Climate Energy

Good sources of ideas for a green recovery

What should be in federal bailouts? Good ideas for the necessary transition

Climate Energy Environment

Podcasts being added each week

We’re now adding a new podcast episode each week; details at Here is a taste of what’s ahead:

Episode #GuestCompanyDescriptionA taste of the interviewGreen economy KeywordsDate
67Emil Sylvester RamosIris RadHow AI-enabled dashcams help municipalities cut costs and emissions in maintaining their roadsmunicipalities, maintenance, data, AI, asset management, smart cities, cleantech1/6/22
66Rob LavoieAirTerraBiochar: real, long-term carbon sequestration plus soil regenerationregenerative agriculture, carbon sequestration, biochar, offset, rebuild soil12/16/21
65Jeremy ClarkSimple Life HomesPrefab panels for carbon-storing, high performance buildings that go up in record timeplant-based buildings, efficiency, embodied carbon, passive house12/2/21
64Curtis VanWalleghemHydrostorHow air, rock and water store electricity from wind and solar and clean our electricity grid. Hydrostorrenewable electricity, clean power, storage, electrification11/18/21
63Joshua GreenMysa smart thermostats After years of struggle, a Newfoundland startup becomes a star with smart thermostats for electric home heatingMysa Thermostatscleantech, home heating, efficiency, smart thermostats, demand management, electric baseboards11/04/21
62Phil WintersGoodlot Farm and Farmstead BrewingMaking delicious, low-carbon, local craft beer with organic hops they grow themselves on their organic farmGood Lot Farmsbeer, craft beer, local food, sustainable food, organic, organic hops, low-carbon beer10/21/21
61Kevin McLaughlinZyggg, E-bike subscription serviceMaking it easy for lots of people to fall in love with zipping around on an electric bikeZygg Electric Bikese-bike, e-mobility, e-bicycle, seniors, low-carbon mobility, transportation, urban10/07/21
60Chandra RamaduraiEfficiency CapitalPerformance-based financing of water and energy upgrades for older buildings, toilets paying for boilersEfficiency CapitalFinance, upgrades, retrofits, performance-based financing, climate, green buildings, building retrofits, efficiency, energy efficiency, water09/23/21
59Sheena SharpCoolEarth ArchitectureDesigning buildings for the zero-carbon futureCoolEarthZero-carbon architecture, embodied carbon, geothermal, solar, mass timber, design09/09/21
58Arzeena HamirOrganic farming and leadership at Amara FarmHow an immigrant and mother started an organic farm, and a Farmers Institute, and got elected, and got $200 million of federal money for climate-smart farming Amara Farmorganic, agriculture, farming, land use, elected, municipal councillor, leadership, mentor, climate-smart farming08/26/21
57Remi DesaPantonium, On Demand Transit SoftwareAllowing small cities to both cut costs and improve transit service with existing busesPantoniumMunicipalities, transportation, on-demand transit, better bus service, low carbon municipalities, saving cost and carbon08/12/21
56Francisca QuinnQuinn & Partners, sustainability consultantsFast growing pioneer in sustainable investing for investors, sustainable operations for companiesQuinn and PartnersSustainable finance, green business, sustainability, management consulting, sustainability reporting, sustainability for CEOs07/29/21
55James LarsenE Zinc, Storing electricity in zincLong-duration electricity storage through chemical transformations of zincE ZincCleantech, batteries, renewable electricity, electricity storage, long duration storage, renewable energy, zinc07/15/21
54Chief Wilfred King and AJ EsquegaGiizis Energy at Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (Gull Bay First Nation)Canada's first integrated solar microgrid displacing diesel in a remote community, environmental justice as part of reconciliationGull Bay First Nationsolar, renewable energy, diesel, indigenous, reconciliation, microgrid, batteries, green power06/30/21
53Jon LomowFieldless Farms, Growing great local lettuce indoorsSolving our world record lettuce deficit while saving carbon, water and healthFieldless FarmsFood, agriculture, food miles, food imports, indoor farming, food waste06/17/21
52Ajay KochharLi-Cycle, Truly recycling lithium ion batteriesFrom a standing start to one of the world's top cleantech companies in less than 5 yearsLi-CycleCircular economy, cleantech, lithium, batteries, recycling, materials, toxics, urban mining06/03/21
51Josh LewisNerva Energy, Energy efficiency for buildingsAward-winning approach to cutting building operating costs with current technologyNarva EnergyEnergy efficiency, multi-unit residential, building envelopes, building automation05/20/21
50David Isaac, WDuskGroupCommunity renewable energyRenewable energy, transformation, and reconciliation, especially for remote indigenous communitiesWDuskRenewable energy, solar, wind, reconciliation, modernization, self-sufficiency, Indigenous clean energy, renewable energy developer05/07/21
