In the green future, environmental laggards will be economic ones
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I recently participated in a conference where the sessions included:
• urban planning and design leadership in energy efficiency, transportation, waste, and greenhouse gases
• technology to enable environmentally sustainable economic growth to prepare for a carbon-constrained world
• sustainable biofuels
• the future of clean energy
• new frontiers in green technology
It was not a Greenpeace or Sierra Club meeting, but rather the World Economic Forum’s first "Summer Davos" conference, where the most powerful group of business and financial leaders in the world were talking "green."
I watched titans of industry from venture capitalists, investment bankers and CEOs pack into conference rooms clamouring like huskies to raw meat to learn more about clean energy, environmental technologies and sustainable design.
The consensus is that, whether or not one believes in the science of climate change, and whether or not one supports Kyoto, a CEO has a fiduciary responsibility to his or her shareholders to prepare for a global carbon-constrained economy. It is clear that through a variety of tools, governments will put a price on carbon.
Under this "new world order," environmental laggards will be economic laggards. The companies and countries that build efficacy in the low-carbon economy, before they are forced to, will have a remarkable headstart and competitive advantage.
There is a big opportunity for Canada if we act now, and a big risk if we don’t. We are in a race to develop cutting-edge green technology that will drive this new economy.
The same entrepreneurs and smart-money venture capitalists that brought us eBay, Google and Yahoo are pouring billions into clean energy and environmental technologies. It is estimated that the total investment into clean energy was $30 billion in 2004, more than doubling to $63 billion by 2006.
As the venture capitalists and investment bankers join the "green rush," there will be money made in the euphoria, and there may be some money lost as valuations return to the fundamentals. But at the end of the day, there will be a viable, dynamic clean-energy and environmental-technology industry left standing.
The scale of the industry and its impact on capital markets, and ultimately civilization, has yet to be determined, but this green revolution could create a bigger bang than the Internet revolution.
The greening of the inaugural Summer Davos conference might be a surprise to some. It might also be surprising that it was held in China. The WEF is bringing the world’s top corporate leaders to China because they realize that their competitiveness will be strengthened from a deepened partnership and engagement with the fastest-growing economy in the world.
The emergence of the Global Green Investment agenda and the emergence of China as an economic superpower represent a huge opportunity for Canada.
In the same way that CEOs have a responsibility to their shareholders to prepare for the inevitability of a global carbon-restrained economy, with China and India as powerhouses, Western governments have a responsibility to their citizens to do the same.
While I was in China, Stephen Harper was at the APEC conference in Australia, where leaders took a welcome, but timid, action on climate change. The fact that they donned "driza-bone" oil skin raincoats during the worst droughts in Australia’s history is emblematic of their greater lack of awareness of either the severity of the problem or the opportunity of the solutions.
The countries and companies that embrace the environment as a core priority will prosper. The others will be left in the dust. Energy is Canada’s greatest global advantage. We can be the world leader in clean energy production and technology. What we need is a plan.
In addition to some clear carbon pricing signals, there needs to be tax and regulatory reform designed to "incentivize" research and development in clean energy technologies. We should move decisively to make Canada the best place in the world to research, develop, and commercialize clean energy technologies. We need to work with incumbent energy producers and the new players, too, because cleaner coal, cleaner oil, cleaner gas, along with alternative energy, will all form part of the solution.
Canada has among the highest corporate taxes in the world. By combining tax reduction with a greening of our tax system, we could reward companies and citizens for investing in new technologies to reduce their energy needs and carbon footprint.
China needs energy and Canada can become China’s energy partner as a global leader in clean energy technology. Forget the old idea that good environmental policy hurts the economy. Clean energy and environmental technologies are the greatest economic opportunity Canada has in the 21st century.
The clear message from the Summer Davos is that business leaders see the emerging green economy as a huge opportunity and recognize the importance of economic engagement of China. I believe they are on track and our government has a narrowing window to get on board before the alternatively powered train leaves the station.
’Clean energy and environmental technologies are the greatest economic opportunity Canada has in the 21st century.’
Kings-Hants Liberal MP Scott Brison was the only Atlantic Canadian and one of 32 delegates from this country who attended the World Economic Forum "Summer Davos" meeting in Dalian, China (Sept 3-9).
24 Harbourside Dr., Suite 101A
Tel: (902) 542-4010
Toll Free (NS): 1-888-585-0550
Fax: (902) 542-4184
Monday to Friday
9:00 to 12:30
1:30 to 4:30
Ottawa Office - Scott Brison, M.P.
915 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Tel: (613) 995-8231
Fax: (613) 996-9349