Trudeau, premiers meet in Vancouver as views on climate plan diverge

Energy East, carbon pricing and green infrastructure dominate talk on eve of first ministers meeting

The Canadian Press Posted: Mar 02, 2016 9:18 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 02, 2016 2:00 PM ET

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks to the GLOBE clean technology conference in Vancouver Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Trudeau and Canada's premiers are in B.C. ahead of a first ministers meeting heavy on environmental talk on Thursday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks to the GLOBE clean technology conference in Vancouver Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

Trudeau and Canada’s premiers are in B.C. ahead of a first ministers meeting heavy on environmental talk on Thursday. (CBC)

 

Justin Trudeau started his day touting Canada’s plans to lower greenhouse gas emissions at a clean technology conference in B.C.

But when he moves on to meeting with the premiers, the difficulties of making that transition set in.

The prime minister addressed the opening plenary session of the Globe clean tech conference in Vancouver, alongside B.C. Premier Christy Clark, where they sang the gospel of environmental innovation and the global investment and job opportunities that come with it.

​Trudeau announced more than $125 million for two new clean tech funds in an effort to spur faster industry growth.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is getting $75 million from Infrastructure Canada for climate change initiatives in communities, he announced during his speech

The federal government is also spending more than $50 million “to improve climate resilience in design guides, and building and infrastructure codes.” 

The new funding is for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Trudeau used his speech to the conference to talk about the ties between environmental and economic prosperity, as he did the previous day.

“Canadians have made some strides already, but we have a lot of work to do to become the global leaders we ought to be,” he said.

“Last year, for example, was the most successful year ever for renewable energy investment, with almost $350 billion invested worldwide. Nearly half of that was invested in the U.S. and China alone. But on that measure, Canada has fallen behind.”

It’s the optimistic and widely appealing upside of the global low-carbon transition that 195 countries signed on to in Paris at COP21, the United Nations climate conference in December.

But the difficult, fractious and immediate realities of that transition appear likely to intrude before Trudeau’s day is over.

Premiers from all 13 provinces and territories, along with indigenous leaders, are in Vancouver today and Thursday to begin hammering together a pan-Canada climate policy framework.

There are more than a few bruised thumbs and discordant notes already.

Business more proactive?

For the investors, inventors, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and non-governmental organizations from some 50 countries attending the biennial Globe conference, going green has taken on a market-oriented hue.

Many participants at last year’s Paris climate conference commented on the almost trade show-like atmosphere of the gathering.

“It was a different COP than any of the other COPs I’ve been to,” said Mike Gerbis, the president of Globe foundation.

“Business was around there wanting to take action, rather than trying to stifle the negotiations.”

This week, Trudeau received some unsolicited advice from 50 B.C. clean tech industry executives, who wrote an open letter touting the estimated $1 trillion in global investment that is anticipated from the low-carbon transition.

“The only question is whether Canada will be a buyer or a seller,” wrote the executives.

With files from CBC News© The Canadian Press, 2016