How Cleantech is Leading Canada to a Greener Recovery

Saïka Sarazin, Investor Services Advisor, Invest in Canada

Engineer of wind turbine

Canada is a world leader in developing clean technologies across industries. The economic recovery from COVID-19 presents an opportunity for continued innovation in the space. As more industries eye opportunities to lower emissions in their business and supply chains, government programs and companies across Canada serve as models. Under the framework established by the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth (PCF), the Government of Canada—together with provincial and territorial governments—has committed to “modernize procurement practices, adopt clean energy and technologies, and prioritize opportunities to help Canadian businesses grow, demonstrate new technologies and create jobs.”

Defined as a technology that offers environmentally sound solutions to the world’s ecological challenges, cleantech solutions continue to be adopted by businesses operating in Canada. As Canada moves forward to achieve net-zero emission targets and limit the effects of climate change, there is an opportunity for industry leaders to help guide that transition over the coming months, years and decades.  

Cleantech as a Catalyst for Climate Change in Canada 

Canada’s cleantech sector has shown rapid growth in the last few years, accounting for 3.2 % of Canada’s GDP and 317,000 jobs in 2017. The Global Cleantech Innovation Index ranked Canada first among G20 countries and fourth globally, with especially strong scores for emerging clean technology in 2017. As the OECD’s second most highly educated workforce and its openness for green innovation, Canada is poised to become a powerhouse in cleantech.  

Federal programs and initiatives are already supporting industries during the transition to a low carbon economy. The $2.3 billion Clean Growth Hub Program supports companies with innovation, commercialization, and adoption of cleantech by coordinating federal programs. Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) supports and funds the development and demonstration of new sustainable technologies. Canada's approach is not exclusive to just a few industries – the Agricultural Clean Technology Program is a $25 million, three-year investment that supports investments in precision agriculture and agri-based bioproducts, which helps reduce emissions. Leading by example, Canada implemented its Green Procurement Strategy which commits to introducing environmental considerations when it procures goods and services from businesses to better aligned with the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth.  

Since the pandemic, increased focus has been placed on environmental considerations when allocating fiscal packages to businesses. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), called for governments to adopt forms of sustainable finance to tackle climate change when supporting businesses through the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19. In the past few months, Canada has announced many incentives that could support a green recovery. The recent Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) incentive has the goal of providing funding to larger-sized businesses. The companies applying to this fund are required to publish annual climate-related disclosure reports and to include how their future operations will support environmental sustainability and national climate goals. The proposed $750 million Emissions Reduction Fund, introduced concurrently in April, has the objective to provide primarily repayable contributions to conventional and offshore oil and gas firms to support their investments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and transition to green energy. 

Leveraging Canadian Tech to Support Canada’s Net-Zero Emission Objective for 2050 

With more than 2.8 million STEM graduates and the OECD’s second most highly educated workforce, the depth and quality of Canada’s tech talent pool is undeniable. Innovation is at the forefront of Canada’s strategy for transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Businesses are leveraging Canadian talent to tackle climate-related solutions for a more sustainable future. 

Ubisoft Montreal, in collaboration with Mila Institute, uses machine learning to educate people about the long-term impacts of climate change and enable them to make conscious decisions to avoid them. The application generates an estimate of what a neighbourhood could look like in 2050 if located in a flooded area. 

While the transportation industry has traditionally been a large source of GHG emissions, investments in electric vehicles, hydrogen and carbon capture by the private sector has helped with the decarbonization of this industry. Squamish, British Columbia-based Carbon Engineering is leading the commercialization of Direct Air Capture technology which makes synthetic fuel for the transportation usage by sucking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and combining it with hydrogen. In 2019, Air Liquide announced the construction of the largest proton-exchange-membrane (PEM) electrolyzer in the world, in Bécancour, Québec, which could bolster further investments in hydrogen. To strengthen Canada’s leadership in electric vehicles, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) of Canada announced plans for the first made-in-Canada zero-emission concept vehicle earlier this year. Aligned with Canada’s zero-emission objective, Project Arrow will be designed, engineered, and built by the country’s world-class automotive supply sector and post-secondary institutions.  

Canada’s mining industry is also leading the way. In 2019, Newmont Goldcorp inaugurated Canada’s first all-electric underground in its Bolden gold mine in Northern Ontario. It will eliminate the use of diesel equipment and replace them for low-carbon vehicles and digital mining technology. According to the World Gold Council, this transition could potentially reduce Bolden’s GHG emissions by 70% annually.  

This is only a snapshot. Cleantech innovation in Canada is a national story, one that includes all provinces and territories and touches on every industry. As companies in Canada and around the world chart out a sustainable future, Canada’s cleantech sector is poised to continue leading the way.  

For more information on Canada’s cleantech sector, visit https://www.investcanada.ca/industries/cleantech

If you’re a global company looking to invest in Canada, contact us to discuss your cleantech project.