49Connie StaceyGrowing Greener Innovations, Lego-style low cost batteriesSlashing the cost of battery storage by simplifying and automating how they connectGrowing Greener InnovationsRenewable electricity, energy poverty, electricity storage, low-cost storage, green energy04/22/21
48Bill RedelmeierBiodynamic wines from Southbrook WineryOrganic biodynamic wines- healthy soil, healthy staff, delicious winesSouthbrook WineryAgriculture, organic, biodynamic, plant-based, local food,04/08/21
47Trevor KloeckHemp Fibre Co, Amazing jobs for hempFascinating jobs for hemp residues, including soil reclamation and creating stronger paper and non-plastic packagingHemp FibrePlant-based materials, reclamation, fibres, recycling, new materials03/25/21
46Gavin Pitchford, Clean50 AwardsCanada's Sustainability HeroesAwards that celebrate sustainability heroes, to accelerate collaboration towards a job-rich, cleaner, healthier, innovation based low-carbon economy Clean50Green economy, clean tech, green business, green business leaders, green awards, innovation, green business network03/11/21
45Paul BotteroInMotiveHow a better electric vehicle transmission, invented in Canada, makes electric cars lighter, faster, cheaper, and longer rangeInMotiveElectric vehicles, range anxiety, Canadian invention, Green Tech, clean tech, e-mobility02/25/21
44Mike KeilhauerKeilhauerDesigning, manufacturing and selling zero carbon, zero waste office chairs of pure, reusable materialsKeilhauerembodied carbon, zero waste, sustainable design, circular economy02/11/2021
43Jim FongerAmerescoEngineering and finance to slash the carbon footprint of existing buildings, such as schoolsAmerescoenergy efficiency, energy performance contracts, 01/28/2021
42Rebecca BlackBlack Current MarketingMarketing and strategic foresight for green economy companiesBlack Currentgreen economy, green transition, green marketing, strategic foresight01/14/2021
41David BeauvaisElectrifier SG2BRapid, accurate energy and emissions data for community energy planningElectrifierenergy, energy efficiency, energy planning, municipal energy plans, green button, energy data12/31/2020
40Brad Crapeau, Alex HaymanFoodCyclerHow to turn food waste to compost, at home, in hoursFoodCyclerfood waste, circular economy, compost, waste reduction12/17/2020
39Marc BedardLion ElectricAll electric buses and trucks - now cost competitive for heavy useLion Electricelectric vehicles, clean transportation, air quality, electric buses12/10/2020
38Darren Jones & Daygan FowlerMyHEATBeing able to SEE where heat is escaping from your house motivates action when talk doesn't. When will our utility pay for the pictures?MyHEATenergy efficiency, buildings, utilities, climate action, reduce waste12/03/2020
37Sumi ShanDunya HabitatsTiny, portable, energy efficient, beehive-shaped hydroponic units for growing vegetables anywhereSumi Shan teaseragriculture, hydroponics, food deserts, equity11/26/20
36Andrew PeelPeel Passive HouseBuilding and retrofitting buildings for maximum comfort, minimum fossil fuelsPeel Passive Housegreen buildings, passive buildings, low-carbon buildings11/19/20
35Adam CorneilUnbuildersCarefully taking buildings apart for reuse, instead of smashing themUnBuildersdemolition, construction waste, circular economy11/12/20
34Anie RouleauThe Unscented CompanyLocal, unscented soap company, on the road to plastic-freeThe Unscented Companyretail, consumer product, soap, single-use plastic11/05/20
33Peter HowardPond Technologies How to make carbon sequestration pay for itself: turning industrial CO2 emissions into algae, superfoods and profitsPond Technologies teasercarbon capture, algae, anti-oxidants, sequestration10/29/20
32Amir AlamShoe LaundryHow did a DJ who loves shoes become a sustainability entrepreneur during Covid?Shoe Laundry teasershoes, retail, cleaning, reducing waste10/22/20
31Audrey MascarenhasQuestor TechnologiesMethane destruction: reducing climate damage and air pollution for $2/ tonne. Why do Canada's regulations lag behind Mexico's?Audrey Mascarenhasmethane capture, air pollution, renewable energy10/15/20
30Gildas PoissonierDesjardins FinancialWhere can I do my banking without supporting fossil fuels?Desjardins Financialfinancial, insurance, Paris targets
29Steve OldhamCarbon EngineeringDirect air capture of carbon dioxide - Is it a realistic solution?Carbon Engineeringcarbon capture, enhanced oil recovery10/01/20
28Matt BrownPatagoniaHow a clothing firm slashes its carbon footprint and works to preserve our home planetPatagoniaretail, clothing09/24/20
27Greg NuttallWoodland BiofuelsComing soon: the world's cheapest liquid transportation fuel, made from construction wasteWoodland Biofuelsbiofuels, transportation fuel, construction waste reuse09/17/20
26Sarah Devika SumnauthUrban MineralsLocal-source vegan makeup startup with its first sustainability report - on hand-poured lipstickUrban Mineralsmicro business, makeup, sustainability report09/10/20
