ONEIA Analysis:  Getting beyond the rhetorical tug of war on climate change



December 10, 2009.  The environment will be back on Canada's front pages this week with the arrival of heads of state at the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change.   Predictably, the debate has rolled out on familiar lines.  Environmental NGOs predicted dire consequences if the federal government does not embrace sweeping emissions cuts.  The government issued low-key messages about matching US moves and not wanting to put Canada at a competitive disadvantage.  Radicals on both sides also weighed in, with Greenpeace scaling the Parliament buildings and climate change deniers sending furious e-mails about the "cover up" being foisted upon us by darker corners of the scientific community.
 
Lost in all of this rhetorical spin is a simple idea that, if embraced, will benefit Canadians, the environment - and our environment industry: In addition to being an issue of great moral and scientific importance, climate change is the single biggest business opportunity facing Canada right now.  And we need to capitalize on it.
 
Consider the worldwide challenge that climate change will pose in coming decades.   Developed and developing economies will need to find cheaper and more environmentally friendly sources of energy.  Emissions will need to be monitored, controlled and reduced.  Our infrastructure will need to withstand even greater weather extremes.  And - for a host of related issues - individuals and companies will need innovative environmental services, products and technologies at a rate we have never seen before.
 
Prior to Copenhagen, estimates valued this growing world market at more than $700 billion each year.  Even if countries do not fully embrace the recommended limits on carbon proposed in advance of the Summit, the worldwide move towards lower-carbon economies will continue.  The scale of this shift can perhaps best be compared to how our economies totally reoriented around the production of the automobile in the early years of the 20th century, with the exception that all parts of our economies will now have to embrace a new way of operating - not just the transportation sector.
 
The scale of this worldwide opportunity is staggering - so why is no one talking about climate change in these terms?  The base of environment companies we have built in Canada is well-positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.  Unfortunately, we are not really talking about the economic benefits that Canada could realize from a proactive climate challenge strategy.  Companies around the world are gearing up to generate a lot of wealth in coming decades as they help us make this transition to a sustainable economy.  Unfortunately, if we continue to ignore this opportunity, few of those companies will be Canadian.


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Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA)
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