The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, announces the Regional Energy and Resources Strategy during a keynote address to the Vancouver Board of Trade. 


Hello everyone.

And thank you for the invitation to speak at one of our country’s premier institutions for advancing economic growth and trade.

I want to begin by recognizing our presence on the traditional and ancestral territories of the Tsleil-waututh, Squamish, and Musqueam peoples.

Today, I would like to speak to you about three closely related issues:

  1. The barbaric and ongoing invasion of Ukraine;
  2.  The implications of this conflict for global energy security and climate change; and
  3. How all of this fits in with what we are doing to ensure Canada seizes the economic opportunities that a net-zero economy offers for building a sustainable, prosperous future . . . in every region of our country.

So let me begin in Ukraine.

The brutal, illegal invasion launched by President Putin against the people of Ukraine represents a violation of international law and an unjustified attack on a peaceful people.

Canada’s support of the Ukrainian people is unshakable – to date we have provided Ukraine with consequential humanitarian, military, and other important support . . . and we have committed to continue to do so with our Budget 2022 last month.

In the longer term, Canada will be part of the multilateral effort to ensure that those in Russia responsible for human rights atrocities are held to account. 

Now, as you know very well, the effects of the war in Ukraine extend beyond Europe. Among the ramifications is a profound impact on global energy markets. Issues relating to energy affordability and energy security are now very much at the forefront of international affairs. 

Significant volatility in energy markets has resulted in elevated and unstable pricing. The implications for Europe, in particular, are potentially devastating . . . a point driven home to me at a personal level, during my recent discussions in Paris with the EU Energy Commissioner.

For our European friends, this is not an issue of inconvenience, but rather represents an urgent threat – to their ability to continue to provide the basics – heat for their for homes . . . fuel to transport food and goods . . . power to sustain their industries, their jobs and their economies.

Not surprisingly, western European countries are working vigorously to secure predictable energy supplies in the context of an increasingly belligerent and irrational Russia. 

In the short term, Europe is focused on replacing Russian energy imports with those from other countries, while aggressively accelerating a transition toward renewables and low-carbon hydrogen in the medium term.

As the President of the European Commission stated recently, “It is our switch to renewables and hydrogen that will make us truly independent.”

I want to underscore that all of this – Europe’s efforts to transition to non-Russian sources of oil and gas, reduce consumption and shift to renewables – is not sequential; Europe is firmly focused on all three simultaneously.

As part of these efforts, Europe has asked for help from their friends and allies. As you will know, Canada was the first country to ban imports of Russian oil and petroleum products. Subsequently we joined the United States and Brazil in committing to increase our oil and gas exports in the short-term, to the extent possible – and within the framework of our climate commitments – to help to stabilize international energy markets.

And as you are no doubt aware, we announced a plan to increase oil and gas output by up to 300,000 barrels per day by the end of the year by expanding production and optimizing pipelines, essentially bringing forward production that had been planned for a slightly later time frame.

This is intended to assist in displacing Russian energy and in easing energy prices. 

We are also assessing our ability to enhance the exports of other commodities such as potash and uranium that have typically been supplied to several European countries by Russia and Byelorussia. 

Europe has also asked us to look at how Canada could potentially assist with LNG in the medium term and with hydrogen in the slightly longer term. Which is why we have recently established working groups on both these issues with the European Union and with Germany. 

However, I want to repeat that it is the shift to domestically produced renewable energy and to hydrogen supplied by stable countries such as Canada, that will provide true energy and national security to Europe.  

Now, having said that, there are critics who insist that tackling energy security and addressing climate change cannot be reconciled.

There are those who, on one hand, would suggest that given the urgency of the energy security issue, we must set aside concerns and actions relating to climate change.

Concurrently, others believe that any move to increase the production of fossil fuels – even if to aid our European friends at a time of crisis – should not be pursued given concerns about climate impacts.

Neither of these extremes represents a thoughtful or tenable position.

Of course, we need to respond to calls for assistance from our European friends. And of course, we need to ensure we stay laser-focused on aggressively addressing the existential threat climate change poses to our planet’s future

Canada will continue to assess what more it can do to assist our European partners. But we will do so in a manner that accounts for and seeks to minimize domestic emissions – and ensures that any net additional emissions are incorporated into Canada’s climate plan.

As a nation, as a people, surely we are able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We can help our European friends in the short term and achieve our ambitious and vital climate goals.

I also want to share a few thoughts about the ongoing global energy transition – because there is a significant lack of clarity at times, regarding what this transition is fundamentally about and the role of hydrocarbon fuels during such a transition.

In virtually all forecasts, global demand for oil is projected to remain relatively constant through 2030 before we start to see a decline in volume stemming from broad deployment of Zero-Emission Vehicles and related technology.

And while the volume of oil consumed globally will eventually decline significantly, even in the International Energy Agency’s 1.5-degree Celsius scenario, the world will still use ~25 million barrels per day – or 1/4 of current usage – in 2050.

What will change is that the uses will be in non-combustion applications such as petrochemicals, lubricants, solvents, waxes, and so forth . . .

Likewise, the IEA 1.5C scenario forecasts that demand for natural gas in 2050 will be approximately half of what it is today – but its use will be for things like the production of hydrogen. Again, for use in non-combustion applications.

“Non-combustion” is the key in both scenarios.

