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Group of business leaders calls for quicker transition to green economy

The coalition lays out five key actions the country needs to take: accelerate clean innovation, boost energy and resource efficiency, put a price on pollution and waste, invest in advanced infrastructure, and conserve and value nature.


A group of prominent business leaders – including Ottawa's growth guru Dominic Barton – is urging Canada to accelerate the transition to a cleaner, lower-carbon economy by pursuing a society-wide game plan that includes carbon pricing.

The leaders will introduce a virtual think tank called Smart Prosperity on Tuesday in Vancouver with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau scheduled to attend. The next day Mr. Trudeau gathers with premiers to work on a national climate strategy that would include carbon pricing, green infrastructure spending and support for clean-technology innovation.

Smart Prosperity is founded by a coalition of 26 corporate executives, environmental activists, First Nations representatives and labour and community leaders. They include Galen Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw Cos. Ltd.; Darren Entwistle, chief executive at Telus Corp.; former Shell Canada president Lorraine Mitchelmore; and Mr. Barton, who runs the consulting giant McKinsey & Co. and heads Ottawa's newly created Advisory Council on Economic Growth.

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"The global economy is changing," Mr. Barton said in an e-mail. "Companies are going to need to be able to do a lot of things better, including using energy and natural resources more efficiently, polluting less and being eco-innovative."

The Smart Prosperity initiative will demonstrate to Canadians that business leaders and environmental advocates can agree that clean growth is a crucial economic opportunity, he said. "Now is the time to accelerate our efforts to prepare Canada for success in a changing global economy."

In a report to be released with Tuesday's launch, the fledgling think tank forecasts that the global demand for clean-technology goods and services will be $2-trillion in 2020. Canada's share of that market has declined in recent years, while the country also ranks near the bottom among industrialized states on water, energy and resource productivity – which means it uses more for every unit of GDP than its global competitors.

The coalition lays out five key actions the country needs to take: accelerate clean innovation, boost energy and resource efficiency, put a price on pollution and waste, invest in advanced infrastructure, and conserve and value nature. It lists recommendations for businesses, cities, federal and provincial governments, and consumers in pursuit of those actions, and will track progress on them over the next decade.

Mr. Barton said his Smart Prosperity work dovetails with his role on the advisory council on economic growth. "We haven't started this [council] work yet, but I do think that boosting natural resources productivity and encouraging clean innovation are two key parts of a broader recipe for strengthening Canada's competitiveness and growth potential," he said.

While much of the attention for the upcoming first ministers' conference has focused on the debate over the Liberal government's proposed national minimum carbon price, Mr. Trudeau is eager to garner federal-provincial-territorial agreement on a much broader agenda, including many of the actions endorsed by the Smart Prosperity group.

A key goal is to support and encourage efforts among resource companies, including the internationally maligned oil sands sector, to cut energy use to reduce costs and carbon emissions, and to adopt innovative technology needed for even greater GHG reductions.

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Ms. Mitchelmore said the Smart Prosperity coalition acknowledges the world will need fossil fuels for decades to come, but that the environmental impact of extraction must be dramatically reduced.

The driving force behind the new coalition and its co-chair is Stewart Elgie, a University of Ottawa economist and lawyer who co-founded a small think tank called Sustainable Prosperity at the university.

Mr. Elgie said the effort has to go far beyond putting a price on carbon and increasing the use of renewable power, although those are important goals. Equally crucial is progress on urban planning, building standards, support for public transit and bike paths, and support for innovation among traditional manufacturing and resource companies.

"This is not a revolution; it's accelerated evolution," he said.

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About the Author
Global Energy Reporter

Shawn McCarthy is an Ottawa-based, national business correspondent for The Globe and Mail, covering a global energy beat. He writes on various aspects of the international energy industry, from oil and gas production and refining, to the development of new technologies, to the business implications of climate-change regulations. More


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