25Mike BrighamSolarshareHow did Mike Brigham build a $60 million community-owned #solarpower cooperative, SolarShare? And why is he personally funding the used #electricvehicles incentive in Ontario?SolarshareSolarshare, solar bonds, solar energy cooperative09/03/20
24Shaun LoneyAki Energy: Climate benefits and reconciliationGreen energy and efficiency social enterprise as a path to social healing and lower costs. Why is the green economy a good path forwards for people with barriers to employment?Aki Energygreen energy, efficiency, renewable energy, indigenous reconciliation08/27/20
23Bruce TaylorEfficiency: the best investmentFunding clean water in Africa by saving clients energy, water, resources and money hereEnviro-Stewardsenergy efficiency, materials efficiency08/20/20
22Catherine ThornDistrict energy scaling upHow a former municipal utility is becoming a giant in cleaner heating and cooling for many buildingsCatherine Thorn of Enwavedistrict heating and cooling, low carbon heating, thermal recycling08/13/20
21Mike AndradeInnovative solar technologyHow did Morgan Solar survive China's solar juggernaut, and stay Canadian?Morgan Solarsolar energy08/06/20
20David RobertsCanada's first net zero bus companyHow Victoria Harbour used a 15-year contract to get a net-zero bus system for cruise passengersNet zero bus companynet zero buses, clean transportation, electric vehicles07/30/20
19Jocelyn MolyneuxWorm farming, soil boostingCollecting office food waste, and feeding it to 1,000,000 worms to make plant food Jocelyn Molyneuxagriculture, organic waste07/23/20
18Yuill HerbertSustainability Solutions Group Workers' cooperative consulting firm that helps create decarbonized, equitable, healthy cities for everyoneSustainability Solutions Groupenergy planning, co-operative, municipal energy plans07/16/20
17Sean DrygasBullfrog Power Canada's green energy retailer, so I can heat and light my home without fossil fuelsBullfrog Power low carbon electricity and gas, retail07/09/20
16Cara ClairmanPlug’n’DrivePlug'n'Drive stokes public passion for driving electric vehicles, often by letting people try onePlug’n’Driveelectric vehicles07/02/20
15Trish NixonRenewable energy investment for everyoneCoPower's green bonds allow almost everyone to put the planet in their portfolioTrish Nixon, CoPowergreen bonds06/25/20
14Jennifer WagnerPutting carbon into concreteCarbonCure's amazing technology saves money by using CO2 to make concrete strongerCarbonCurelow-carbon concrete, carbon sequestration06/18/20
13Tom RandVenture capitalism for clean techEarly stage funding so that breakthrough technology companies can grow through Canada's notorious valley of deathArctern Venturesclean tech finance, venture capital06/11/20
12Brandon MoffatFood waste to powerBrandon explains his passion for turning food waste into low-carbon fertilizer, electricity and natural gasBrandon Moffatfood waste, clean power06/04/20
11Dan BalabanRenewable power in AlbertaHow Dan made Greengate Power Canada's biggest renewable energy developerDan Balaban, Greengate Powersolar power, wind energy, electricity, Alberta05/28/20
10Tim NashSustainable investingHow Tim became a busy financial planner, helping people put their money where their heart isTim Nashsustainable investing, clean finance, consumers, retail, RRSP05/21/20
9Michael KalmanovichEarth's General StoreMichael's labour of love for his award-winning, organic, low-waste general storeEarth's General Storeretail, general store05/14/20
8Alexandra TavasoliSolar catalyst chemistryAlex's cleantech startup uses solar catalysts invented in Toronto to turn methane and CO2 into a fundamental building block of modern chemistrySolistracleantech, chemistry, solar catalyst05/07/20
7Richard SiftonSolar subdivisionRichard tells Dianne about his new London subdivision. It is medium-density, solar-powered, fossil-free and sells shoes in the pubWest5 Solar Subdivisionsolar subdivision04/30/20
6Priyanka LloydGrowing tomorrow’s Green Economy Heroes How can local business hubs grow tomorrow’s environmental champions? Priyanka chats about Green Economy Canada and the little businesses that couldGreen Economy Canadagreen businesses, business hub, B2B, energy efficiency04/23/20
5Akhil SivanandanShowing consumers their impactAkhil tells Dianne how Green Story helps green brands grow through the right consumer information, at the right timeGreenStoryretail, transparency, environmental footprint04/16/20
4Stephanie McLartySecond lives for telecom equipmentStephanie tells Dianne how REfficient finds second lives for used and surplus equipment, allowing smaller telecom companies to competeREfficient teaserreuse, waste reduction, equity04/09/20
3Bryan Gilvesy Cows that protect birdsAward-winning farmer, Bryan Gilvesy, tells us how planting native tall grass prairie has restored endangered birds and transformed his cattle ranchYU Ranch excerptregenerative agriculture04/02/20
Climate Energy Environment

