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Seeking input on 'green economy'

Sessions aim to figure out what works here

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THE province is turning to a home-grown expert to help it come up with the next phase of its climate change and green economy strategy.

On Friday, the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development led the first of what may be as many as eight public consultation sessions designed to help the province develop an updated climate and green economy plan -- called Tomorrow Now -- to address the need to reduce emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change.

It's hoped the sessions will reveal both the challenges and the opportunities for the Manitoba economy benchmarked against best practices across Canada and around the world.

Scott Vaughan, who became chief executive officer of the IISD in April, said there are no clear definitions of the "green economy."

But he said last week's release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reaffirms the science on climate change is unambiguous. "There are environmental and economic risks that need to be addressed," he said.

A teleconference with IISD officials and members of the Manitoba business community in Winnipeg and Ottawa on Friday introduced some perspectives already at play in the province.

The discussion also introduced how policy tools such as regulations and standards, financial supports, institutional and policy processes and fiscal policy instruments can have an impact on this province becoming more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions as well as encourage technical innovation.

Vaughan said the idea is to figure out what works best in Manitoba -- how "different pieces fit together." He noted the importance of policy coherence which, when not in synch, can lead to scenarios like the federal government subsidizing the fossil fuels industry by about $800 million even while it has other policies to reduce the use of those same fossil fuels.

John Fjelsted of the Manitoba Environmental Industries Association said when it comes to policy coherence, the province falls short.

"Now is the time to prove we can participate in the green economy," Fjelsted said. "We need to be looking at things like what is our local market for green and clean tech and what we can we do to support that. The belief still exists for many that they need to leave the province to do a lot of their work. I would say that until someone takes the file on clean technology in Manitoba we are going to be stymied."

Part of the process will be to identify opportunities. Bruce Duggan, director of the Buller Centre for Business at Providence University College, showed how the college has converted some of its heating system from gas-fired to biomass and in the process has developed an online biomass brokerage.

The IISD has been working to create a commercial market for cattails as a biomass fuel. "The IISD has been focusing on how do you take a problem like nutrient loading in Lake Winnipeg and find some solution that is innovative and can draw on the local economy," Vaughan said. "You flip it over and there might be unrealized opportunity."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2013 B6

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