On April 21, 2023, the Max Bell School of Public Policy hosted "The Energy Transition We Need", a hybrid conference that brought together experts various fields to highlight some of the biggest policy challenges Canada faces in the years ahead in achieving net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, like financing the massive investment in new technologies or dealing with the economic dislocation created for millions of workers.
Panel #1: The Money and Investment We Need
Flexibility of the economy to enable a smooth transition is the biggest challenge facing innovative policies. "It's not about picking winners or the best technologies...it's about focusing on the market failures and choosing instruments to address these failures," said panelist Rachel Samson, Vice President of Research from the Institute for Research on Public Policy. Carbon taxing is considered a feasible option, but as Paul Rochon, from Deloitte Canada, stated, the rest of the world not taxing carbon creates a legitimate challenge, leading to limited incentives for investments. Listen to the panelists addressing these challenges below.
Panel #2: The Jobs and Skills We Need
All economic transitions are “disruptive”, and the size and duration of our coming energy transition suggests that it may be more disruptive than most. This panel focused on the government's role in adjusting to the shifts in economic activity towards cleaner energy sources and technologies, such as frictions in employment. Jennifer Robson, Program Director of Political Management at Carleton University, argued that Canada should utilize the government, specifically provincial governments, to accomplish the energy transition." One of the biggest lessons from the pandemic is that there is no substitute for government." From a more holistic standpoint, Jim Stanford, from the Center for Future Work, argued that security, whether from private or public sector, must be offered to workers so they feel confident transitioning from fossil fuel to clean energy jobs.
Panel #3: The Politics and Partnership We Need
A challenging economic transition places strains on democratic politics, especially when energy resources align so closely with existing regional divides. "To address the climate problem, we are going to have to build a lot of infrastructure, which will require an evolution of thinking," said Rachel Doran from Clean Energy Canada. She added that Indigenous people are the third-largest asset holders in renewable energy projects in Canada, pointing to the leaders we can follow in this transition. Despite the regional differences in Canada, the panelists touched on possible strengths towards a positive energy transition.
Keynote: "Reimagining A New Way Forward, with Intention" — Sheila Watt-Cloutier
Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier is in the business of transforming public opinion into public policy. Experienced in working with global decision-makers for more than a decade, Watt-Cloutier offers a new model for 21st century leadership. In "Reimagining A New Way Forward, with Intention," Sheila discussed the empathy and messaging needed to ensure everyone works meaningfully together to combat climate change.
This conference was the first in a series of ten annual conferences on policy issues at the intersection of the economy and the environment. Stay tuned on future events by subscribing to our email list - choose "Annual Ecofiscal Conference updates."