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With files from Ralph Torrie 

In advance of this week’s throne speech, a coalition of grassroots groups has launched the first Canadian bill that shows a $20 bill’s long-term value if the federal government invests in a green recovery.

Recent calculations made by economists at Corporate Knights found that for every $20 invested in a green and just recovery, $307.85 would be contributed to Canada’s GDP over the next 10 years. This figure was calculated by factoring $125 in direct investments by the private sector and other governments, as well as multiplier and indirect benefits.

The Green New Bill campaign talks up the potential value if the to-be-announced recovery package is invested in a green future, in particular on those low-carbon Canadian assets best aligned with global growth trends. Canadians are being invited to explore the $307.85 bill to learn more about the real socioeconomic impacts of a green recovery, from job creation to lowering global emissions to saving money on our energy bills.

Ralph Torrie, senior associate with Sustainability Solutions Group, said in a statement, “We can lay down a foundation for wealth creation, create a huge number of jobs [and] put Canada on a pathway to being carbon free by 2050 while restoring and supporting nature in the process. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the changes that are necessary to get on the road to an economic and environmental recovery.”

The Green New Bill is an educative initiative informed by a coalition of grassroots groups, including the Green Budget Coalition, the Strathmere Group, CAN-Rac, Corporate Knights and the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery, led by the David Suzuki Foundation. The campaign figures are based on Corporate Knights’ Building Back Better strategy, which includes a $40 billion federal fund for research, development and deployment of breakthrough technologies to unlock billions of dollars of value from zero-carbon commodities, electric vehicles and batteries, non-energy applications of petroleum resources such as lightweight carbon fibres, and other innovations where Canada has the ingredients to succeed in globally competitive markets.

The fund would crowd in $105 billion of private capital while focusing on ensuring that all Canadians benefit from the intellectual property generated. The prize for getting this right? Canada gets to be the supplier of choice for $125 billion of zero-carbon commodities annually by 2030 while creating 1,000,000 person-years of employment.

Here’s how the plan breaks down 

The $20 federal contribution: Private sector & other governments Total investment GDP impact
Retrofitting homes and workplaces $3.80 $58.17 $61.98 $130.10
Greening the grid (interprovincial transmission and renewable electricity) $1.23 $22.58 $23.81 $52.38
Vehicle electrification & active transportation (EV charging stations and cycling and pedestrian rights-of-way) $2.57 $18.56 $21.13 $44.41
Forestry and agriculture (tree planting and sequestration on agricultural lands) $4.05 $0.00 $4.05 $8.51
Cleantech innovation (advanced materials, vehicles, batteries, building design, “beyond bitumen” applications) $7.46 $19.34 $26.79 $56.27
Greening heavy industry (low-carbon steel and cement) $0.88 $6.81 $7.70 $16.17
Sum for all programs $20.00 $125.46 $145.46 $307.84
Scaled up total (billions of $) $108.6 $681.30 $789.90 $1,671.6

Greening homes and workplaces: $3.80 yields $130 in GDP impact

With every $3.80 invested in greening Canadian buildings forecasted to yield $130 in GDP within a decade, investing in residential- and commercial-building retrofits and electrification is considered the most effective – and quickest – way to stimulate economic recovery, create jobs and facilitate emission reductions. That explains why doing so tops the agenda of most post-pandemic recovery strategies. By 2030, deep retrofits of 60% of Canadian homes and buildings will reduce our annual GHG emissions by 57 megatonnes and create more than three million person-years of employment.

Federal retrofit investing could provide grants and low-interest loans to jumpstart a nationwide campaign to upgrade the efficiency, comfort and quality of all types of homes and workplaces. The campaign hopes that the federal government will also finance workforce training and innovation in new business and financial models to reduce the costs of mass retrofits, as well as contribute to auditing and planning costs. Torrie says building heating/cooling and electricity savings of more than $20 billion per year will recoup the investment.

Greening the grid: $1.23 invested, $52.38 in GDP impact

The transition to a low-carbon future necessarily includes a massive shift to electricity for vehicles and buildings while at the same time ensuring that the electricity supply is carbon-free. Decarbonizing the grid in Canada will require $129 billion in investments that would generate more than 900,000 person-years of employment over the next 10 years and slash 75 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. For every $1.23 invested in greening the grid, the GDP impact would be $52.38.

Federal spending would be highly leveraged in this sector, with the government taking a leadership role in the promotion of interprovincial trade in electricity. The key will be to focus on financing the construction of new transmission capacity between provinces that have a surplus of carbon-free electricity and those still dependent on fossil fuel generation. In provinces with high solar and wind potential, the federal government can speed the transition to a carbon-free grid by investing in renewable electricity and utility-level storage, for example by buying the emission reductions at the going carbon price. Torrie estimates that fuel and electricity savings of more than $24 billion per year will recoup the investment.

Among its many benefits, the Green New Bill will help reset relationships with Indigenous communities, says Torrie. “The decentralized and renewable technologies that comprise the emerging energy system are lighter on the land, lend themselves more readily to Indigenous community ownership and employment, and facilitate a real commitment to the standard of free, prior and informed consent.”

Supporting the electric vehicle revolution: $2.57 invested, $44.41 in GDP impact

Electric vehicles already have a lower total cost of ownership than gas-powered cars, but the initial cost and a lack of charging stations are barriers to uptake. In this plan, EVs make up more than 40% of all the cars and trucks on the road by 2030. Government spending in this area is focused on building the charging infrastructure in homes, communities and all along the Trans-Canada Highway, as well as on providing incentives for early adopters of electric vehicles, including buyers of trucks, school buses and transit buses. In addition, $370 million of the $2.57 billion would go to the construction of 2,000 kilometres of new bike and pedestrian rights-of-way. All totalled, the EV and active transportation transition are expected to generate more than 800,000 person-years of employment by 2030 and reduce GHG emissions by 66 million tonnes per year.

Nature-based solutions: $4.05 invested, $8.51 in GDP impact

Specific initiatives in this area include planting 10 billion trees, sequestering carbon by converting marginal agricultural land, and reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizer on Canadian farmland. These short-term measures will require $22 billion in federal investment, create 160,000 person-years of employment and reduce annual GHG emissions by 35 million tonnes. Complementary policies to protect at least 25% of Canada’s land and oceans and to encourage sustainable agriculture and forestry will ensure that these sectors continue their time-honoured contribution to Canadian prosperity.

Supporting Canadian innovations: $7.46 invested, $56.27 in GDP impact

The Build Back Better strategy includes a $40 billion federal fund for research, development and deployment of breakthrough technologies for zero-carbon commodities, batteries, electric vehicles, non-energy applications of petroleum resources, and other innovations where Canadian firms can succeed in globally competitive markets. The fund would crowd in $105 billion of private capital while ensuring that all Canadians benefit from the intellectual property generated. The prize for getting this right is for Canada to be the supplier of choice for the $125 billion zero-carbon annual commodities market by 2030 while creating one million person-years of employment.

Greening heavy industry: $0.88 invested, $16.17 in GDP impact

Green public procurement policies that include a premium of $100/tonne of GHG avoided for low-carbon steel and cement would give these industries the incentive they need to invest in new low-carbon production technologies. A $480-million-per-year program of subsidies for the development and deployment of low-carbon production processes in these industries could unlock the $3.7 billion of private capital investment per year they need for decarbonization. Complementary policies for the industrial sector include incentives for electrification and for zero-waste technologies and processes. These initiatives generate more than 234,000 person-years of employment and GHG emission reductions of eight million tonnes per year.

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