The optimal way for Canada to tackle the problem of climate change, while also protecting its national interests, is to look at this as a profit-opportunity. For example, 50 years from now few people will be driving gas-powered cars, as exemplified by the announcement that they will be banned in France by 2040. The emergence of electric vehicles is therefore a massive opening for businesses that have the capital and competency to invest in the research and development (R&D) required to create the new technologies that are needed. This is where Elon Musk and Tesla have exceled and, as a result, they are on the brink of having an electric vehicle that is sufficiently affordable to the general population, with the new Model 3 costing only about $30,000 USD. Canada’s goal should be to merge the interests of the environment and our economy by recruiting these types of companies to our country.
Few nations currently provide direct incentive to innovative companies like Tesla, the companies that are set to claim massive global market shares in their respective industries over the coming decades, to settle within their borders. Canada should make this a priority. It would create high skilled employment, boost foreign investment in Canadian companies, and help maintain or expand our export levels long-term as industries such as oil in Alberta and gas-powered car manufacturing in southern Ontario gradually go into decline. Further, the increased tax revenues from these companies in the future would help offset the initial government investment.
As a point of clarification, this is in no way a criticism of Canada’s energy sector or the oil sands. Alberta oil is a valuable resource to the nation and one of the pillars of Canada’s economy. Continued production of both oil and pipelines are in the best national interests of the country. The problem is that this is a non-renewable resource; at some point it will run out. Moving forward, the nation must continue to put its full support behind Alberta oil and Canada’s current energy sector for the good of the country’s short- and medium- term interests. Focusing on the development of a high-tech, clean-energy sector is merely a side project aimed at the diversification of the nation’s energy portfolio to provide long-term assurance of an economically strong, stable Canada.
It should also be noted that the oil and gas sector would actually make a very attractive partner in the pursuit of innovation, given these companies’ large capital budgets and the financial strain that they have experienced with low oil prices acting as motivation. If government policy were sufficiently favourable to the development of new technology, many of these companies could be persuaded to look at renewable energy not as a business threat but rather as a diversification strategy. Considering the high amount of plant equipment and vehicles involved in the extraction of oil it seems a logical, if not natural, fit for innovation. Just as the world advanced weapons and medical technologies during times of war, perhaps Canada can advance the environment by harnessing the much maligned, but already established, sectors of the economy.
Picture titled, "Glacial Retreat," taken by Ian D. Keating on June 8, 2016, obtained through Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/RU98NY)