The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources: Keynote address to the Bloomberg's Future of Energy Summit - North America

Speech

Grand Hyatt New York, Empire State Ballroom, New York, New York
April 4, 2016

Thank you, Amy [Amy Grace, Head of North American Research, Bloomberg New Energy Finance] for a warm introduction. It wasn’t all that warm when I woke up in New York yesterday morning and my wife and I went for a stroll outside with a beautiful sunny sky — not a cloud to be seen, with a wicked north wind that felt just like home.

I feel just like home for a lot of reasons. New York City — for many of us who have the pleasure of visiting it from time to time — is really the centre of the cultural world. Over the last couple of days, to watch when 25-year-olds line up to put up $25 or $30 to see Degas or Jackson Pollock or go to a jazz concert — it gives you a sense that the generation is in good hands.

I’m also mindful when I come to New York of some of the great relationships, historically, between American presidents and Canadian prime ministers. Even in my own lifetime, I remember the relationship between President Clinton and Jean Chrétien, on and off the golf course. It’s remarkable, though, how friendships sometimes developed on the golf course can find their way into important trade deals, in business deals, in North American and continental policies that are in the interests of the entire world.

Then, I think of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the “Irish Eyes” song with President Reagan at the Shamrock Summit in Quebec City: two Irish leaders singing an Irish song that led to, within weeks of that wonderful moment, a signing of an important acid rain agreement. My point is simply that relationships among leaders really do matter.

The relationship that we are seeing developing now between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama is heartening for those of us in Canada, and I’m sure many of those here in the United States believe that it is the most relationship that counts the most to our two nations.

Given the depth of our trade, the elongation of our border, what we share historically and in geography and how in so many ways we work together serves as an example to the world on how these two nation states can make such a difference when we collaborate with each other. It’s great to be here today at one of the most important energy summits of the year. I want to thank Bloomberg for inviting me to lead this afternoon’s discussion on the North American Experience.

This summit is also a fitting way for me to mark our government’s first five months in office and to reflect upon what we have accomplished in such a short time: the optimism restored, the hope returning for Canadians who believe we can reshape the destiny of this continent by working together to create tomorrow’s clean growth economy and the prosperity and jobs it holds.

Our government is convinced that that future is within our grasp. I don’t say any of this to paper over the challenges we still face in North America. Those challenges have been well documented in the daily headlines — volatile oil and natural gas prices, shrinking investments, mounting job losses. In Alberta alone, more than 60,000 jobs have been lost in the last year.

These harsh realities have taken their toll not just on key energy producers but on the industries that support them, the local economies that grow around them and the government revenues that flow from them. In turn, hardworking men and women and their families bear the brunt. They face uncertain futures.

But there is cause for optimism.

Something transformational is happening globally and right here in North America. You heard about some of it this morning with the discussion on Mexico’s energy reforms. The significance of those reforms is unmistakable. They are a critical piece in our joint efforts to accelerate North America’s transition to a low-carbon clean energy future without forgetting the importance of moving our oil sands product to international markets sustainably.

For me, those efforts started last November when I first met U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz and Mexico Energy Secretary Joaquín Coldwell at energy talks in Paris. We’ve met and spoken a number of times since then, including a moment of true awakening when I invited the two of them to my home city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the middle of the February freeze.

By the way, for you scientists, you don’t need reminding that the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales meet at 40 below zero. We were very close. I figured what better way to illustrate the need for energy security or the dangers of being left out in the cold by global forces beyond our control. It must have worked, because there we were in Winnipeg signing a North American memorandum of understanding on climate change and energy collaboration.

It’s an aspirational agreement that focuses our three countries on the most pressing issues of the day: bringing cleaner renewable energy onto the electricity grid; accelerating innovation in clean energy technologies; encouraging energy savings through improved energy efficiency; advancing the competitiveness of carbon capture, use and storage; increasing our resiliency to climate change; and tackling methane and other emissions from oil and gas.

We’ve all gathered for the first time all of our North American energy data and maps on one platform. This is a major breakthrough, because it allows us to view continental energy integration in a new light. Through that memorandum and the working groups now flowing from it, we are pursuing a bold vision for our continent — a vision that positions North America as one of the world’s most dynamic and influential energy regions; a vision that strengthens our collective energy security; a vision that commits us to collaboration on environmental stewardship.

