The Canadian federal government’s 2017 budget unveiled last week offers a raft of goodies for climate adaptation and the clean tech sector.
The budget does not include much in the way of new climate-related spending over last year, but what it does provide is more detail on a number of mostly already-announced policies that had until now been largely broad strokes intentions.
One surprise new initiative was the creation of Innovation Canada, a new platform to hothouse innovation and entrepreneurship, with a focus on emerging industries such as clean tech and what the budget describes as “clean resources”—in essence cleaning up extractive industries. Some $950 million is to be reallocated from other areas and spent over five years starting in 2017 bringing together companies and academics in geographically dense ‘superclusters’ similar to Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and the already existing Toronto-Waterloo corridor, although the vision goes beyond clean tech, to include bio-sciences, digital technologies and agri-food.
Some $600 million will be put toward reducing diesel fuel use amongst indigenous communities that are not connected to the electricity grid, particularly in the Arctic.
Beginning in 2018, the budget also is to deploy $120 million for electric vehicle charging, natural gas and hydrogen refuelling stations. However, this is to be released over the course of 11 years, or $11 million per year spread across the 10 provinces and three territories.
Another $100 million is allocated to smart grid, storage and clean electricity demonstration projects, $200 million on deploying new renewable energy technologies, and $182 million to retrofit or build net-zero energy consumption buildings. All three programmes again are spread across 11 years, as is a roll-out of one of the biggest ticket items, $20.1 billion on transport, including $2.2 billion for public transit improvements in Metro Vancouver.
Due to an unexpected cash crunch, Ottawa cut funding to its new $2 billion Low Carbon Economy Fund—which is intended to help the provinces and territories reduce their greenhouse gas emissions—by $750 million for 2017-18 and $500 million the year after.
However the budget will also spend $73.5 million over five years on the establishment of a new Canadian Centre for Climate Services to channel physical climate science from researchers and regional climate resilience centres to municipalities and other economic actors needing help adapting to the changing climate. Other adaptation measures include $47 million on helping First Nations adapt to new health risks posed by climate change, and $83.8 million over five years on flood risk protection, emergency management and infrastructure improvement in the north.
Some $16.4 million over five years is dedicated to strengthening roads, bridges, railways and ports to extreme weather events and the development of a Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, and geothermal energy has been offered a new tax break.
Energy economist Mark Jaccard helped design BC’s carbon tax, and he still supports it. But he questions just how politically viable a stringent tax—at the level needed to meet climate targets—can really be. So he also continues to explore how other policies that the public find more acceptable could work.