Canada outpaced on EV investments, clean energy ahead of 2021 budget

·3 min read

Canada is being outpaced on the international stage when it comes to green investments in electric vehicles and clean energy, environmental groups say.

The federal government has an opportunity to change course in about three weeks, when the Liberals table their first budget in over two years, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) argued in a new analysis endorsed by nine other climate action, ecology and conservation organizations.

“Canada’s international peers are ramping up commitments for green recovery, including significant investments from many European countries,” states the analysis, “Investing for Tomorrow, Today,” published March 29.

“To keep up with our global peers, sufficient investments and strengthened regulations must work in tandem to rapidly decarbonize all sectors of the Canadian economy.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed last week that the federal budget will be tabled April 19. The Liberals are expected to propose between $70 billion and $100 billion in fiscal stimulus to jolt the economy out of its pandemic doldrums.

The government teased a coming economic “green transformation” late last year when Freeland released the fall economic statement, promising to examine federal green bonds, border carbon adjustments and a sustainable finance market, with tweaks like tightening the climate-risk disclosure obligations of corporations.

The government has also proposed a wide range of green measures in its new climate plan released in December — which the think tank called the “most ambitious” in Canada’s history — including energy retrofit programs, boosting hydrogen and other alternative fuels, and rolling out carbon capture technology.

But the possible “three-year stimulus package to jumpstart our recovery” mentioned in the fall economic statement came with the caveat that the COVID-19 virus would have to be “under control.” While vaccines are being administered, Canada is currently dealing with a rise of highly transmissible variants of the virus.

Freeland spoke with United States Vice-President Kamala Harris on March 25, stressing the “need to support entrepreneurs, small businesses, young people, low-wage and racialized workers, the care economy, and women” in the context of an economic recovery.

U.S. President Joe Biden is contemplating a climate and clean energy recovery plan that could “exceed US$2 trillion,” White House officials told reporters this month. “Per capita, that is over eight times what Canada has announced so far for climate-related spending in the wake of the pandemic,” the IISD-led analysis stated.

Biden’s election platform commitment of $508 billion over 10 years in clean energy was also seen as “significantly higher per capita than Canada’s recent commitments.”

Since October 2020, Canada has announced $36 billion in new climate-focused funding, the groups found. By comparison, they noted, a political agreement in Europe proposed that a minimum of 37 per cent of investments in each national recovery plan should support climate action. France and Germany have also committed tens of billions of dollars to support clean hydrogen.

As for electric vehicles (EVs), the United Kingdom has committed $4.9 billion, while Germany has put up $7.5 billion to expand EV adoption and charging infrastructure and sweeten incentive programs for prospective buyers. The U.K. has also committed $3.5 billion for bike lanes and other active transportation, the groups noted.

Canada announced $400 million over five years this month for a new network of bike lanes, paths, trails and bridges, the first federal fund dedicated to active transportation.

The Pembina Institute, Nature Canada, Climate Action Network Canada, Environmental Defence, Équiterre, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Ecology Action Centre, Leadnow, and the Wilderness Committee all endorsed the analysis by IISD.

Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

Carl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer