Time for Manitoba to take greater action to fight climate change, expert says

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Manitoba is well-positioned to combat climate change — so it’s time to stop “sitting on our laurels” and take greater action, according to an international think tank leader.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/04/2022 (221 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba is well-positioned to combat climate change — so it’s time to stop “sitting on our laurels” and take greater action, according to an international think tank leader.

“Manitoba has all of the ingredients to get moving in this space, but we’ve been kind of sitting on our laurels for too long, talking about how, ‘Oh, we have hydro power,’ or, ‘We’re not a big part of the problem,’” said Jane McDonald, executive vice-president of the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

“It’s time… to sort of (get) moving and get ambitious about how we could be part of this new economic future.”

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jane McDonald was keynote speaker at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce climate change luncheon in Winnipeg Tuesday.

Such a future requires a major shift to electricity, redirecting mining efforts and developing low carbon fuels, McDonald said.

She delivered a speech to Manitoba’s business community Thursday. The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce held the luncheon at the Delta Hotel.

The world is on track to warm by 3 C by 2050 if nothing changes, she said. It’d result in a 30 per cent loss of land species, major migrations from already hot climates like India and Pakistan, and continuous natural disasters, Chamber members heard.

“Canadian conversation always devolves into, ‘Oh… the oil and gas sector… they really need to clean up their game,’” McDonald said. “It’s not about oil and gas. It’s about building a new system that doesn’t use oil and gas.”

Just four per cent of Canada’s vehicles are electric, she said. But, governments globally are turning to incentives and mandates to popularize the new transport.

Manitoba needs to electrify its transportation grid and its buildings, among other things, McDonald said.

“Government won’t be able to fund all of this,” she told business professionals. “It’s going to cost us about $100 billion a year in annual investments to get to net zero (emissions) by 2050, and there’s no way the federal government can keep covering all of that.”

The province’s business sector can increase its manpower on mining more energy-efficient materials like nickel, lithium and cobalt, McDonald said. Partnerships with First Nations are crucial, she added.

“We’re going to need to see a lot more jobs,” she later told the Free Press.

Curt Hull has been mapping the economic growth that could come out of zeroing in on an environmental strategy. Hull is a Climate Change Connection project director and was in the audience Thursday.

“I wouldn’t say (the current environmental jobs market) is growing leaps and bounds,” he said. “(But), there’s actually thousands of job years in the future for this.”

Financial investment often stops businesses from committing to more environmentally friendly practices, McDonald said.

“If we (don’t) do anything, we’re only going to end up dumping our money over and over again repairing the fallout from these extreme events that we’re starting to see,” she said.

Another roadblock is a lack of understanding, money or resources on how to make change.

“In our discussions, it was just a sense of, business didn’t know necessarily where that next step was,” said Loren Remillard, president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

So, the non-profit has partnered with Efficiency Manitoba. The Chamber will have a staff member responsible for helping companies access environmental programs and government funding.

Efficiency Manitoba, a Crown corporation, has over 35 programs to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Every time we do an event focused around climate change and the environment, there’s more and more companies that are in that (environmental) space,” Remillard noted.

Globally, the goal is to slow warming to 1.5 C by 2050. Manitoba set a greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal of one megaton by Dec. 31 (beginning Jan. 1, 2018) in its Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan.

Manitoba’s emissions declined by 589,000 tonnes in 2020 compared to 2019 — a 2.65 per cent reduction — according to a provincial spokesperson. The province will report on its 2022 target “once… data is available to do so,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

There will be approximately 5,200 new Manitoban jobs in the environmental and cleantech sector by 2025, according to ECO Canada.

gabrielle.piche@winnipegfreepress.com

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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