Building a Canadian Environmental Superpower
The blue-ribbon Task Force of Canadian business leaders said climate change and sustainable development represented major economic opportunities, and put forward a policy declaration titled Clean Growth: Building a Canadian Environmental Superpower.
“The key is to shape public policies that reinforce both the desire of individuals and companies to reduce their environmental impact and their ability to invest their money in the new technologies, products and processes that will make the greatest difference domestically and globally,” states the report.
The 11-page statement, issued by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), was signed by 33 chief executive officers who sit on the Council’s Task Force on Environmental Leadership. Representing a broad cross-section of Canada’s leading energy-producing and energy-consuming companies.
The Task Force is co-chaired by Thomas d’Aquino, Chief Executive and President of the CCCE, Richard B. Evans, President and Chief Executive Officer of Alcan Inc., and Richard L. George, President and Chief Executive Officer of Suncor Energy Inc. Mr. George is also Honorary Chair of the CCCE.
“The Policy Declaration that we are releasing today represents an unprecedented consensus among the CEOs of Canada’s leading enterprises on how best to move forward in addressing the vital issue of climate change,” Mr. Evans said. “Our hope is that these ideas can form the basis of a broader national consensus.”
The Report puts forward five key propositions that will enable Canada to reduce GHG emissions and make the greatest possible contribution to a sustainable global economy:
- A national plan. Canada needs a coherent national plan of action on climate change that sees governments, industry and consumers working together toward shared goals.
- The technology opportunity. The core of this national plan must focus on investment in new technologies that can help Canada and the rest of the world achieve a rising standard of living with a reduced environmental impact.
- Targets and investment. Targets are an important spur to action, but real and sustainable improvements in environmental performance come when healthy firms can attract capital and expertise to drive innovation.
- The power of price signals. The price signal is an important means to ensure that energy use reflects its environmental costs, and these signals can be strengthened through market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading and environmental taxation. However, any such tools must be designed so that industries and consumers are not merely penalized, but have positive reasons to act.
- Canadian leadership globally. To achieve global progress in addressing climate change, Canada must champion a future international process that will ensure the participation of all major emitting countries.
The Task Force notes that Energy is Canada’s strength and clean energy has the potential to be Canada’s greatest competitive advantage. This could make Canada an energy and environmental superpower.
While acknowledging the current government’s focus on intensity targets as a means of encouraging Canadian firms to become more efficient without being penalized for growing, the Task Force clearly states that the ultimate goal must be to achieve a substantial absolute reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases, in Canada and globally.
CEO’s acknowledge a necessary part of the battle will be government intervention to raise energy prices as a means of influencing consumption. “We share the goal of slowing, stopping and reversing the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions over the shortest period of time that is reasonably achievable”.
The goal of Canada’s business leaders is as ambitious as it is clear, states the Communiqué. It is “to enable our nation to harness its plentiful energy resources and abundant human skills to become an energy and environmental superpower.”
While some may challenge the Task Force report for not going far enough with respect to a carbon tax or recommending the establishment of an emissions trading system, the fact that Canada’s leading CEO’s have united under one comprehensive policy framework for dealing with climate change is a significant step forward.
The most positive element of the Task Force report is that it sends a clear signal to the federal government that industry is ready to take the actions needed to deal with climate change and to turn that commitment into positive measures to make Canada a global environmental leader. This puts the onus on those formulating national policies to put in place the programs and incentives necessary to make it happen, whether a carbon tax or an effective emissions trading scheme or some combination of the two. At issue is the need to act now to clearly put in front of the Canadian people a plan of action that makes sense, has time lines and takes into account Canada’s position with respect to the rest of the world.
The full Communiqué from the Task Force is available here.
The full Policy Declaration is available here.
For More Information: Ceo Council