Green Economy Heroes podcast

Looking for some hope in hard times? Don’t miss my new podcast on Green Economy Heroes.

Since 2015, I’ve talked with hundreds of audiences across Canada about the climate crisis. A few years ago, most audiences were just learning that we have a crisis. Today, you probably already know that. Now you are more likely to be wondering, is it too late? Where can we find some hope?

The only recipe I know for hope is to first look the facts in the face, and to then work with other people on concrete action. Because the climate crisis affects almost everything, there are a huge number of ways to take action. The good news is that there are amazing people in Canada who are making a living doing exactly that. They are building the green economy that we need to reduce our climate pollution, creating green jobs and helping us get ready for what’s coming.

Each Green Economy Hero podcast features someone you’ll enjoy getting to know. We will explore who they are, what their business are doing, and how it is making a difference. We will hear about their challenges, their successes, and their dreams. And we’ll learn their advice on how you too can start and build a green business.

Climate Energy Environment

Climate Law Practice Officially ReOpens

The law practice of Dianne Saxe, Ph.D. in Law, is open again. I’m focussing on climate law, because if we get this wrong, not much else will matter.

Climate Energy Environment

Law Practice Reopening

Dr. Saxe is now in the process of reopening her environmental law practice, focussed on the climate and biodiversity crisis. It feels good to be back.

Climate Energy Environment

Turning parking spots into bike lanes: Seville did it

Want low carbon public transportation infrastructure that’s fast and cheap to build? Learn from Seville. #SafeBikeLanes

Climate Energy Environment

Urban Sprawl: Ontario’s Oil Sands

Urban sprawl creates congestion, drives our air and climate pollution and destroys wetlands, woodlands and farmland.

It worsens our climate crisis, and so one of the best things municipalities can do is to stop urban sprawl.

Here are the slides from my keynote presentation to the Ontario Professional Planners Institute. To see the temperature spiral run on slide 30, the source is Climate Lab Book.

