I visited Winnipeg last week and there’s a new energy in the air. The election of Wab Kinew as Manitoba premier—one of the first Indigenous persons to lead any province—has put a new spotlight on the province, its role in reconciliation and leadership in the race to Net Zero.

I met with Premier Kinew to discuss his climate policies, insights from the RBC Climate Action Institute, and whether Manitoba could be a new model for Canada’s transition. He kept returning to a single word: hydrogen. His NDP government wants to make Manitoba a green hydrogen hub, even though the province is running short of surplus industrial power. Kinew is also keen to advance electric vehicle adoption, especially for the buses, trucks and farm machines that account for a third of Manitoba’s emissions. He has a hometown advantage in New Flyer Industries, a global player in electric and hydrogen buses, but needs a growing economy to finance the transition.

More electricity generation and transmission will be an added challenge for Kinew’s promise of reconciliation. His province’s population is 20% Indigenous, the highest in Canada, and new projects will face growing tests of “free, prior and informed consent.” The same challenge will face the NDP’s promise of critical minerals production. (The province claims to hold 29 of 31 key minerals, including lithium.) Kinew said he is hoping to see “enthusiastic consent” exhibited through business partnerships.

Manitoba’s other great climate opportunity? Agriculture. I visited the University of Manitoba’s Glenlea Research Station, south of Winnipeg, to see Canada’s oldest soil sequestration test site, aimed at capturing greenhouse gases. The station is also developing technologies to capture gases from the province’s four million cows, hogs and pigs.

Manitoba is home to only 1.4 million people. It will need all the climate tech it can develop to harness their—and the province’s—energy.

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