If the best way to predict the future is to create it, then we are well on the way. In fact, just two weeks after we signed the Winnipeg Memorandum, Secretary Moniz, Secretary Joaquín Coldwell and I met again in Houston to update each other on our progress and to discuss next steps. Another two weeks after that, our shared vision was on display at the White House when Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama stood side by side in the Rose Garden to announce a joint statement on climate, energy and Arctic leadership.

That agreement commits Canada and the United States to unprecedented cooperation on many of the same energy files covered by our Winnipeg Memorandum: cutting methane emissions by almost half; enhancing the integration of our electricity grids; accelerating clean energy technology. It also creates opportunities for a trilateral agreement that includes Mexico.

Secretary Moniz, Secretary Joaquín Coldwell and I will meet again in San Francisco this June to keep the momentum building. Each of us knows the time has passed when we can talk about energy or resource development without talking about environmental sustainability. But what does that mean? How do we meet the challenge of ensuring the energy sector remains a source of jobs and opportunity in a world that increasingly values sustainable practices?

Prime Minister Trudeau gave Canada’s answer at the Globe 2016 Conference on Innovation in Vancouver last month. Please let me quote: 
“The choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one. We need both. We need to make smart, strategic investments in clean growth and new infrastructure. But we must also continue to generate wealth from our abundant natural resources to fund this transition to a low-carbon economy.”

That’s how we will do it. That’s how we will make sure a strong economy and a clean environment go hand in hand. It’s reflected in our first budget, which was tabled in Parliament just two weeks ago. The budget gives substance to the Canadian commitments we made in Winnipeg, in Washington and at the COP21 climate change talks in Paris last November.

Our first budget builds on our pledge as one of 20 countries to join Mission Innovation, the ambitious new partnership for doubling government investment in clean energy research and development over the next five years. We recognize the importance of investing in clean technology industries to help them become more innovative, more competitive and more successful.

Our budget invests billions of dollars: $1 billion in clean energy in technology; $2 billion for a low-carbon fund to work with the provinces as we transition to a low-carbon economy; more than $100 million in energy efficiency; billions in public transit and other green infrastructure including recharging stations for electric vehicles and refuelling stations for alternative fuel vehicles.

These are firm commitments, and we are inviting — and many of you are in this room — the world’s innovators and entrepreneurs to lead the way and be our partners. And yet, as our Finance Minster explained, that’s just the start of our march toward a low-carbon clean growth economy. Canadians understand that we are at a crossroads between reliance on fossil fuels of the past and the renewable energy future ahead.

We aren’t daunted by the challenge. We are embracing it. You can see it in the oil sands, where Canada’s 13 largest producers have come together through the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance on more than 800 innovations and distinct technologies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

You can see it across our country, as Canadians use their ingenuity to produce tomorrow’s solutions: pulling carbon dioxide from the air to turn it into a fuel that can replace gasoline; recycling municipal garbage into clean fuels and renewable chemicals; building communities where every home is heated by collecting energy from the sun, storing it underground and drawing on it as needed.

Canadians are rising to the challenge of our generation. I said at the outset that the best way to predict the future is to create it. While the marketplace will ultimately decide how quickly we green the global economy, governments can point the way. We can provide the necessary nudges by pricing carbon, by ending subsidies for fossil fuels over the medium term and by investing in and supporting clean energy technology.

Mission Innovation is a perfect example. It’s not just about governments working together to push clean energy innovation and R&D like never before. It’s also about tapping the private sector’s strengths and expertise and genius. We can’t do it alone. That’s why some of the world’s best known entrepreneurs — people such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg — are coming together with an initiative called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which will help mobilize the private sector to commercialize tomorrow’s energy solutions.

It’s already happening. We have major oil and gas companies making large investments in renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal power and in clean technology because they realize there are real opportunities for them in the fight against global warming. This can be an exciting time if we use it wisely, if we use this low point in the commodity cycle to find that sweet spot between resource development and environmental stewardship.

We just did it in Canada with our government’s approval of a proposed liquefied natural gas project near Squamish, British Columbia. We demonstrated how good evidence, attention to environmental impacts, consultation with Indigenous peoples and a commitment to moving resources to market sustainably can win the day. It’s a good example of doing things the right way.

Even amid the ongoing global economic uncertainty, Canada remains a stable environment for energy investment and sustainable development. It’s a time of change, for sure. But it’s also a time of opportunity for all of us to work together more effectively. 

That’s what we’re doing in Canada and across North America. Through our efforts we want to be an example not just to ourselves but to the world. It’s our choice and our chance to create the future we want.

Thank you.


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