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Future Economy in Action: The 7 Sectors Pushing BC to Lead Canada’s Green Recovery

October 28, 2020

By nature, humans are resilient and resourceful. Over recent months, COVID-19 has given us an unprecedented look at our ability to collaborate, connect, and adapt across many facets of life. In the wake of these adaptations, Canadians, perhaps surprisingly, have shown little desire to return to a pre-pandemic world without first making significant changes to the social, environmental, and economic frameworks that guide day-to-day life. 

Reimagining Recovery – Building Back Better

A recent poll found more than 80% of Canadians do not want to return to a pre-COVID economy. Seven-in-ten seek to rebuild—either through new approaches or through fundamental change. The future economy isn’t just coming—it’s now. In the 2020 Throne Speech, Governor General Julie Payette called climate action, renewable energy, and protecting nature a “cornerstone” of Canada’s COVID-19 recovery plan, committing unprecedented funds to recovery packages.

This recovery plan and the choices governments make today will shape the economy, and the health and well-being of our society for decades to come. Policy, funding, and corporate collaboration will determine our collective ability to build a low-carbon future. While it will take a pan-national effort to achieve these goals, BC has the potential to be the cornerstone for Canadian leadership and innovation in clean technology.

British Columbia – A Roadmap to Green Recovery

Home to more than 290 cleantech companies, BC has generated $3.4 billion in deals since 2017, including the creation of more than 22,000 jobs in this sector alone. The fact is, a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 is possible in British Columbia if we act now. 

Putting the future economy into action, Foresight and the CORE Cleantech Cluster have developed a series of roadmap reports outlining the strategic plans which exist today to guide key sectors in reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, examining what is at stake, and investigating what is happening in the current innovation landscape.

The reports cover the seven key sectors that stand-out as playing a pivotal role on the path to green recovery: water, forestry, transportation, energy, agriculture and food, mining, and the built environment. 

The 7 Sectors – A Snapshot of the Innovation Landscape

  1. Water: British Columbia is home to several cutting-edge water and wastewater companies. BC’s strengths in engineering, climate adaptation for the extractive industries, and proximity to markets has created a talent pool that exceeds expectations and is globally relevant in light of ongoing water security challenges. Read key recommendations in the water roadmap report and check out our waterNEXT cluster.
  2. Forestry: The forestry sector has the opportunity to transform into a forest-based bioeconomy, focused on the substitution of fossil-based materials with higher value bioproducts (everything from electricity and heat, to transportation fuels, bio-chemicals, plastics and next-generation biomaterials, and engineered building products). Read key recommendations in the forestry roadmap report, and check out the Circular Bioeconomy Reverse Pitch event on December 3rd. 
  3. Transportation: Transportation accounts for 38% of carbon emissions in BC. The decarbonization options available are a combination of electrification and alternative fuels. Read key recommendations in the transportation roadmap report.
  4. Energy: With policies in place to support a growing electrification movement, and a clean fuel profile, there will be a significant need for technologies and infrastructure to support energy transmission, renewable energy conversion and storage, low-cost carbon and methane capture, and grid optimization. As there are multiple competing technologies and market options, this requires a high-level decision tree to guide collaboration and investments in a clean energy future. Read key recommendations in the energy roadmap report.
  5. Agriculture & Food: Opportunities exist for the agriculture sector to sequester carbon. Although regenerative practices and technologies that enable efficiencies are at the nascent stage currently, they will be crucial to support future emissions reduction. Read key recommendations in the agriculture & food roadmap report.
  6. Mining: Mining is a significant industry, and given the extractive profile of operations, it is an energy-intensive process. There is a need for clean energy sources and electrification of operations in order to decarbonize operations, leading to opportunities to advance and/or develop new technologies (retrofit an existing mine to electric, electrification of vehicle engines and equipment, and other cleantech solutions that focus on delivering renewable energy and optimizing energy efficiency mining sites and facilities). Read key recommendations in the mining roadmap report.
  7. Built Environment: BC is poised to become a leader in building materials that promote embodied carbon, particularly engineered wood. CleanBC targets are driving the industry towards electrification in homes and buildings as they move away from fossil-based energy sources for heating. There are opportunities in multiple areas, including investing in building shell and heating technologies, training, and retrofit programs. Read key recommendations in the built environment roadmap report.

The Future Economy In Action

BC is ready to take on this challenge in a way that will bolster GDP, continue to create jobs, and lower emissions in the near term. The only caveat is that the work needs to begin today.

The roadmap reports illustrate the immediate need for strategic planning in support of each sector to clearly define goals and outcomes required to achieve CleanBC and Canada’s vision of achieving a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

We are in volatile and complex times that require alignment and mobilization of resources in strategic and collaborative ways. While each sector may have unique roadblocks, opportunities, or innovations, there is an active and engaged network driving change in BC and across Canada – innovation technology exists! It is paramount that from policy planning to access to funds, we work together to support the technological innovation that is helping to drive future jobs and economic growth in BC while concurrently supporting climate change and CleanBC targets.

The power of a formalized cluster network to breakdown silos and support innovation, growth and adoption are profound. Like CORE Cleantech Cluster BC, clusters can create thousands of new jobs, build tech parks, and launch groundbreaking initiatives. They attract investment and scale infrastructure projects on a massive scale. Most importantly, they do it collaboratively and profitably.

As we look to reimagining and redefining green recovery in BC and across Canada, let’s not forget that we are stronger together, and the work begins today.

You can find copies of Foresight’s CORE BC roadmap reports here. To read the full CORE Cleantech Cluster report visit: corecleantech.com 

Interested in joining the CORE BC Cleantech Cluster? Get involved.