Building the clean economy is an investment in our future
By Tamara Vrooman, Aaron Sutherland, Karen Tam Wu
Published in BCBusiness (March 27, 2019).
For all businesses, climate change is a risk to the bottom line.
Floods close workplaces and shipping routes, rising seas threaten coastal infrastructure, droughts inflict crop damage, heat stresses fish stocks, warmer winters pose a challenge to snow sports, and smoky skies discourage tourism. Insured losses due to extreme weather now exceed $1 billion annually across Canada.
We are proud to operate in British Columbia, and we believe our businesses have a responsibility to be part of the solution. We also see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create thousands of new jobs, build healthier homes and buildings, encourage innovation, reduce waste, and improve air quality.
That’s why we’re joining forces with leading B.C. businesses to champion an exciting vision of a resilient, diversified, thriving, and globally competitive economy with opportunities for all British Columbians.
Our vision includes a province powered by clean, renewable energy, and forward-thinking policies that lead the way to a sustainable, low carbon economy. It also supports cleaner air and water, which in turn supports healthy communities and ecosystems.
Now more than ever, we need the B.C. government to demonstrate bold, sustained leadership by prioritizing investments in the clean future.
According to a new poll by Insights West, most British Columbians rank climate change as one of the top three issues facing the world today. Last fall, a United Nations panel warned humanity has just a dozen years to take urgent action to curb heat-trapping carbon pollution and limit catastrophic impacts to our climate.
We’ve seen firsthand what our province can accomplish as a climate leader. For example, B.C.’s low carbon fuel standard has effectively reduced pollution from gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles while promoting the production of electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles. LiveSmart BC rebates supported energy efficiency upgrades for 10,000 homes per year between 2008 and 2014.
Many B.C. businesses are firmly committed to climate action as well. Climate Smart Businesses, a Vancouver-based social enterprise, has worked with hundreds of companies across the province that have significantly shrunk their carbon footprints while saving a combined $4.5 million a year in operating costs.
A strong B.C. requires a prosperous economy, where businesses are well positioned to be competitive and thrive in the rapidly evolving global marketplace. We urge the government to position B.C. to provide the goods and services needed in a low-carbon world, make clean choices more affordable and accessible, protect our families and communities from climate change, and grow clean jobs and attract global investment.
In this regard, the CleanBC plan is a bold step toward securing a prosperous, low carbon future for B.C. We were pleased to see the plan backed up by $902 million over three years in Budget 2019 — the largest investment in climate solutions and clean growth on an annual basis in B.C. history. Next, we look forward to full implementation of the plan.
CleanBC paints a compelling picture of the future. All new homes and buildings will be low carbon in a little over 10 years. In just over 20 years, all new cars sold will be zero emissions. Going forward, we will generate more clean electricity and renewable fuels, and burn less oil and gas.
Arc’teryx, Climate Smart, Innergex Renewable Energy, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, and Vancity, in partnership with the Pembina Institute, are forming the Business Coalition for a Clean Economy. We believe strong climate and energy policies provide certainty and are good for business. We invite other B.C. businesses to join us.
Climate change is both a challenge and an opportunity for B.C. Let’s work together to secure the health of our families, the safety of our communities, and the prosperity of our economy, and build the clean future.
Tamara Vrooman is president and CEO of Vancity.
Aaron Sutherland is vice president for the Pacific region at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Karen Tam Wu is B.C. director at the Pembina Institute.
This op-ed originally appeared in BCBusiness on March 27, 2019.