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Op-Ed: Don’t let COVID-19 take down our clean tech sector

In addition to its contribution to saving the planet, the value of environmental and clean technology activities totalled $61.9 billion in 2017, and accounted for 3.1% of Canadian GDP. These tens of billions of dollars have been put at risk by the COVID-19 crisis.

Cleantech ecosystem accelerator Foresight, in partnership with CSI, recently surveyed more than 300 cleantech companies to learn the impacts this crisis has had on their work, and what would help keep them in business right now. The majority of those surveyed said what they needed was a one-time grant.

Foresight CEO Jeanette Jackson collaborated with CSI’s Director of Programs Barnabe Geis on an op-ed in the National Observer that shines a light on how important these types of investments are right now. As governments design stimulus packages to help us prepare for the post-COVID-19 world, they have the chance to create a green economy powered by clean energy and enabled by clean technology (cleantech):

If there isn’t a concerted effort to support this sector right now, many companies will go bankrupt or be so delayed in getting their technology to market that Canada’s competitive advantage may be lost, and climate action will be delayed when we can least afford it. Instead of leading, as we were positioned to do, we will be playing catchup in the biggest, most important transformation since the Industrial Revolution.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world are announcing trillions of dollars worth of monetary and fiscal stimulus. Where this money goes will reshape the global economy.

Canada must seize the moment, and invest in the future. This means ending subsidies to fossil fuels and not bailing out the economically unviable and ultimately doomed oil sands. This means investing in climate action broadly as well as cleantech specifically, leading to sustained job creation and economic growth.

Our response to the pandemic is our chance to make the best of a terrible crisis. If we prioritize short-term growth by investing in the status quo, we will have squandered our opportunity and financial resources, leading to untold economic and social hardships down the road due to a worsening climate crisis.

One way CSI’s Climate Ventures is working to build a New Green Economy is through Earth Tech, a six-month accelerator for those working on climate or freshwater technology solutions that will positively impact communities and ecosystems across Canada. You can meet the participants here.

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