Trudeau signals a new green direction for Canada at Vancouver's Globe conference

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to do it all at March 2 speech during a sustainable business conference in...

“The choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one. We need both to reach our goal,” Justin Trudeau said March 2. | Shutterstock

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to do it all at March 2 speech during a sustainable business conference in Vancouver: build oil pipelines and invest in renewable energy, all while meeting Canada's commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

“The world's most advanced economic players already get this,” he said.

They're already competing in a fast-moving global economic marketplace that thrives on doing more with less.

“It demands doing the right thing for the planet and the bottom line. The future is happening now and Canada needs to be a part of it.”

Trudeau promised to double investment in clean energy over the next five years, provide $75 million to Canadian towns and cities to “respond to pressing climate challenges” and a $50 million investment in improvince climate resilience in design guidelines and infrastructure codes.

Under the Harper government, Canada didn't keep up with the pace of clean energy, Trudeau said. Despite their contribution to carbon emissions, he committed to supporting new oil pipelines to bring Alberta oil to overseas markets.

“We must also continue to generate wealth from our abundant natural resources to fund this transition to this low-carbon economy,” he said. “The choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one. We need both to reach our goal.”

Building pipelines to export raw bitumen overseas will increase Canada's emissions and will not help Canada meet the commitment it made during climate talks this December in Paris, said Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and leader of the Green Party.

But she said the language Trudeau is using is vastly more positive than the stance taken by the federal Conservative during Canada's "lost decade" on climate action.

In a speech following Trudeau's, B.C. Premier Christy Clark promised to keep B.C. at the forefront of climate change policy innovation. The province's eight-year-old $30-a-tonne carbon tax has been widely praised, but energy economists say it now needs to be raised to continue to be effective. After emissions fell for several years, B.C.'s carbon emissions are now projected to rise 11% by 2020.

The province has struck a new Climate Action Team to recommend updated policies, but Clark said she would not consider raising the tax without a corresponding tax cut for British Columbians.

Josha McNab, a policy analyst with the Pembina Institute, said the BC Liberals have shown little real interest in taking new action to tackle climate change. The government's centrepiece job creation plan is the development of an LNG industry, which would also increase emissions.

Clark also promised a further $7 million in additional incentives for electric vehicle adoption, which she said would be targeted to buyers of electric vehicles under $77,000, and said the province will allow electric vehicle drivers to use high occupancy vehicle lanes.

jstdenis@biv.com

@jenstden