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More than half a million Canadians could work in clean tech by 2030: report

Montrealers of all ages marching in the climate change strike in downtown Montreal on Sept. 27, 2019.
Montrealers of all ages marching in the climate change strike in downtown Montreal on Sept. 27, 2019. Tim Sargeant / Global News

Half a million Canadians will likely be employed in the clean energy sector by 2030, a new report suggests.

Clean Energy Canada, a non-partisan clean technology research group based at Simon Fraser University in B.C., issued the study, titled The Fast Lane, which follows up on a report released earlier this year tracking the historic growth of the industry and the nearly 300,000 people it employs in Canada.

In its new report, the group forecasts the Canadian clean tech industry will grow four times faster than the industrial average over the next 20 years and create a total of 160,000 new jobs, bringing the number of Canadians employed in clean tech to 559,400.

READ MORE: How to talk to kids about climate change without scaring them

In net terms, that would be an increase of 110,000 jobs, since the report also predicts roughly 50,000 fossil fuel jobs will be lost in the next 10 years as that industry contracts at a rate of roughly 0.5 per cent each year and shifts towards automation.

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That’s compared to what the group projects as growth of 3.5 per cent each year in the clean tech sector.

“The world is transitioning to clean energy with or without Canada, and we still can be an energy leader in the decades ahead,” said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada.

“In order to do that we need to have strong climate policy that’s going to support the development of clean energy jobs, business, investment.”

Trudeau meets Greta Thunberg before climate march in Montreal
Trudeau meets Greta Thunberg before climate march in Montreal

Climate change has emerged as among the top three concerns for Canadian voters in the ongoing federal election campaign, according to Ipsos polling conducted exclusively for Global News, and massive rallies across the country last week put additional spotlight on the issue.

However, half of voters say they don’t want to pay anything more to deal with climate change.

All of the four main party leaders have proposed differing plans for how they want to try to handle the threat.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau implemented a carbon tax over the course of his mandate and is promising to take aggressive action to get Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050, while spending billions on a plan to plant roughly two billion trees.

Full details of how he plans to decrease emissions are not yet clear.

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He has also pledged to legislate a plan about how to support workers who will be impacted by the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, something the Clean Energy Canada report also advocated is needed to support the shifting industries.

READ MORE: Liberals pledge Canada will have net-zero emissions by 2050 — but details are scarce

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wants to get rid of the carbon tax and has proposed requiring industrial emitters to invest a set amount of money into clean energy research and development for each tonne of pollution they emit.

But critics have questioned whether that would be enough to reduce Canada’s emissions enough to keep them on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets.

READ MORE: Scheer’s climate plan puts focus on ‘tech not taxes’ with $2.5B in pledges

Through that agreement, Canada pledged to reduce emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Emissions projections suggest that the government is not yet on track to hit those targets, even though the Liberals insist they will do so.

Smith said the question of whether Canada will be able to hit the job targets projected in her group’s report depends on how the next party that forms government will build on the climate change and environmental policies already in place.

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Canadian political leaders take part in worldwide climate strike
Canadian political leaders take part in worldwide climate strike

“There’s been a polarized conversation in this country that taking climate action, some say, could be bad for the economy, but in fact the reverse is true. What this report demonstrates is that taking climate action will be good for Canada’s economy, good for jobs, good for investment and growth,” she said.

“Those jobs are in every province across the country — they’re rural jobs and urban jobs, they’re blue collar jobs and white collar jobs. This is a good news story but Canada needs to keep the base of climate policies that this government’s put in place.”

She added, “The more we build on them, the more we’re going to position Canada’s energy economy.”

Smith said she hopes the goal of the report isn’t to diminish the fossil fuel industry but rather to show the industrial potential of a sector that is growing quickly — and has the potential to grow even more.

“Fossil fuels aren’t going to disappear overnight,” she said. “But we need a strong and clear transition strategy for those working in the fossil fuel sector.

“The world is moving to cleaner energy and Canada isn’t in control of that.”