Globe Climate: Investing in the future never looked so green

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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.

At a time when governments around the world are incorporating ways to fight climate change into their COVID-19 recoveries, a recent poll found what was already suspected: Gen Z cares more about the climate than their parents and grandparents do.

Among the findings of the “People’s Climate Vote” survey was that close to 70 per cent of people under 18 believe climate change is a global emergency versus 58 per cent of those over 60. The overall average was 64 per cent. The survey included responses from more than 1.2 million people in 50 countries, the largest survey ever on climate change.

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Now, let’s catch you up on other news.


Noteworthy reporting this week:

  1. CarbonCure Technologies Inc. has honed its techniques for injecting carbon dioxide into concrete for more than a dozen years. Now, the concrete from the Halifax startup is being used in the construction of Amazon’s new HQ to cut emissions. Since 2016, CarbonCure says its clients have diverted more than 105,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere thanks to its technology.
  2. Canada plans to be a world leader in green hydrogen, but how will it get there? Critics say the strategy, released last month, points to a green hydrogen economy by 2050 – but it doesn’t say how we’ll do it.
  3. The big thaw: What are Arctic communities on vanishing permafrost doing to find safer ground to build on? Permafrost, which underpins roughly half of Canada’s land mass, is deteriorating rapidly from climate change. Matthew McClearn looks into how northerners are trying to adapt quickly enough without breaking the bank.

The Geological Survey of Canada studies permafrost thaw – eroding coastline in the Beaufort Sea, NWT.

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A deeper dive

The climate push is in high gear

Ryan MacDonald is a senior editor at The Globe heading the climate, environment and resources team.

It is hard to underestimate the tide of energy around ESG investing.

A year after declaring that his company would put environmental, social and governance issues at the heart of its investment process, BlackRock chief executive officer Larry Fink has issued a kind of report card on how things are shaping up. The short answer? The tide has become a wave.

In his influential letter to CEOs, Mr. Fink says that the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the reallocation of capital to investments with lower climate risk. Last year, investors around the world plowed US$288-billion into mutual funds and exchange-traded funds with sustainable assets, nearly double the tally of 2019, according to Mr. Fink.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of the climate movement, this is a moment to take note.

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Governments move slowly – markets don’t. And when markets move this quickly, it’s a sign that the transition for many companies to a “net-zero” carbon economy is going to come sooner than 2050, which is the target for most G7 nations, including Canada.

Take General Motors Co. and its plans to build only zero-emission cars and trucks by 2035 and to be carbon-neutral five years after that. If successful, GM would get to net-zero a decade before the targets of its rival Ford Motor Co. – and most countries.

Yes, you can be skeptical about GM’s commitment. But is it difficult to underestimate what it represents. GM is not just an automobile company, it helped build car culture and an industry that employed thousands of people in North America directly through its plants and indirectly all along the auto supply chain.

Keeping track of all of this is the Globe’s Jeffrey Jones. After years of covering the oil patch, mergers and acquisitions and private equity, Jeff is turning his eye exclusively to the ESG sector and sustainable finance.

When we spoke last week about the GM story, we were both struck by how the company’s pivot to EVs was going to shake up not just automakers, but all the supply chains that feed them. As Jeff says, GM is not retooling itself to be green for altruistic reasons. This is capitalism – and it’s hard to imagine all of this being thrown into reverse.

– Ryan

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Mario Anzuoni/Reuters


What else you missed

  • The parliamentary budget office says a pledge by the Liberals to plant two billion trees could cost almost double what the government says, suggests it will be about $2.78-billion more, bringing the overall cost closer to $5.94-billion.
  • Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is hoping to secure federal funding for a major infrastructure project that could ease flooding on Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba.
  • Over 400 companies across some of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitting industries have agreed to work together on plans to decarbonize by 2050, according to a coalition of climate advocacy groups that set up the partnership. It includes giants like miner Arcelor Mittal, shipper Maersk, and oil behemoth Shell.
  • President Joe Biden signed new executive actions to combat climate change, including pausing new oil and gas leases on federal land and cutting fossil fuel subsidies, as he pursues green policies he billed as a boon to the economy and job creation.

Opinion and analysis

How Canada should respond to Biden’s ‘Made in America’ approach to fighting climate change

Adam Radwanski: “Coming just a couple of days after Mr. Biden’s announcement of strengthened ‘Buy American’ provisions for how Washington generally wields its purchasing power, it leaves little doubt that his administration will make every effort to use coming climate investments to give American clean-technology companies fresh competitive advantage.”

Empowering innovators of tomorrow – fighting climate change one idea at a time

Claude Guay: “Innovation in action is the application of curiosity, research, expertise and technology, creating more opportunities, more jobs and a more sustainable environment.”

Task force on modernizing securities puts climate-risk accountability front and centre

Jeffrey Jones: “An early criticism of the recommendation is that it would not require companies to report on how different climate scenarios would affect their corporate strategy, which experts see as key to gauging resilience.”

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Green investing

Q: Which sustainable funds have outshone peers in a tumultuous year?

A: Although largely overshadowed, 2020 turned out to be an incredible year in the realm of sustainable investing in Canada. With many new products coming to market as low-cost ETFs, Canadians now have more choices than ever when choosing to invest sustainably. Moreover, 2020 showed, at least anecdotally, that choosing to investing sustainably does not necessarily mean sacrificing returns. A few to look at? Desjardins RI Canada-Low Co2 Index ETF, Horizons Global Sustain Leaders Idx ETF; Nbi Canadian Family Business ETF, among a list of others.

Also read:


Making waves

Each week The Globe will profile a young person making a difference in Canada. This week we’re highlighting the work of Laurent Cousineau doing online education.

Laurent Cousineau

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Hello, my name is Laurent Cousineau. I am a 28-year-old from Montreal. I am a Climate Leader at the Climate Reality Project, and I did several presentations via Zoom including one during their 24 hours of reality: a full day of presentation and conversation about the future we want.

I am also the founder of the Climate Change Guide which you can find online and on Facebook. My site gets about 50-200 people a day from over 100 different countries — it’s my way of trying to build a better future.

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One recent post I made is about the best climate change documentaries you can watch right now. I also wrote about the effects of climate change which links to many more pages which include a page on ocean acidification, climate refugees, wildfires and much more. I plan on doing more work for my site, and I aspire to create an online course about climate change in the future.

– Laurent

Do you know an engaged young person? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? Email us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.


Photo of the week

A worker collects plastic trash that litters the polluted Potpecko Lake near a dam’s hydroelectric plant near the town of Priboj, Serbia, January 29, 2021.

MARKO DJURICA/Reuters


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