital technologies that farmers are using more and more to precisely measure and apply fertilizers to their crops.

In 2019, Maple Leaf Foods became the world’s first major carbon-neutral food company and just one of three animal protein companies in the world to set science-based targets that align with the Paris Agreement.

Markets Going Green

These innovations and opportunities are just the beginning.

They show you it pays to think about climate actions and the economic opportunities that accompany them.

Markets in Canada and around the world are moving this way.

Consumers are moving this way.

Businesses are being empowered to move this way.

As RBC reports, it has never been easier to access capital for green projects. Canadian firms raised $38 billion in green financing from 2010 to 2020, a pace that will only increase as the push to reach our 2030 emissions goal intensifies.

As a government, our goal is to create the conditions for market success while meeting our emissions reduction goals. In other words, our focus is on a healthy economy and a healthy environment.

Since 2016, the government has committed more than $100 billion to climate action and environmental protection.

But governments alone cannot finance the transition to clean growth.

Continued and enhanced private sector investment, and a strong and dynamic sustainable finance market, are essential to long-term success.

Green Bonds

Just a few days ago, my colleague Minister Freeland and I released Canada’s framework around the issuance of federal green bonds.

Green bonds give investors the opportunity to support Canada’s climate and environmental measures, while taking advantage of emerging market opportunities.

They are an important part of the Government of Canada’s economic approach to support the country’s transition to net zero.

These bonds will provide safe and secure opportunities for investors looking to grow their portfolio of climate-friendly products.

In May 2021, Canada launched the Sustainable Finance Action Council to bring together public- and private-sector financial expertise. The council supports the growth of a strong, well-functioning, Canadian sustainable finance market.

Six of Canada’s largest banks have already joined the Net-Zero Banking Alliance under the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-Zero (GFANZ) umbrella.

Chaired by former Bank of Canada and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, the alliance is made up of 450 leading financial institutions across forty‑five countries. It accounts for over $130 trillion in assets under management.

Canada now joins a number of other countries, Canadian provinces, and corporations in establishing a green bond framework to guide our new green bond program and further promote the sustainable finance market.

The government is targeting an inaugural $5 billion issuance in the coming weeks.

These steps are a crucial part of our strategy to mobilize capital towards a truly sustainable economy.

They support government investments in green infrastructure, wind and solar energy, nature conservation, and other environmental initiatives.

Green Financing and Investment Opportunities

As you know, the global climate challenge represents a massive opportunity.

The time has come to build a cleaner, more sustainable, and more inclusive economy.

The world will invest trillions of dollars in the clean economy over the coming decade alone.

Some of the world’s largest asset managers, such as BlackRock, HSBC, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec are already taking serious action to combat climate change.

The International Energy Agency has estimated that up to 50 percent of the technologies needed to achieve net zero by 2050 are currently only at early‑stage development.

That’s why an ongoing, legislated Emissions Reduction Plan—a roadmap—is so important.

It will help us navigate the opportunities and obstacles ahead.

As more countries commit to achieving net zero, the demand for zero-emission technologies will grow.

Canadian innovators are already receiving international recognition for their leadership.

Thirteen Canadian companies were named to the 2022 edition of the Global Cleantech 100 list, a prestigious collection of the most innovative and promising private-sector clean-tech companies from around the world.

This year, as in 2021, Canada had more companies on that list than any other country except the US.

But we need to go further. And in doing so, our actions must also be inclusive.

According to research done by the McKinsey Global Institute, if women’s participation in the economy was the same as men’s, they could add as much as $28 trillion to the annual global GDP in 2025.

In Budget 2021, we included measures to improve the economic participation of women and under‑represented groups, including $33 million over three years to support the 50‑30 Challenge—a call to action to businesses across Canada to increase diverse representation on corporate boards and in senior management.

Our actions must also include gender equality and diverse representation.

Ukraine and Europe

Before we wrap up, I want to touch on the situation in Ukraine in Europe.

Canada strongly condemns President Putin’s unjustifiable and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies to support the Ukrainians, who are under brutal attack by President Putin, and to uphold the rules-based international order.

Global oil prices are soaring as a result of this conflict and the issue of energy security in Europe is centre stage.

In light of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, we are actively assessing what further measures we may take with our partners. Everything is on the table.

What are our allies telling us?

At a recent international energy summit, European nations reacted to the crisis with an overwhelming desire to accelerate their transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy sources.

This is where Canada can really help.

As the President of the European Commission stated earlier this month quote, “it is our switch to renewables and hydrogen that will make us truly independent… every kilowatt‑hour of electricity Europe generates from solar, wind, hydropower, or biomass reduces our dependency on Russian gas and other energy sources.”

Canada is uniquely positioned to help Europe and the world secure this new clean energy economy.

We’re already leaders in non-emitting technologies and have the raw resources required to build them, including critical minerals.

We are one of the top ten hydrogen producers in the world and can be a major exporter of hydrogen technologies.

Canada can be an engine for the green growth needed by Europe and the world.

Conclusion

A transition to a clean future is imminent.

All the signs are there.

Will climate change alter the way we live, work, and think?

It already has.

Today, there is a widespread consensus that climate change is real, that the transition to a sustainable, clean future is already under way.

The Emissions Reduction Plan the government will be tabling will give predictability to industries and investors.

It’s ambitious, but coming at it from all of the angles I just laid out, it’s achievable.

It will pave the way for Canadians to work together, to overcome the greatest challenge of our generation.

It’s time we recognize that there can be no economy without the environment.

It’s time we meet the future that’s already here.

»Speech for The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Appearance at the Canadian Club«

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