The climate crisis will be a “central focus” of the 2020 federal budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau told students at Toronto’s Ryerson University Monday, during a kick-off event for this year’s pre-budget consultations.
“I’ve written more cheques for fires and floods than any other finance minister before me and those numbers continue to go up,” Morneau said. “It’s real. The costs are real, and the implications for all of us, including especially the younger people in this room, are real.”
“We think we have a mandate, together with the other parties, in government to move forward on issues around environment and climate change,” he added.
Morneau said the government will also need a strong enough balance sheet to be able to amp up its spending in the event of a future economic downturn or recession, the Globe and Mail reports.
“Historically, when the economy’s faced challenges, central banks have reduced interest rates. But given that interest rates are already at a low rate, that tool is not there in the same way, which means the response to economic challenge is much more about investments the government can make,” he told his Ryerson audience.
“And that’s why we need to always maintain a strong balance sheet, always maintain the ability to make those investments.”
The news landed on the same day as a Bank of Canada survey that showed the majority of businesses, particularly good producers, exporters, and larger companies, identifying climate as a relevant or very relevant topic, Reuters writes.
The central bank “said more than half the affected firms had noted negative impacts tied to climate change, including financial losses or damage from extreme weather like hurricanes, floods, and wildfires,” the news agency notes. “Changing seasonal patterns, the survey found, are disrupting operations and sales in the agriculture, fishing, transportation, and construction sectors,” and many survey respondents “referred to increased costs associated with climate-related policy and regulation, as well as higher insurance costs.”
One-third of the companies told the bank they’d seen positive impacts of climate change, “often related to new business opportunities, including firms selling environmentally friendly and energy-efficient products and services,” Reuters says.