Pembina Institute makes recommendations to rebuild Canada’s economy post-COVID-19

A new paper from the Pembina Institute proposes four guiding principles and a suite of recommendations that support job maintenance and climate action in the buildings, electricity, transportation, and oil and gas sectors.

According to the paper, as front-line and essential workers respond to COVID-19 and businesses retool to meet critical medical needs, long-term investments should be based on climate principles while putting workers first.

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“The steps we all take today will ensure we emerge from this crisis more resilient to global challenges in the future. For long-term job security for Canadian workers, we should be investing in job creation that will position Canada to prosper in a low-carbon economy. We need to be investing in a nation-wide deep retrofit program for buildings, in deep decarbonization of Canada’s electricity system, large-scale investments that promote the development, deployment and integration of clean energy technologies in the transportation sector, and innovation that will address methane, clean up orphan wells, and lower carbon emissions from Canada’s oilsands,” said Linda Coady, executive director, Pembina Institute.

The guiding principles suggest:

  • Following immediate financial relief, priority should be given to funding that supports employment opportunities that are resilient to economic disruption as the world seeks to limit warming to 1.5°C.
  • Investments that support the development of industries and businesses producing low- and zero-carbon goods and services should be prioritized to grow the foundation for Canada’s low-carbon economy and secure our domestic supply chain.
  • Investments in industry should incentivize decarbonization efforts that go beyond existing regulatory requirements.
  • Where possible, all stimulus and relief decisions should be made through the lens of Canada’s ability to meet its climate commitments.

The Institute’s key recommendations for workers, along with immediate financial relief, make a significant funding investment in workers, include:

  • Retraining building professionals, contractors and trades to design and construct ultra-energy efficient, low-carbon and extreme-weather-safe buildings, and retrofit existing building stock;
  • Training for oil and gas workers in methane detection and reduction, orphan well clean-up, and retraining to build expertise in clean technology that will lower carbon intensity in that sector;
  • Training for workers seeking careers in emerging low-carbon sectors like energy efficiency, clean technology, and renewable energy; and
  • Training for auto workers to join the rapidly expanding zero-emission vehicle manufacturing economy.

The building recommendations propose:

  • Major nation-wide infrastructure investment in retrofits for existing buildings by increasing the Greener Home retrofit target and expanding it to include multi-unit residential buildings, using grants and loans to cover a significant portion of the retrofit cost.
  • Co-finance deep decarbonization retrofits of public and commercial buildings with a focus on schools, hospitals and social housing.

On electricity:

  • Achieve deep decarbonization of Canada’s electricity system through investment in updated infrastructure, adoption of clean energy technologies, improved connectivity between provinces, electrification of end uses, and small-scale renewable energy generation (including in remote communities).

On oil and gas:

  • Create a fund to support methane inventory employment opportunities, and mitigation measures that go beyond current regulatory requirements, backed by a requirement that companies prove methane emissions have been reduced and additional employment opportunities have been created.
  • Provide funding for employment in orphan well clean-up to address abandoned assets.
  • Create work addressing liabilities from abandoned wells by providing loans (with tight controls) to those oil and gas companies with a proven ability to repay the loan.
  • Create a Green Transformation Program for the oil and gas sector, modelled on the 2009 federal pulp and paper transformation program, to help finance approved capital projects that would generate measurable environmental benefits in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energy, with criteria set by the federal government.

On transportation:

  • Provide incentives for electric vehicle manufacturers and companies that develop and manufacture zero-emission technology.
  • Provide financial support for “sunrise industries” involved in providing and refining raw materials required for electric vehicle production (such as lithium mining) and for domestic research and development, manufacturing and assembly in the battery technology sector.
  • Invest in the commercial deployment of clean fuels and support for research and development and infrastructure (such as blender pumps and electric vehicle chargers), and support hydrogen production and distribution through investment and increased access to financing.

On transit:

  • Provide both operating and capital funding through a transfer to provinces to ensure transit systems in Canada’s municipalities aren’t forced to reduce or suspend service once we emerge from the immediate emergency, halt critical repairs, postpone green bus procurements and infrastructure, and/or raise fares to compensate for lost revenue during the pandemic.