Is Canada Leading The Way To A Carbon Negative Future?

September 13, 2019

image: The Carbon Capture and Conversion Institute in Richmond, B.C.

(Yes It Is … and It’s All Hands On Deck)

Climate change is not about to create big changes in the Canadian Economy. It is already creating change and creating it rapidly.

When we see pictures of firesfloodshurricanes, drought, (or the popular polar bears stranded on floating ice), let’s not pretend we didn’t know it was coming and that it was not completely, utterly, and sadly, predictable.

And, let’s not throw our hands up and say “it’s such a complex puzzle, we don’t know what to do about it” when anyone brings up the urgent need for solutions (or declares a climate emergency).

Instead, let’s actually solve it. Let’s move into action.

Because while of course it is complex, and it is difficult, it is not in fact unknowable or unsolvable. Complexity and difficulty do not equal impossible. It is difficult and complex to build rocket ships to the moon. Global satellite systems that instantaneously deliver your favourite TV shows to your cell phone are difficult and complex. So is open heart surgery.

But we do those things, things that were once considered impossibly complex and costly pipe dreams, on a regular basis.

Instead of getting obsessed with the disaster pictures, let’s become obsessed with the technologies that can actually transform our world, technologies and solutions that are real, tested, and delivering solutions. (Want a place to start? Check out our Foresight companies)

Get behind them, all hands-on deck kind of behind them, and start leading the path towards the future we want, not the future that fate seems to have thrust upon us. We are not polar bears stuck on an iceberg. We are human beings who have solved big problems and created advanced civilizations.

We can do this.

Ok. Pep talk over. Let’s talk about how we do this.

There are a lot of environmental problems to solve, but let’s focus in on what’s melting the ice caps (and keeping many of us up at night) – global warming from burning carbon-based fossil fuels.

Many solutions are incremental and focus on changing or improving what we’re already doing in order to prevent the problem from getting worse.

But what about the carbon that’s already there? There are proven made-in-Canada technologies that can draw carbon directly out of the atmosphere.

There are companies that are operating in one of the most carbon-intensive regions in the world that are working to disrupt the whole concept of carbon as a harmful emission and instead offer applications that use carbon as a resource in a carbon-negative business model.

Another Canadian company is building a gigatonne-scale carbon management marketplace, and Canada is also home to a world-class carbon management research and testing facility.

Are We at a Tipping Point in Renewable Energy?

There’s lots of evidence showing we are near a tipping point in renewable energy– that the world is shifting away from oil and gas toward renewables at a rapid rate – and the cleantech sector of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) is going to be a major force in that new economy.

Carbon capture and utilization is the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) to be recycled or converted to other forms of hydrocarbon for further usage and carbon storage refers to the permanent storage of carbon in a form that does not enter the atmosphere.

Experts estimate carbon capture and utilization (CCUS) will be an $800 billion/year industry by 2030 – and it will be necessary if Canada plans to fulfil our obligations under the Paris Climate agreement and cut GHGs by 30% below 2005 emission levels by 2030.

In 2017, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that 14% of greenhouse gas reductions by 2060 will have to come from CCUS in order to meet a 2°C pathway – in other words, CCUS must play an important part in a made-in-Canada solution to cutting GHG emissions. Even though we’ve made significant progress in switching to renewable sources of energy, the switch won’t happen fast enough to meet our climate goals without CCUS.

Is Canada on Track to Become a World Leader in CCUS?

The thing with widespread change is that it can seem that it is taking forever, that nothing is really happening because the status quo seems so predominant. Most people you know are probably still filling up their gas tanks with fossil fuels and your goods are still being delivered by diesel trucks. So when you look around, a renewable future seems a long way off, a pipe dream.

But it’s not a long way. The transition to a carbon neutral future is actually happening all around us, and is not always visible to consumers. Some CCUS companies in Canada are developing technologies that make the fuel itself carbon neutral, so you can drive the same car you’re driving now without contributing to a warming climate.

And it is not just happening on a small scale in some far off research lab – Canada is poised to become a major player in the CCUS industry in particular, and in cleantech in general. Canada was recently ranked 4th overall in the Global Cleantech 100 list. Cleantech investments, both government and private are substantial and growing. And disruptive technologies from Canadian companies (such as direct air carbon capture) are proving economically viable outside the lab and are getting the funding required to scale up into the mainstream.

The research is abundantly clear– play our cards right, and Canada can be a world leader in CCUS and clean tech innovation, an industry that is rapidly growing, on the verge of a tipping point and potentially worth trillions.

Canada’s future as cleantech leader isn’t coming. It’s right here. We just need to open our eyes and lead the way.

At Foresight, facilitating the growth of Canadian cleantech companies is not something we plan to do in the future, it is something we are doing right now.

Why don’t you join us?

Using the best practices of cluster-based economic development, the BC Cleantech Cluster Initiative is bringing together key stakeholders groups including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), associations, industry, investors and Federal and Provincial government to put in motion a sustainable model to help advance British Columbia’s thriving cleantech sector.

Diane Currie Sam

Content & Research Manager
Foresight Cleantech Accelerator

Diane is an award-winning writer, a corporate educator, and master storyteller with hands on expertise guiding the business communications of multi-million dollar companies. Diane is a strategic communicator with a broad base of experience in technology and entrepreneurship.

Her ability to combine solid research with good storytelling as helped bring in millions of dollars in investment, tax credits and business opportunities for entrepreneurial and high tech companies across Canada and the US. She has a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of BC and a Masters of Arts in Psychology from Trinity Western University.