While British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec all have clear momentum in their preparations for the global transition off carbon, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and especially Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador need to put pedal to the metal, says a new report from the Canadian Climate Institute (CCI).
Building on its 2021 report Sink or Swim, which assessed the economic risks and opportunities Canada faces as the world swings away from fossil fuels, the institute’s latest report assesses how each province is responding to the shift. (The authors say they couldn’t find enough data to extend their analysis to the three northern territories.)
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British Columbia is particularly well-positioned, says CCI, with “private sector momentum across a range of growing transition markets, supported by a robust policy environment and ongoing government investments.”
Ontario, with the country’s “biggest economy, largest capital markets, and an industrial base attracting significant investments in low-carbon goods and services,” is also doing well, the report says. And Alberta’s position is strengthened by its “investments in growing transition markets,” its skilled work force, and progress in “decarbonizing some incumbent sectors.” (Although much of that analysis focuses on projects that depend on fossil-derived “blue” hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and the federal subsidies required to get either of them off the ground.)
Blessed with significant natural resources, especially hydropower, Quebec’s position is further strengthened by concerted efforts to “seize opportunities across a range of growing transition markets,” the institute says.
But while Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick are all “gaining momentum in the low-carbon transition,” each will need to “accelerate efforts to take advantage of growth opportunities” to avoid being left behind as the low-carbon transition picks up steam. The report says advantages for Manitoba in its abundant hydro resources, New Brunswick in its work on smart grids and small modular nuclear reactors, and Nova Scotia in its high concentration of “transition-opportunity companies”, the largest number in the Atlantic region.
As for Saskatchewan, PEI, and Newfoundland & Labrador, CCI warns that “urgent action is needed to leverage their strengths, attract new sources of growth, and avoid being left behind.”
In all three cases, the promise of significant natural resources will not be realized without more focused policy and investment, the institute warns, with particular concern about a policy and investment environment in Newfoundland and Labrador that “remains focused on the oil and gas sector.”
“Quebec and British Columbia are punching above their weight in mobilizing finance,” says the report, with the sum raised by transition-opportunity companies between 2015 and 2020 far ahead of the rest.
The report names 10 key transition-opportunity markets where Canadian companies are active. including: low-carbon electricity driven by renewables; vehicle and grid-scale batteries and storage; low-carbon transport; building technology that reduces energy use; carbon capture; clean hydrogen; mining technology that improves environmental performance in the industry; agricultural technology and plant-based protein; biofuels; and industrial transition—a category that includes leak detection for pipelines and other tools and processes that make fossil energy production more efficient.