Many more details are available in chapter 4 of my last energy report, available on the reports page at

Climate Energy Environment

10 principles for the transition to a green economy

Given the climate emergency, can Canadians overcome the political obstacles to dramatically reducing our dependence on fossil fuels? by Dianne Saxe

As an environmental lawyer and the former environmental commissioner of Ontario, I have spent 45 years at Canada’s battlefront between the economy, the environment, and law and government. These decades of difficult work produced hard-won, important victories that many people now take for granted. Because of civil society protests, government regulation and business innovation: urban and indoor air is cleaner; the ozone layer is recovering; acid rain, lead and mercury pollution are way down; the pesticides in food are less toxic to people. 

But the task Canadians have now is enormously more urgent and more difficult. The climate emergency and the devastation of ecosystems put the very future of human civilization at stake, largely because the lavish use of fossil fuels is destroying the natural systems on which all human lives depend.

“We have reached a point where the best-case outcome is widespread death and suffering by the end of this century, and the worst-case puts humanity on the brink of extinction,” says a 2019 report from the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

Canada is a major user, producer and exporter of fossil fuels. These fuels have helped make us prosperous, with a high quality of life that no one wants to give up, although they have done so only by ignoring the mounting cost to the natural world. The economic and technological tools that could effectively move Canada toward a low carbon economy would do so largely by increasing the cost of fossil fuels, but raising the cost of fossil fuels has often led to political backlash. This fall’s election is again polarized over a very modest step in the right direction, putting a small price on fuel, even though 90 percent of the money goes directly back to households.

Given that Canada’s largest emitting provinces have recently elected parties that reject almost all effective actions to reduce climate pollution, it is hard to be optimistic about Canadians rising to this challenge. But the consequences of failure are so dreadful that I feel obliged to keep speaking up. Perhaps it will help to break the challenge down into 10 key building blocks, which together address most of the questions people ask me. They range from a reminder that no one will do this work for us Canadians, to why we need to make fossil fuels cost more in order to make real change. But these 10 guiding principles can serve to steer us in the right direction of what we need to accept and what we need to do:

  1. Physics doesn’t compromise.
  2. We can’t count on magic. 
  3. No one will do it for us.
  4. We have lots to gain.
  5. Fossil fuels must cost more.
  6. For necessary demand, the cleanest supply.
  7. The green transformation must be big and fast
  8. Can’t do without indigenous reconciliation.
  9. Strive for climate justice. 
  10. Real facts, honest conversations.

1.     Physics does not compromise.

The climate crisis is not a normal political negotiation between different interests, where solutions come from compromise. The climate crisis is a collision between human beings and physics. Physics, like gravity, doesn’t compromise. 

Governments that treat the climate crisis as a “balance” between the economy and the environment are doomed to fail. Instead, our prosperity depends on respecting the limits of the natural systems on which our lives depend. They cannot keep absorbing our greenhouse gases (and other wastes). We’re already so close to the edge of disaster that every extra tonne worsens our chances against an overwhelming health, economic and environmental threat.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has shown us how close that edge is. For a world that is “only” 1.5° hotter, i.e. tough but mostly manageable, rich countries like Canada must cut emissions at least 45 percent by 2030, and emit zero net greenhouse gases by 2050. For a world that is “only” 2° hotter, i.e. less stable and safe than today with significant food and economic damage, rich countries must cut emissions at least 25 percent by 2030, and reach net zero by 2070.

This scale of reductions can only come from slashing the fossil fuels we burn, starting right now. We won’t get there if we burn all the fossil fuels that we have already found, much less keep exploring for more. We won’t get there if we keep investing in new ways to supply, or burn, fossil fuels. We won’t get there by improving carbon intensity while allowing totals to grow. We will only get there if we burn less fossil fuel every year than the year before.

2.     We cannot count on magic. 

It would be lovely if technology (and planting trees) would magically allow us to continue our current lifestyles without much effort or expense. I think we’d all vote for that; in fact, we’ve been betting the planet on it. But it is not a real option.

Technology and innovation do play a huge role. Solar and wind power, batteries, electric vehicles, LEDs, all make the transition to a greener economy easier, faster, and better for public health. There is enormous scope and financial opportunity for improvements in all areas of human activity, from agriculture to water to conservation and clean energy, and perhaps carbon capture and storage. Once we launch an all-out effort, innovators will likely find greener ways to meet human needs. And planting trees can take some carbon back out of the atmosphere over time, if the resulting forests can survive heat, drought, pests and fire.

