Aid to the Canadian energy sector heavily weighted in favor of fossil fuels in response COVID-19

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In late April, federal energy and environment officials were notified that Canada’s clean technology sector was in danger as COVID-19 shut down the industry.Three months later, a new political tracker on energy investments made by the G20 countries finds that Ottawa and the provinces have put very little on the table to directly help clean technology companies, while targeting fossil fuel producers with more than $ 16 billion in aid.

Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada, said the federal government has been “completely captured by the oil industry.”

“They just don’t understand how the world is changing,” he said.

READ MORE: Canada’s oil sector welcomes federal aid to big business despite climate change

The documents prepared for Natural Resources Canada’s deputy minister, Christyne Tremblay, before a meeting on April 20, and obtained through an access to information request, show that, just a few weeks after the start of the pandemic, the government already knew that COVID-19 was wreaking havoc across Canada. energy sector, including fossil fuels and renewable energy.

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Tremblay’s notes for the meeting indicate that global demand for energy has collapsed, posing major problems for the Canadian economy.

“This will jeopardize Canada’s climate and energy transformation programs,” said the document.

Stewart said this should not be true if the federal government makes sure that its COVID-19 economic stimulus packages focus on policy to move these programs forward.

An attached presentation from Tremblay’s department describes the impacts, including the collapse in oil prices, falling demand for oil and electricity, and a cleantech industry on its knees.

The Canadian cleantech industry had moderate success before COVID-19, with more than 300,000 jobs and, in 2018, an economic value of about $ 66 billion, or about 3% of Canada’s GDP.

Clean technologies include everything from renewable electricity generation, such as wind and solar power, to recycling technology, electric cars and their charging infrastructure, biofuels and a long list of manufacturing technologies that reduce the carbon footprint of existing industries.

It is strongly dominated by start-ups and those in the research and development phase which depend heavily on capital investments. The start of the pandemic threw icy water on these investments, including in the oil and gas sector itself, as its own revenues dried up.

The report said the cleantech industry “was reporting a potential extinction event” as incomes went down and jobs disappeared. He says a survey of clean tech companies has shown a “dramatic drop” in demand for their products, serious disruptions in supply chains affecting production chains, and estimates that revenues would drop by 57% and 52% more jobs than in 2019.

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Merran Smith, the executive director of Clean Energy Canada, said the government must ensure the survival of this sector by ensuring that it is an integral part of COVID-19 recovery stimulus programs. She said it doesn’t mean investing only in things that generate clean energy, like wind and solar parks and technology, but also in promoting the use of cleaner energy, like electrification of cars and public transport.

This has been a constant refrain from Canada’s environmental organizations in recent months. However, it is becoming increasingly frustrating that the government keeps repeating that this will happen and has done nothing to support it.

The Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development contributed to a new international energy policy tracking system released Wednesday that tracks all of the G20 countries’ energy investments – fossil fuels and clean energy – since January 1st. approximately $ 201 billion was allocated to the fossil fuel industries and $ 119 billion to clean energy.

In Canada, the difference between the two is much more glaring, with $ 16 billion set aside to support the oil and gas industries, compared to $ 300 million for clean energy. This includes a $ 1.5 billion Alberta equity investment and $ 6 billion loan guarantee for the Keystone XL pipeline, and $ 750 million from Ottawa to help fossil fuel companies reduce their methane emissions.

Companies in both sectors could potentially benefit from COVID-19 assistance programs such as the wage subsidy and various loan offers to small, medium and large businesses. The government has not yet been able to provide the figures for which companies received the wage subsidy, broken down by industry.

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Vanessa Corkal, energy policy analyst at the Institute for Sustainable Development, said she hopes the government will see these comparisons and use them to guide her next steps in recovering COVID-19.

Ian Cameron, Spokesperson for Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan said the government remains committed to its electoral promises to exceed the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement of 2030 and bring Canada to zero net emissions by 2050. This means that all greenhouse gas emissions will remain produced so would be balanced by natural or artificial absorption methods.

“We have presented the strongest environmental plan in Canadian history, and we are also taking action by investing in renewable energy, smart grids and energy efficiency, while making our traditional resource industries more sustainable than never, “he said.

© 2020 The Canadian Press



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