As countries get set to convene for COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in fall 2021, the question of how best to achieve the goal of net zero emissions by mid-century is generating increasing attention among business leaders, policy-makers and environmental activists. The net zero target is significant precisely because it differs from previous environmental goals. It is not just about reducing industrial carbon emissions on the margins, but instead will necessarily involve the invention and adoption of breakthrough technologies to transform industrial processes and outputs.
Canadian companies are investing billions of dollars to transform their operations. This includes cultivating new, low-emitting forms of energy, producing low carbon means of transporting resources and other consumer goods, and adopting industrial technologies that reduce their own carbon footprints. These investments are a necessary step towards the goal of net zero at home, while maintaining Canadian competitiveness abroad.
Public policy has the crucial role to push the frontiers of innovation and technology in the name of winning the global race to net zero. The interplay between these issues — competitiveness on one hand and climate action on the other hand — ought to be reflected in a new, low-carbon export strategy that marries domestic and international agendas.
This policy paper, supported by a blue-ribbon advisory panel and technical working group, makes the case that Canadian policy-makers should get aggressive in pursuing such a strategy. The federal government, in particular, should embrace a two-pronged policy agenda to:
- Strengthen the domestic conditions for emissions-reducing innovation and technological adoption; and
- Shape the international framework for how carbon emissions between importing and exporting countries are reflected in climate change treaties, trade agreements and various other globalised policies. Canada needs, in our judgment, a low carbon export strategy that views competitiveness and climate change as fundamentally in sync.