But we’ve left it too late to just wait for someone, somewhere, to invent something to make it all easy. Inventions like that are rare, take time, and always have costs of their own. We have to slash our emissions now with what we already know how to do. 

3.     No one will do it for us.

“States, politicians, and corporations have consistently used bad economic arguments to stall climate action… that it would alter markets, threaten economic growth, harm citizens’ way of life, and kill jobs. This is … cynical and short-sighted.” — 2019 UN report

These arguments amount to either a refusal to believe the physics (“we don’t have to reduce;” “there is no rush”) or a claim that someone else will do it for us. No one else can, and no one else will.

It’s comforting to tell ourselves that our emissions are too small to matter, but Canada is one of the world’s 10 top climate polluters, and a highly visible one at that. The more fossil fuels that we burn today, the more expensive, disruptive and unmanageable climate damage will become. It is cynical, short-sighted and selfish to leave these mounting costs until “later”, i.e. to our kids. If we do, we will have earned their contempt.

Nor will poor countries, who have done much less than we have to create the climate crisis, do the heavy lifting for us. Instead, they will be looking to us for compensation, as they struggle with massive climate damage. And hundreds of millions may try to escape fire, flood, thirst and famine by migrating here. Wouldn’t you?

4.     We have lots to gain.

Yes, cutting climate pollution now is an enormous challenge for democratic politicians. Many people may not “want” to do what the climate crisis demands: to pay much more for energy, to use much less of it, to put longer-term, communal benefit first. But physics doesn’t care what we want. 

Putting the economy first got us into the current mess, and putting the economy first won’t get us out of it. But Canadians have a lot to gain from reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, on top of the climate imperative. 

“Climate action should not be viewed as an impediment to economic growth but as an impetus for decoupling economic growth from emissions and resource extraction, and a catalyst for a green economic transition, labour rights improvements, and poverty elimination.” — UN report

For example, the health benefits from reducing fossil fuel use are worth twice what they would cost. Air pollution from fossil-fuelled vehicles increases dementia and crime, and endangers the health of children, seniors and those who live or work close to heavy traffic. 

The worldwide market for green, low-carbon goods and services is already exploding and Canada has many strengths to build on. Energy conservation creates green jobs, and allows families, businesses and public institutions to spend less on heat and more on what matters most. Building complete communities instead of sprawling suburbs slashes commutes and saves taxes. 

And the federal carbon price “fee and dividend” approach helps to reduce inequality, by returning 90 percent of the money to all households.

5.     Fossil fuels must cost more.

Reducing climate pollution requires a dramatic reduction in demand for fossil fuels as well as in their supply. Reducing demand is primarily the responsibility of governments and of consumers. Individual choice matters but governments must make good choices practicable. Governments should maximize conservation and low-carbon electrification, design land-use to minimize fossil fuel use, and support investment in innovation and the green economy. 

But actions to reduce demand make little headway when fossil fuels are cheap. Every regulation, policy, subsidy and pipeline that increases the supply of fossil fuels, or reduces their cost, undermines efforts to reduce demand. Both energy conservation and low-carbon technologies have struggled in the face of low oil and gas prices since 2014, and Canadian fossil fuel consumption has risen.

Thus, fossil fuel demand will not drop in free markets until such fuels become much more expensive. We can’t expect the market to make fossil fuels expensive, because higher prices stimulate more supply, which brings the price back down. Since proven fossil fuel reserves are enormously larger than physics will allow us to burn without catastrophe, carbon pricing or regulation will have to keep them in the ground. 

6.     Meet necessary demand with cleanest practical supply.

It is not yet practicable to do some things without fossil fuels, so there will be some market for them for decades, perhaps longer for non-emitting uses of petroleum or with carbon capture and storage. 

That market should be met by the cleanest practical supply, counting transportation, remediation and spills. Conservation, renewable energy and low carbon electricity should be used whenever possible. Thermal coal should be eliminated ASAP. Gas can be cleaner than coal if producers and distributors eliminate leaks of unburned methane, but it’s still a significant fossil fuel that must be mostly phased out by 2050.

What about the oil sands? Since we must reduce emissions, the first step is to stop increasing them. Oil sands crude is more expensive and more polluting to produce than most other global crudes, due to the energy and water required to separate bitumen from sediment, and to upgrade it into crude. Oil sands producers are also building up a huge remediation liability.

