The end of the COVID-19 pandemic may be a long way off, but analysts are already looking ahead to how Canada could hasten its recovery and position itself for a low-carbon economy.
“The main thing we need to be doing right now is protecting Canadians’ health and well-being,” said Josha MacNab of the Pembina Institute.
“Within that context, we’re starting to turn our minds to what does economic recovery look like.”
Downturns like the one being caused by the global pandemic routinely reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In the past, they’ve always recovered as economies rebuild.
This time, many are asking how the economy can be restored without greenhouse gases tagging along. Open letters on the issue have already been signed by hundreds of thousands of Canadians, from academics to church groups.
Groups such as the World Resources Institute in the United States are calling for clean energy tax credits, programs to increase the energy efficiency of public buildings and a switch from diesel to electric transit buses. It notes similar measures after the 2009 crash saw 900,000 jobs supported.
Pembina has its own list: funding and training for jobs more resilient to market swings, incentives for switching to electricity, support for industries that produce lower-carbon goods.
“We see this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a down payment on a resilient economy and a healthier future,” MacNab said.
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Once the immediate crisis has passed, the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices wants any upcoming stimulus package to focus on making the country more resilient to climate-related shocks such as wildfires or floods.
“These are what we perceived as (remote) risks in the past,” said the group’s economist, Dave Sawyer. “Suddenly, they’re happening all the time.”
The long-term response to COVID-19 could be a chance to do things the Canadian economy will have to do anyway, he said, such as retrain workers from high-carbon industries.