At the end of the day, the cause of climate change is not fossil fuels themselves, it is carbon emissions associated with the production and the combustion or burning of fossil fuels. Beyond the need for very significant increases in the use of renewables and other forms of non-emitting energy, the reality is that there will continue to be a role for some level of hydrocarbon-based fuels post 2050.

If you trade in your gasoline-powered car for a bicycle, you will still need a lubricant for its chain . . .

And during the coming 30-year period of transition, during which some volume of hydrocarbon combustion will continue to exist – and even beyond 2050 when we have largely eliminated fossil fuel combustion – countries that focus on producing hydrocarbons with ultra-low production emissions are likely to be the last producers standing.

Finally, a few words about how Canada can and will seize the economic opportunities offered through the energy transition to build a prosperous future for Canadians.

Even before the events of the past several weeks, the global economy was changing rapidly. That change has accelerated recently, and this will continue.

Around the world, financial markets are increasingly pricing climate risk into investment decisions. Smart money is flowing away from assets that are not compatible with a transition to a net-zero world, and towards opportunities that are.

Just as any successful business must be capable of interpreting and reacting to changes in the business environment, countries must also be capable of thoughtful response and action to sustain and enhance their level of prosperity.

It is in this context that Canada can choose to be a leader in this global economic shift – or we can let it happen to us – with all the attendant consequences of being a late mover. 

If we choose to lead, we can ensure that our workers and businesses take advantage of market opportunities that will be worth trillions of dollars . . .

And let me just add very quickly that, as someone who spent many years in the business community, I am very aware that sustaining social programming and ensuring opportunities for Canadians to pursue their aspirations depends on us first creating wealth.

My job, as I see it, is to work with Canadians to determine how we can best utilize the abundance of our resources, technology, talent and experience in this country to realize opportunities that will drive significant job creation and economic growth.

Over the past several years, this federal government has focused on working with industry to develop strategies and to pursue the various opportunities that are available to us to reduce emissions, incent innovation and improve economic competitiveness.

These efforts have included pollution pricing and various regulations . . . but have also relied heavily on strategic investments through the Clean Fuels Fund, the Net Zero Accelerator and funding for clean technology and renewable energy.

And we have seen progress as a result of these efforts.

As you may have heard, the Global Cleantech Group has named 13 Canadian companies to their list this year of the world’s top 100 cleantech companies. And I’m proud to say that half of these companies are actually located in British Columbia.

We have made a habit of punching above our weight.

But there remains much more we can and must do to drive Canadian competitiveness, growth and prosperity for decades to come.

What we need is a plan based on comparative advantage . . . one that aligns the efforts and resources of all levels of government, the private sector, labour, and Indigenous peoples.

Which is why I am officially launching today a series of regional processes to position Canada, and Canadians, to take advantage of the massive, unprecedented economic opportunities that addressing climate change presents.

The Regional Energy and Resources Strategy recognizes that Canada is a resource-based economy – and that we must make it a sustainable resource-based economy. That as we move toward a low-carbon future, climate action and economic prosperity will need to remain one and the same.

Through these regional processes, we will provide Canadian business with the clarity they need from all levels of government to confidently invest the capital and expertise that spurs national growth and international competitiveness.

Through these regional processes, we will be better able to project what the jobs of the future will look like so we can anticipate and develop the types of training and supports required to ensure our workforce can transition their skills to the new low-carbon economy . . . thereby ensuring a fair and equitable transition for all Canadian workers.

Now, at this point, you may be asking yourselves, “Why a regional strategy? Why not a grand, pan-Canadian, National Strategy?”

Very simply, Canada is a country of regions. Each with its own economic strengths. Which means we must also think about future opportunities regionally and sectorally.

Regionally, each province has a relatively unique mix of its own natural resources.

So the economic opportunities available to them – and therefore the approaches to a clean-energy transition – will be different across the country.

In Alberta, such opportunities will most likely involve hydrogen derived from natural gas, carbon capture use and storage, critical minerals, renewable energy, and biofuels.

Some of the same opportunities we see here in British Columbia.

And, in Quebec, the list may focus more on hydrogen from electrolysis, electricity exports, critical minerals and battery development and production

At the same time, the opportunities from a sectoral perspective will come from new products that enable a low-carbon future – such as electric cars, battery technology, critical minerals, hydrogen, and other clean technologies – and new uses for old products, as we’re seeing with Bitumen Beyond Combustion in Alberta.

There will also be opportunities created by increased demand for traditional goods produced in an ultra-low carbon manner – such as low-carbon steel and aluminum.

The Regional Energy and Resources Strategy will create individual plans based on these comparative advantages   . . . by aligning resources . . . timelines . . . and regulatory approaches. And by focusing on high-impact, place-based opportunities – such as critical minerals and hydrogen. Opportunities that will promote innovation, reduce emissions and improve competitiveness.

And today, I am pleased to announce we have reached agreements with the governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador to start this work in the provinces that will be most affected by the transition to a net-zero world.

Together, with the provinces of B.C. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, we are committed to engaging with Indigenous organizations, private-sector enterprises and labour representatives.

We are committed to playing to both our historical strengths and the emerging opportunities to develop a competitive and highly prosperous, sustainable resource-based economy – one that creates wealth and jobs in every sector of our economy and every region of this country . . . all while achieving our ambitious climate goals and becoming a net-zero nation within three decades.

Because the potential is tremendous; the opportunities are real; and the time is now.

Thank you.

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