Some producers now claim that they can produce oil sands crude with a lower environmental and climate footprint than competing sources of crude. If they can prove it, there should be a legitimate though declining market for their products in Canada and abroad.

7.     The green transformation must be big and fast.

It’s too late for incremental change. As pervasive and mainstream as fossil fuels are today, non-fossil energy must be tomorrow. Investment in low-carbon energy and efficiency must overtake fossil investments by 2025. 

For this, governments have essential roles that no one else can play. Transforming our relationship to fossil fuels requires enormously scaled up research, training, innovation, investment and infrastructure. Investors, municipalities and the private sector will jump in only with strong, long-term targets, rules and incentives. Most important are clear, predictable rules that do not change when governments do, including a steadily rising carbon price. As Ron Mock, president and CEO of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, said, speaking at the Canadian Club in 2016:

“It is critically important that the regulatory framework be independent and stable. You can’t invest $2-3 billion into a country only to find that every four years the rules have changed.” 

8.    We can’t make the transition without Indigenous reconciliation.

A big, fast green transformation will, among other things, probably require infrastructure (e.g. electricity transmission lines) on or across the territories of Indigenous peoples. Will Indigenous communities block such infrastructure, or help to build, operate and own it?

Federal and provincial governments and the public must recognize and uphold Indigenous rights to self-determination and collaborate fully with Indigenous people on decisions around placement, ownership,  development, and operation of any infrastructure on Indigenous land.

Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is essential and includes acknowledging that traditional knowledge can contribute to climate and energy solutions. Two-eyed seeing means taking the best of Indigenous and Western knowledge to create a sustainable future.

The interests and rights of Indigenous people can no longer be trampled. A new economic partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments and people can result in benefits for everyone.

9.     We must strive for climate justice.

The climate crisis will affect everyone, but some far more than others. Even within Canada, at least three groups have legitimate claims to climate justice:

  1. Those who suffer the gravest consequences of the climate crisis, such as remote and northern Indigenous communities. Typically, they are among those least responsible for the climate crisis, i.e. who have created the least climate pollution. Yet they suffer the most, e.g. from flooding, fire, erosion, loss of ice roads, and the disappearance or contamination of traditional foods, with neither the resources nor the insurance coverage to recover from environmental disasters. These communities deserve help to prepare for, and recover from, climate-related crises, and to shift away from fossil fuels. 
  2. Those who suffer disproportionately from carbon pricing, i.e. for whom rising energy costs are a particular challenge. It is hard for Canadians to accept paying more for energy. At a minimum, they will need strong evidence that the costs and opportunities of the energy transition are being fairly shared. Governments should help people make ends meet while reducing climate pollution, improving public health and building a sustainable economy, by helping Canadians reduce how much fossil energy they need to keep warm and to get around. Pushing down the price of fossil fuels instead is always the wrong answer. 
  3. Those who have contributed to climate pollution by producing fossil fuels, and who now face loss of their skills, livelihoods, savings and communities. These communities deserve a “just transition,” to help them find a meaningful place in the new economy.

10.  We need real facts and honest conversations.

We need to talk about the climate crisis and we must be impeccably honest with each other. This crisis will be hard enough without lies, such as the misleading carbon price stickers that the Ontario government forces gas stations to post.

The truth is, we are almost out of time. It is already too late for either consumers or producers to continue our current lifestyle unchanged. Only urgent action everywhere can stem the tide of climate disruption, preserve our way of life and turn this challenge into opportunity. Oil, gas and coal must decline, not grow. Consumers and business must pay much more for energy and use less. Everyone must innovate.

Canadians can pull together to meet this challenge. The sooner we act, the easier and less costly it will be. Instead of waiting for catastrophes to frighten us into action, we could seize opportunities to reduce fossil fuel use, to protect ecosystems, to improve public health and to build better lives. There will be adjustments along the way; we must all be willing to make some changes and some sacrifices. But the changes we need seem harder and scarier than they really are. We can still do this, if we act now.

This thought piece was first published by Open Canada.

Climate Energy

Improving climate governance for corporations

Free advice on improving climate governance is now available to corporate directors and Canadian pension plan boards as part of the Canada Climate Law Initiative. #corporategovernance #climatecrisis Details from Joanne Forbes or at