INTRODUCTION & EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
“This is our chance to build a more resilient Canada, a Canada that is healthier and safer, greener and more competitive, a Canada that is more welcoming and more fair. This is our moment to change the future for the better.”
— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
As a society, we are at a crossroads. The need for recovery from the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 has tasked us with a historic responsibility. We can choose to reinvest in the status quo, or we can rebuild better and more safely. The choices we make will define our ability to deliver a society, economy and environment that is more resilient, just, and sustainable for current and future generations.
Amidst the COVID-19 crisis and its impacts on Canadians, Canada and the world face ever-worsening climate and biodiversity crises. Canadians are already experiencing floods, fires, ecological disruption, dramatic loss of wildlife populations, and a rapidly warming Arctic. Science tells us that these and other impacts will intensify if climate change and ecosystem destruction remain unchecked.
The Green Budget Coalition (GBC), comprising 25 of Canada’s leading environmental organizations, urges the government to step up to this defining moment in history and seize the opportunities it presents to build on previous action and achieve transformational change. In doing so, we echo the widespread international calls for a green recovery, including by leading expert organizations such as the International Energy Agency and World Health Organization.3
Countries around the globe, from France to South Korea, to the UK, Germany and Australia, have already made historic announcements for green stimulus. These commitments will support economic recovery from COVID-19 while ramping up climate ambition, and are setting new bars for what green recovery means on the international stage. The Government of Canada must ensure its recovery actions meet or exceed the ambition being set by our global peers, to ensure we thrive in the economy of tomorrow while addressing the global environmental challenges before us.
Critical Steps to a Green Recovery
The Green Budget Coalition strongly encourages making climate and biodiversity objectives central to Canada’s recovery plans, funding and other actions through four critical and complementary approaches:
- Investing in transformative large-scale environmental initiatives and Indigenous-led conservation, along with job-intensive “green stimulus” projects;
- Continuing, expanding and strategically adding to existing climate, nature conservation, health protection and agricultural programs;
- Attaching conditions (“green strings”) on funding support for businesses and provincial, territorial and municipal governments; and
- Planning ahead by re-aligning Canada’s economic and fiscal policies with its environmental, economic, and well being priorities.
Successfully rebuilding a better, greener Canada will require an integrated approach involving many actors. Federal leadership requires significant and sustained investments plus complementary economic policy and regulatory actions.
Building on the Green Budget Coalition’s expertise on fiscal and budgetary measures, this document provides a comprehensive package of timely recommendations focused on job-creating investment opportunities and foundational environmental funding, while also addressing tax policy measures, “green strings”, and re-aligning Canada’s economic and fiscal policy structures.
A) Feature Recommendations for Recovery and Budget Actions
For 2020-21, the Green Budget Coalition is featuring the following four transformative investment opportunities for job creation and accelerating our response to the climate and biodiversity crises:
1) Building retrofit jobs – Investments to reduce emissions;
2) Stimulus investments to boost clean transportation industries – creating jobs while reducing Canada’s leading source of emissions; including transit, zero emission vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles, and decarbonizing fuel supply;
3) Nature-based climate solutions – Supporting Canadians to reduce land use change, advance natural infrastructure solutions and restore habitat in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and meadowlands; and
4) Creating and managing protected areas, including Indigenous protected areas and Guardians programs.
We further outline in this document many complementary recommendations with the potential to create jobs and advance long-term environmental sustainability, including:
- Further transformative large-scale investments, including renewable and decentralized energy;
- Smaller job-intensive investments including existing Great Lakes programs, wildlife collision mitigation infrastructure, and supporting a reduced reliance on single-use plastic and expansion of the circular economy;
- Renewing and improving other existing foundational programs such as environmental enforcement, the Chemicals Management Plan, Pest Management Regulatory Agency, fisheries and oceans management, international climate finance, and regional-scale governance; and
- New initiatives to support sustainable agriculture, freshwater, Canada Water Agency, and environmental data and science.
B) “Green strings” on support to businesses and governments
We strongly recommend that any government funding to businesses and provincial, territorial and municipal governments be developed with a climate and biodiversity lens, and made conditional on preserving and accelerating action on climate and biodiversity. Seven critical conditions and principles to apply to stimulus spending are outlined in the report Green Strings: Principles and Conditions for Green Recovery from COVID-19. We appreciate the government’s efforts to date to promote climate change risk disclosure and establish some conditionalities through the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility.
C) Planning ahead by re-aligning Canada’s economic and fiscal policies with its environmental, economic, and well- being priorities
To most efficiently and effectively pursue environmental sustainability objectives, Canada needs to revise economic and fiscal policy making to better align environmental, economic and human well-being priorities. Canada’s economy and governance mechanisms must help us respect environmental limits (of many kinds, global, regional and local), restore and improve environmental quality, promote well- being and equity, and support global progress. Tracking and regularly reporting on environmental quality, overall well-being, and genuine progress are important steps. Important GBC recommendations in that regard include Making Budget 2021 a Well- Being Budget, Phasing out Fossil Fuel Subsidies, and Sustainable Finance.
Implementing these Green Budget Coalition recommendations would lead to transformative progress in advancing a healthier, safer future for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.