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Renewable energy sector holds significant potential for Canada to reduce our carbon emissions

By NDP MP Peter Julian      

The global renewable energy market is already a trillion dollar industry, and it is projected to grow by another trillion dollars in the next decade. Millions of green jobs will be added around the world and Canada is simply not at the table.

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The global energy economy is undergoing a great transition. Unsecure oil supplies, uncertain prices for consumers, and rapid advancements in technology are making renewable energy alternatives more and more competitive on the world stage. The new challenge of the 21st century is to build a balanced, sustainable future for Canada that uses our vast natural resources and talent to make us leaders in innovation and renewable energy.

The renewable energy sector holds significant potential for Canada to reduce our carbon emissions, meet our domestic energy needs, and to establish ourselves as key contenders in the development and production of clean technologies. The global threat of climate change compounds the necessity to move quickly toward a future less-reliant on conventional fossil fuels. This challenge is daunting, considering that Canada was recently ranked second-to-last out of 12 major economies in terms of energy efficiency.

It is increasingly clear that addressing climate change is not only good environmental policy, but it makes economic sense as well. The global renewable energy market is already a trillion dollar industry, and it is projected to grow by another trillion dollars in the next decade. Millions of green jobs will be added around the world and Canada is simply not at the table.

Our competitors are taking the challenge seriously. This summer I visited Denmark and Germany at my own expense to tour some of the most innovative and productive communities and businesses on Earth. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created in Europe in the clean energy sector. Denmark is often ranked as the best country in the world to do business, despite having some of the most ambitious carbon reduction targets. The United States is pursuing clean energy and innovation with renewed vigour, while China is investing heavily in renewable energy, aggressively expanding its market share. Without decisive action from the Conservative government, Canada is missing out on this critical opportunity in the global clean energy sector.

Our clean-tech sector in Canada is growing, but by global standards we are being left behind. We can add value to our natural resources before we export them, and clean-tech exports can help mitigate our lamentable trade deficit. It is also worth noting that the benefits of the clean-tech sector, including jobs for young graduates, extend proportionally across all of Canada.

The NDP first raised the issue of climate change in the House of Commons in 1983, and has long been a champion of renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology solutions. An NDP government would establish a comprehensive cap-and-trade system to fight climate change, stimulate green job growth, restore Canada’s reputation abroad, and help Canadians make the transition to a low-carbon future.

A price on carbon would encourage the oil and gas sector to adopt clean technologies to reduce their carbon pollution. It would spur investment in new research and development that would create a new generation of home-grown businesses. It would also generate revenues that could be invested in climate change initiatives such as public transit and energy efficiency measures.

An energy efficiency home retrofit program should be reinstated and expanded, reducing energy and water costs for Canadians. In our northern and arctic communities we can reduce the dependence on polluting diesel flown-in at great expense. The development of renewable energy in the North would create jobs, skills training and reduce costs for Canada’s northerners in the process.

The Conservatives have given billions of dollars of subsidies to the oil sands rather than creating a strategy for growth and investment in clean-tech and renewable energy firms. Ending subsidies for oil sands is the first step to putting renewable alternatives on a level playing field with oil and gas giants.

Pipelines serve a purpose in the Canadian economy, but they are not a substitute for balanced, sustainable growth in all regions of the country. They are not a plan to succeed in a low-carbon future. We need a strategy that adds value to our resources before we export them and moves Canada beyond the “rip-and-ship” approaches of the past.

The NDP understands that success in the new economy is dependent on all levels of government working together with businesses and the academic community to improve innovation and competitiveness of the Canadian economy. The NDP is offering a better vision for the future.

NDP MP Peter Julian represents Burnaby-New Westminster, B.C. and is his party’s energy and natural resources critic.

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