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opinion

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault hold a press conference at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland on Nov. 2, 2021.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Dr. Maryam Golnaraghi is the director of climate change at The Geneva Association, a think tank for CEOs of the global insurance industry and is a member of the Creative Destruction Lab’s Climate Stream in Vancouver.

An unprecedented transformation across all sectors of society is needed to achieve ambitious net-zero targets over the next few decades.

As we look for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, new technologies, new decision-making processes and clean/green infrastructure need to be developed and deployed at scale across the economy.

Canada is one of largest economies in the world, with a strong reliance on some of the highest-emitting sectors, such as oil and gas extraction, mining, agriculture, and building and construction.

Those industries – along with the financial institutions that provide their capital – are seeing a proliferation of climate-change pledges and strategies. The federal government, meanwhile, is pursuing a raft of policies to drive the transformation in order to meet its commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

However, we urgently need a better alignment of these efforts. Within the federal government, individual departments, agencies and Crown corporations must operate in a more collaborative and co-ordinated approach to achieving Canada’s sustainability goals and low-carbon transition targets.

As he embarks on his new mandate, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should take the opportunity afforded by the United Nations COP26 meeting to reaffirm the centrality of climate-change mitigation and adaption efforts to his government.

Decarbonization of the Canadian economy requires a clear strategy led by Ottawa and developed in concert with the private sector, provinces and territories. It needs revamped processes for decision-making where central bodies such as the Privy Council Office and the Department of Finance impose clearer mandates and spending priorities that execute on the federal strategy.

It is critical for Canada to expand the scope of climate tech innovation currently taking place, and quickly deploy viable disruptive technologies in its key sectors as well as green infrastructure systems. As the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices recently noted, failure to do so will mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in export revenues that the country depends upon.

Success will also position Canada as a global leader and exporter of climate tech.

Financing is available, but it must be guided by coherent policies, useful and comparable data and corporate engagement at the highest level.

According to Climate Tech VC, there has been a significant increase in funding for climate tech startups throughout North America. In the second quarter of this year, innovative clean tech firms raised US$16-billion in 250 venture deals, with the average size of same-stage deals nearly double what it was a year earlier.

A clear national strategy on climate tech innovation should be part of Canada’s overall economic development and decarbonization priorities. Tax incentives, subsidies, loans and grants, and enabling regulations are foundational to spur research and innovation, encourage startups and top experts to stay in Canada, and help create market demand for these technologies in both the public and private sectors.

The activities of myriad federal bodies – including Sustainable Development Technology Canada, the Canada Infrastructure Bank, Business Development, Bank of Canada and others – need to be aligned and strengthened.

We need to ensure there is a reliable ecosystem of funding and market support for climate tech developed in Canada.

The sustainable finance framework, co-led by Finance Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada working with the financial sector, can mobilize mainstream investors to enable more investment in climate tech development and large-scale deployment.

Canada’s Sustainable Finance Action Council needs to ensure the inclusion of research and innovation, and emerging technologies as an asset class to direct sustainable finance for technological innovations and a well-functioning low-carbon marketplace.

New climate tech comes with myriad risks that need to be assessed, priced and managed for sectoral adoption, large-scale implementation and mobilizing private capital.

Government can lead strong partnerships with the technology and engineering communities and companies from different economic sectors, including insurance and banking, to innovate and address those risks.

The fundamental challenge for Canada is to embed clean technology deployment and sustainable finance in the sectors that have long driven the country’s prosperity in order to maximize our opportunities in the net-zero transformation. That will not happen with a haphazard approach. It requires a national strategy that has broad social acceptance.

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