Canada’s $180-Billion in Infrastructure Investment Must Emphasize Low-Carbon Opportunities
The C$180 billion Canada is set to invest in infrastructure over the next decade represents a massive opportunity to cut greenhouse gas emissions, two senior policy advisors from Clean Energy Canada argue in a post last week for Policy Options.
That public investment, a cornerstone of the Trudeau government’s economic plan, “is a key opportunity to get our public infrastructure spending right,” write Sarah Petrevan and Joanna Kyriazis. “If we don’t, we risk being locked in to the wrong path for decades—with expensive retrofits being our only option to later cut pollution and ensure our buildings and bridges can stand up to increasingly severe weather events.”
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The dollars will be allocated to airports and bridges, transmission lines and wastewater systems, and more, Petrevan and Kyriazis note, citing a new report from Clean Energy Canada. “The sheer amount of ground it covers means we could make a real dent in Canada’s carbon footprint by changing the way governments make infrastructure spending decisions. And yet it’s an opportunity seldom discussed.”
That’s a mistake, they add, given the greenhouse gases and other pollution infrastructure produces, the money taxpayers can save by getting infrastructure right, and the business opportunities in pushing for a lower carbon footprint.
“New approaches to infrastructure projects can put us on a lower-carbon path,” they write. “Emissions can be reduced by using fewer materials, by better matching materials to projects, and buying materials sourced closer to home.” And “it’s also about doing what’s right for Canada’s budget—and your wallet. Using new approaches to determine which infrastructure projects are funded can help stretch precious taxpayer dollars,” while building infrastructure to last—and to withstand future severe weather—reduces future costs.
Petrevan and Kyriazis also stress the business and job creation opportunities in low-carbon infrastructure. “Canada’s green building industry alone was worth $23.5 billion as of 2014 and directly supports an estimated 298,000 jobs,” they write. “Reducing emissions in how and what we build will require lower-carbon materials, products, and services—and Canadian companies are stepping up to answer these calls.”
To help accelerate that market, “the government can leverage its buying power to increase demand for these kinds of innovative goods and services, which will also enhance the competitive edge of Canada’s emerging clean companies at home and abroad.”