Op-Ed: Growing Ontario’s green economy

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By Steven Fish, Executive Director of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, Mike Wilson, Executive Director of Sustainable Prosperity, Mike Morrice, Executive Director of Sustainability CoLab, and Barbara Steele, Managing Director of The Natural Step Canada


As the Paris Climate Summit approaches, there is growing global consensus that achieving a low-carbon economic future is critical for the continued viability of our planet. It is one of the foremost challenges and opportunities of this century – for Ontario, for Canada and for the world.

The greening global marketplace will yield tremendous opportunities for firms and jurisdictions that position themselves at the forefront of this transition. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), trade in low-carbon, energy-efficient technologies is projected to reach more than $2 trillion per year by 2020. Two-fifths of this growing market will be in emerging and developing countries. McKinsey also estimates that $2.9 trillion will be invested in boosting resource efficiency and innovation worldwide by 2030.

Undoubtedly, there will be regional economies that prosper while others are left behind. Ontario’s future prosperity will depend on how quickly we move relative to other national and sub-national economies that are reacting to these same global trends. Under the right conditions, cleaner growth can be stimulated through the use of smart incentives and strategic investment in skills and infrastructure. A number of countries are starting to put in place these policies and investments, particularly in Europe and Asia.

In North America, Ontario is among a small group of provinces and states leading the way. The Province has phased out coal-fired power, brought in aggressive measures to promote energy conservation and clean energy. Ontario has also been a pioneer in issuing green bonds, and taken strong steps to curb sprawl and improve building efficiency, among other initiatives. Ontario also recently announced its intention to price carbon and invest substantially in transit – both critically important measures.

Looking forward, Ontario’s Climate Change Discussion Paper sets out an even more far-reaching agenda. It includes boosting low-carbon transportation, further improvements in energy efficiency and clean infrastructure, investing in clean technology and resource efficiency, promoting low-carbon agriculture and forestry, and supporting research and innovation to accelerate clean solutions.

Alongside this effort, networks of communities across Ontario are voluntarily stepping up to transform business as usual. In 2014 in Niagara Region and Waterloo Region for example, businesses representing 12% of the regional workforces collectively committed to reducing over 59,000 tonnes of GHGs. Today, close to 120 small and mid-sized businesses along with municipalities, public and non-profit organizations have stated their commitment to making measurable investments that will reduce environmental impact and help build Ontario’s green economy.

With the Ontario business environment poised for substantial changes, four leading Canadian sustainability organizations have partnered to present a one-day conference on November 5th, 2015. Green Economy: Ontario will highlight the opportunities for Ontario businesses to prosper in the global green economy and how we can set the stage for innovation to flourish.

What will the future of business look like in Ontario? Which industries will adapt to meet the challenges outlined in the Global Goals? How can we work together to tackle future targets outlined in Paris? Recognized thought leaders, Ontario Ministers and industry professionals will be discussing these questions and more at Green Economy: Ontario. Be a part of the conversation this November 5th.

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