The weather in Ottawa turned gnarly this week, as did the politics around Net Zero. Is this the winter of our climate discontent? I spent Thursday at the Canadian Climate Institute’s third annual conference, and it was hard not to feel a change in weather. The sunny ways of the past decade are now clouded by economic reality, as governments (and consumers) look increasingly for economically minded ways to decarbonize our world. The days of free money are gone, which is undermining venture capital and all those innovators trying to create and scale new energy technologies. Governments (like consumers) are running low on fiscal gas, which will limit the billions they had hoped would stimulate climate action. The mood for regulation also seems to be dwindling, judging by the Trudeau government’s muted presentation of an oil and gas emissions cap (now called a “framework”) at the event. And then there’s all that global volatility—two hots wars and a cold one—that’s got energy markets (and market confidence) everywhere on edge.
Looking to 2024, the outlook for climate action may seem dark. But if there’s hope, it’s in private sector. This year’s CCI conference had a greater business focus, with steelmakers, oil producers and builders sharing their plans to decarbonize—not just for the planet but for their own competitiveness. That was also a clarion call from the Biden Administration, which sent its top energy diplomat to Ottawa this week to talk up business-led climate action. Geoffrey Pyatt laid out how the Inflation Reduction Act is transforming America’s energy systems (and its competitiveness), creating significant opportunities for business and trade for its allies. On that count, Pyatt wanted to know about Canada’s “political geography,” and how we can fit into a continental energy strategy that will include oil, nuclear, hydrogen and natural gas. In other words, climate security is now energy security, and both are about national security. The climate crowd didn’t embrace every word, but they did get the message. It’s a new season.
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