OTTAWA, June 21, 2012 /CNW/ - Canada stands to win from a global
movement to a green economy, but to do so it must prioritize a massive
push toward greater resource productivity, according to a White Paper
by Sustainable Prosperity, a national green economy think tank.
This week's Rio+20 Conference has the global green economy as one of its
central themes. Jurisdictions from Germany to China are developing
policies to spur new forms of green economic development in the wake of
the 2008 financial crisis.
For Canada, the concept involves challenges and opportunities,
particularly in light of the importance of the natural resources sector
to our prosperity. That is why Canada should work towards developing a
strategy around the green economy that matches its national
circumstances, according to the White Paper, entitled Towards a Green Economy for Canada. The White Paper provides the basic state of knowledge and framework
for developing a definition of a green economy that would be relevant
to policy makers and the private sector.
Although Canada is greening, it is far from green. "Green" implies an
economy that is operating within the ecological boundaries in which it
exists, which no economy in the world can claim to be doing. But
"greening" the economy - towards what would ultimately be a green
economy - is very much a realistic goal for Canada. Because at its
heart, greening is about being more productive in the use of resources,
this agenda is one that would serve both our environmental interests.
But first, there must be a clear understanding of what the issues are
for Canada. The White Paper suggests that:
We need an inclusive definition of green economy. It helps us little to
think of the green economy as strictly the purview of windmill, solar
panels, etc. Our national ambition should be to green our entire
We must focus on resource productivity because that is where our
strengths lie, and it is where international markets will be.
Progress towards a green economy must be based on a solid base of
knowledge and information. There are currently large gaps in
information and data that will need to be filled.
We need a research and policy dialogue around the greening of Canada's
economy, with leadership from governments and business as a critical
"The path to a green economy goes through a dramatic increase in
resource productivity. Focusing our policies and investments on the
development of business and technology models that deliver resource
productivity will not only increase the value of our resources, but
also create solutions that the whole world will be seeking," suggests
one of the report's authors, Alex Wood, Senior Director, Policy and
Markets, at Sustainable Prosperity.
Click here to view the entire report, http://www.sustainableprosperity.ca/article2849
ABOUT SUSTAINABLE PROSPERITY
SP is a national green economy think tank and policy research network
based out of the University of Ottawa. Directed by some of Canada's top
economic, environmental, research and business leaders, our mission is
to generate smart ideas to build a greener, more competitive Canadian
The global financial crisis has prompted many countries to consider the
concept of a green economy and how it impacts financial and
The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine
Lagarde, said in a recent speech: "first and foremost, we need to get
growth going again - but on a different track than before the crisis."
A green economy is compatible with a strong economic future for Canada,
including increased productivity, employment, and innovation. "This is
particularly true in light of the advantage that resource productivity
will represent as we move into an era of increased resource scarcity.
Being more productive will make us more competitive, and developing
solutions and products that serve to increase resource productivity
will find new, ready, and substantial markets internationally,"
according to the White Paper.
Though Canada is becoming more service oriented, its economy is rooted
in natural resources, which represent about one-fifth of Canada's GDP.
Canada is unique as it has an abundance of natural resources,
including, land, water, forests and energy, and a relatively small
population. As a result, it has not yet encountered any meaningful
resource scarcity, for the most part. At the same time, its economic
ambitions, particularly when it comes to the development of its natural
resource and energy resources, have international environmental
implications, notes the report. The definition of a green economy, as
it relates to Canada, must also be unique.
The green economy is sometimes referred to as the "clean economy." The
increased use of both terms and their importance to decision makers has
highlighted the need to for a more rigorous definition.
There are a number of widely used definitions of the green economy,
which are meant to apply globally to all countries, regardless of
differing economies or circumstances. The United Nations Environment
Program (UNEP) definition is: "A green economy can be defined as an
economy that results in improved human well-being and reduced
inequalities over the long-term, while not exposing future generations
to significant environmental risks or ecological scarcities."
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
defines green growth as "fostering economic growth and development
while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources
and environmental services on which our well-being relies. To do this
it must catalyze investment and innovation which will underpin
sustained growth and give rise to new economic opportunities."
Countries such as Canada also face the challenge of creating a clear
understanding between "greening the economy" and actually achieving a
The White Paper points to key elements of a definition, including the
need for it to be inclusive.
"All sectors should aim to improve their relative environmental
performance, with a longer term goal to achieve large absolute
reductions in environmental impacts (e.g., waste, pollution), and
greatly improve the productivity of natural resource use and protect
the ecosystems they depend on. Canada needs to improve its stewardship
of its natural capital, and aim to reinvest the proceeds of its
resource riches into innovation and sectors that directly contribute to
a low-carbon, resource-efficient and climate-resilient future,"
according to the White Paper.
A definition of Canada's green economy should also emphasize "the
opportunity that exists around a resource productivity agenda, and how
that would serve Canada's economic and environmental interests," notes
In the context of defining a green economy, the White Report examines
the concept of decoupling, which refers to the separation that can
occur between two related economic factors. "There are two types of
decoupling that are relevant to the green economy: decoupling resource
use from GDP ("resource decoupling") and decoupling resource use from
environmental impacts ("impact decoupling")," notes the report. There
is relative versus absolute decoupling. Relative refers to a change in
the growth rate; absolute refers occurs only when the growth rate of
resource productivity exceeds the growth rate of the economy, which is
rare. Achieving a green economy means a country has achieved relative
and absolute decoupling, meaning that it has figured out how to reduce
the impact of its economic activity to levels that are sustainable and
also achieve economic growth that respects absolute environmental
Statistics Canada estimates Canada's natural capital value at CAD
$89,000 per capita. Canada ranks first in the world in natural capital
per person, third in forest area and renewable fresh water supply, and
seventh in arable land area.
Any definition should come with a system for measuring how green we are
and how much we are greening as a country.
SOURCE Sustainable Prosperity
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