Industry groups, environmentalists call for "clean-energy accord"

OTTAWA — A collection of more than 700 stakeholders from the business world, non-government groups, the academic sector and faith-based leaders are calling on provincial and territorial premiers to adopt a new clean-energy accord as a pathway to new jobs and trillions of dollars in ongoing and anticipated global investments in an emerging market.

Andrew Heintzman, president and chief executive officer of Investeco, an environmental investment firm, said the supporters in the plan want governments to "look beyond fossil fuels" such as oil, gas and coal. Instead, he said they should consider larger opportunities to build smart electricity grids, promote energy efficiency and clean up Canada's energy sector through specific government policies.

He explained Alberta's oilsands industry, which launched its first commercial operations in the middle of the 20th century, only became a "beacon of private-sector investment," after getting financial support from governments.

"As we all know, it (the oilsands sector) was a very long product of significant government investment over many years that brought it to where it is today," said Heintzman, who heads a firm that manages about $45 million in assets for about 120 investors. "I think that energy policy is usually fairly tied up with government policy. It's just the nature of it."

The stakeholders were brought together by Tides Canada, a charitable foundation that has been fending off direct and indirect attacks from the Harper government and Alberta-based energy company, Enbridge. They have suggested Tides Canada is involved in a conspiracy to shutdown the oilsands sector through campaigns funded by American billionnaires.

But the foundation is urging premiers gathered for the upcoming Council of the Federation meeting to endorse their strategy so Canada can take advantage of an anticipated $3 trillion dollars worth of anticipated investments around the world in clean energy technologies and jobs over the next decade.

In a recent report released last spring - entitled "Towards a Clean Energy Accord" - Tides Canada noted the country contributes to about two per cent of the global economy, but only accounts for about one per cent of the global clean technology market.

"Indeed, we will not likely make the needed changes to compete as a nation unless each government sees itself as part of a larger effort to do so," said the report. "We can and must capture a greater share of the jobs and opportunities presented by the energy transition. We can also follow through on our international commitments to reduce our carbon emissions."

The Tides Canada recommendations have also been accepted by unions such as the Alberta Federation of Labour, industry lobby groups such as the Canadian Wind Energy Association, environmental groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation as well as academics such as climate change scientist Andrew Weaver.

Alberta Premier Alison Redford has also asked other premiers and the federal government to support her own calls for a national energy strategy that would pull together different regional economic sectors with complimentary policies.

She has suggested Canada could then lead the world on issues such as energy supply, innovation and efficiency as well as climate change through such a strategy that would also support growth in the oilsands.

The Tides Canada report also noted the International Energy Agency, a partnership of governments from around the world that offers advice on energy policy, suggested last April that dramatic changes were needed to prevent consumption of fossil fuels and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions from driving global temperatures more than six degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and causing irreversible changes to the Earth's climate and ecosystems.

The Province, Tues July 17 2012
Byline: Mike De Souza

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