Canada is missing a big opportunity to create jobs, cut pollution, and advance a net-zero emissions agenda by failing to prioritize projects that use low-carbon building materials and cleaner construction processes, Blue Green Canada argues in a report issued this week.
With the country in the midst of a 10-year, $180-billion infrastructure plan, and 48,000 projects worth $42.8 billion already approved, Blue Green says governments at all levels should seize the moment to “buy clean” from domestic manufacturers of less carbon-intensive steel, aluminium, cement, and timber.
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“Buildings account for 13% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emission, and when you add in our built infrastructure, you get a hefty portion of our carbon footprint,” the organization states on its landing page for the report. “How we spend on public construction can create jobs and help to cut pollution.”
The report calls on governments to continue using public procurement to support Buy Clean policies, develop an industrial decarbonization strategy to identify Canada’s “carbon advantage”, and set up a Clean Infrastructure Challenge Fund “to encourage the use of low-carbon building materials in the construction of public infrastructure, and showcase their potential for inclusion in all forms of public infrastructure.”
It notes that domestic manufacturers can take advantage of an electricity grid that is currently 82% emissions-free to produce lower-carbon goods, located closer to where they’ll eventually be needed. “When materials produced in Canada are used, emissions associated with transportation are reduced by avoiding shipping from international suppliers,” the report states. “Currently, Canada spends more than C$7 billion annually on imported steel and aluminum—materials that are typically higher in carbon than domestic options.”
And with the federal government promising to legislate a 2050 deadline for net-zero emissions, “targeting embodied carbon through public procurement policies from all levels of government would drive down emissions and deliver economic benefits by increasing demand for low-carbon processes and materials,” Blue Green adds. “It would also spur innovation in low-carbon materials and fuels, stimulate private investment to decarbonize the construction sector, and further enhance Canadian companies’ ability to compete in the global market.”