The global natural gas industry, including that of Canada, has high hopes for weaning Southeast Asia from coal dependency. Concurrently, low-cost renewables are swiftly changing the electrical power landscape in this part of the world. Vietnam, caught in the squeeze between the two competing types of power sources, is favouring a clean energy metamorphosis. The country now has the greatest installed solar energy capacity in Southeast Asia. Government policies are both supportive and handicaps. Grid infrastructure is woefully insufficient. International support is critical to solidify the transition to clean energy.
Reliable standards for environmentally sound investments do not exist and very few Canadian clean tech firms are listed on a stock exchange. Too often, Canadian clean tech firms must go outside Canada for financial support and/or to enter the stock market. This article presents solutions for investors and clean tech companies alike, but these solutions require government action.
BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm, has indicated that those that don’t tackle climate change will lose money in 5 years. Some financial institutions have made multi-trillion commitments from now to 2030 to invest in the green economy while still focusing the majority of investments in fossil fuels. Canadian banks are among the global top fossil fuel investors.
Not all Big Oil firms are alike. Some are engaged in a rapid green migration, many are sitting on the fence and others are still in climate denial. Meanwhile, the value of fossil fuel assets are declining but the industry is camouflaging this by selling assets and debt financing to keep shareholders happy.
Justin Trudeau announced another of his Liberal government’s green plans in December. I have lost track of how many green plans we have had, but not a single one has met its targets. With the prime minister set to officially meet with the new U.S. president Tuesday, the Liberals’ environmental agenda looks embarrassingly unambitious by comparison.
Raising the price of carbon is one of the pillars of the government’s latest plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But there are no magic bullets and piecemeal measures don’t work.
In other regions that have carbon pricing mechanisms, such as the European Union and China (with its pilot schemes), climate change abatement plans consist of many complementary measures, including stringent legislation.
Among the ways Donald Trump vows to “make America great again” is reviving the US coal industry. That’s a stretch considering the plight coal faces today in the US.
The combined value of the top four US coal companies fell from $33 billion in 2011 to $150 million in 2015. Coal’s declining role in the US power supply saw it go from 50% in 2006 to 42% in 2011, to 30% in 2016. US coal production dropped 19% in 2016 alone. In 2015, between 11 gigawatts (GW) and 14 GW of US coal capacity went off line.
The business model of Big Oil has already started to collapse. The model is premised on strong growth to fuel high prices and render economically viable the exploitation of expensive-to-develop, non-conventional fossil fuels, including the tar sands and shale oil and gas.
When Justin Trudeau talks of oil pipeline projects as part of an energy transition, what exactly is he talking about?
That we will be on the path to reducing our dependency on fossil fuels by increasing our oil dependency in the short term? And that by immaculate conception we will reduce these very same dependencies over the long term? Supposedly, we will switch to a green economy sometime between now and when we are all dead, with the help of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”.
Forces at play suggest there will continue to be significant advancements in the global migration to a green economy. Trudeau and Trump are rowing against the current.
In my previous March 2016 article “Pipelines to Nowhere“, I made the point that the proposed Canadian pipelines are about increasing the international supply of petroleum when all the signs are that demand fossil fuels are levelling off over the longer term.
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” -Albert Einstein
With the recent National Energy Board approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and Justin Trudeau’s enthusiastic post-election remarks to the effect that Canada can build pipelines and address climate change concurrently, it is time to take stock of just where the current government is heading us.
China has declared war on coal and coal consumption is down as a result. But this coal war offers some good news, some not so good news for Canada, and some bad news, all at the same time.
There are those like Stephen Harper who repeatedly say we must choose between economic development and sustainable development.
And there are those who, concerned about the environment and the latest reports from the International Panel on Climate Change, suggest that economic development and sustainable development should be reconciled. Countries such as Germany are often cited as cases in point. Most environmental organizations fall into this latter reconciliation category.
The European Union has fast become the global leader on migrating to a green economy, with its Emissions Trading System (cap and trade scheme) in place since 2005. Canada has much to learn from the current and future EU debates on establishing new targets for 2030 – particularly how to fast-forward its badly lagging green economy following the next federal election in 2015.
When Prime Minister Harper is challenged on his environmental record, one of his standard replies is that between economic development and sustainable development, he must give priority to the economy. While it suits Harper’s ideological agenda to imply that economic and environmental objectives are opposing forces, the facts suggest otherwise.
When most people talk of China and its environmental and energy challenges, they tend to paint a very bleak picture. While this view is historically justified, things are changing fast in today’s China.
Criticism of China’s environmental record has been traditionally well-justified. After all, China: 1) displaced the US as the world’s largest energy consumer as of 2009 – doubling its energy consumption between 2000 and 2009; 2) produces the world’s highest pollution levels, with 16 of the top 20 most-polluted cities in the world being in China; and 3) now has total annual vehicle sales higher than that of the US.
Both the Intergovernmental Panel and Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have concluded that public policies, rather than the availability of resources, are among the key determinants for a shift from fossil fuels to clean technology development and deployment. Public banks are critical agents for change along these lines.
Public financial institutions and the green economy around the world
Starting with some of the largest public banks, in July 2013, both the World Bank and the European Investment Bank announced that they will limit to the bare minimum investments in fossil fuel projects, while shifting the lion’s share of their respective energy investments to renewables.