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Concurrent session

Greening the Economy


November 19, 2016 at 2:30pm - 3:45pm


Engineering Teaching & Learning Complex (ETLC), University of Alberta
with Brendan Haley and David Thompson

Canada needs to transition to a low-carbon economy. This session will explore what the transition away from the country’s overdependence on fossil fuels could look like.

Transitioning by developing green linkages with Canadian resource industries

The need to transition to a low-carbon economy adds a new dimension to the problems associated with Canadian over-dependence on natural resource sectors. Canada needs to consider how to diversify away from fossil fuels, while maximizing the low-carbon potential of its clean energy resource endowments. Traditional policy prescriptions to escape resource dependence encouraged the development of related industries through backward linkages and forward linkages which "add value" to resources. Yet these strategies could exacerbate carbon lock-in and economic vulnerabilities as the world transitions towards a green energy economy.

Brendan Haley is a Banting post-doctoral fellow at the school of resource and environmental studies at Dalhousie University. His PhD in public policy from Carleton University explored technological complementarities between hydroelectricity and new low-carbon technologies. Haley is a policy fellow with the Broadbent Institute, and has been a research associate with the Sustainable Prosperity think-tank in Ottawa. He played a key role in the development of the province of Nova Scotia’s energy efficiency and renewable energy policies as an environmental advocate.

Green policy that endures

Good public policy - in order to endure - requires smart politics. Policy selection and design must help to support political constituencies, otherwise electoral change arrives and good policy gets undone. What does good policy mean in the context of a changing economy?

Whatever policymakers do, the future will be very different for a lot of workers. Automation and the internet have already eliminated many jobs, and are about to eliminate a lot more. There is no stopping that process, but there are historic policy opportunities available right now, ranging from re-orienting trade agreements to adopting a guaranteed annual income. In particular, carbon pricing will help green the economy, and its revenues can be used to fund just transitions - helping workers, families and communities adjust to the new normal.

And along the way, such policies will help to build supportive political constituencies.

David Thompson is an independent public policy consultant and is principal with PolicyLink Research and Consulting. He has postgraduate degrees in law and economics, and has worked in government, the private sector, and the not-for-profit sector. He is lead researcher and author on a number of studies relating to greening the economy and providing just transitions for workers.