Canada leading, not lagging, global green energy transition, but more to do: Freeland

Canada is leading, not lagging, the global energy shift in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday, dismissing the notion that her recent call to arms was aimed in part at her own government.

Freeland raised eyebrows this week with a sweeping state-of-affairs speech in D.C. that urged democracies to spend more ``domestic political capital'' to ease a growing energy crisis – a message some observers say Ottawa itself should take to heart.

To the contrary, Canada is in high gear when it comes to kick-starting green energy projects, Freeland insisted, citing federal investments in the country's critical-minerals sector and the net-zero components of the Strategic Innovation Fund as examples.

The effort, she said, dates back to 2015, when the Liberals introduced a price on carbon, runs through the renegotiated North American trade deal and touches on the Biden administration's newly passed Inflation Reduction Act.

“What I wanted to do first and foremost is say to the world, 'Look, Canada gets it. This is what we are doing,''' Freeland told a news conference as she wrapped up a week at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings.

Key to that effort, she said, is putting government policies and investment in place and attracting more private capital into those projects – and if her speech Tuesday has that effect, so much the better.

“I don't want in any way to suggest Canada's behind – if anything, I think Canada is really in the lead on so many issues here. But we have to do even more,'' Freeland continued.

``Climate change is real. And climate action is a huge economic and industrial project. It's going to require significant investment – public, private, Canadian, international – and it's going to require us to build a lot of stuff.''

That strategy will continue to include liquid natural gas, she added, describing it as an “important transition fuel,'' not only to countries in Europe feeling the impact of the war in Ukraine but also in the developing world, where there are fewer alternatives to coal.

Critics say Canada has been a laggard in building the facilities to export liquid natural gas, or LNG – most recently when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answered Germany's pleas for more by suggesting such projects made little business sense.

“(LNG) will be an important contributor to the green transition in the world and to providing energy security for our partners,'' Freeland said. “As the prime minister said over the summer, we will always be looking at economically viable LNG projects.''

On Tuesday, Freeland used a speaking engagement at the D.C.-based Brookings Institution to urge democratic countries to confront the hard economic truths of the war in Ukraine and join forces in forging a new path forward.

The reality, she said, is that the modern-day dangers of autocratic regimes like Russia and China will not vanish with Russia's defeat in Ukraine, and it's long past time that the ``non-geographic West'' find a way to end the world's dependence on “petro-tyrants'' like Vladimir Putin.

She sang the virtues of ``friend-shoring'' – a term coined this past summer by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to describe fortified, climate-friendly, shock-resistant supply chains that rely mainly on like-minded neighbours and allies.

On Friday, she pointed again to the example of the big-budget climate, health and tax package Congress passed over the summer, a measure that originally included electric-vehicle incentives that could have crippled Canada's auto sector.

The version President Joe Biden signed into law included Canadian-made vehicles, and required eligible cars and trucks to have batteries containing critical minerals from countries with which the U.S. has trade deals, of which Canada is one.

At the same time, though, she welcomes Canada and the U.S. competing with each other when it comes to attracting foreign investment for green energy and carbon-capture projects.

“There is nothing wrong with – indeed, a lot very good about – a healthy competition among the world's economies, to say, 'You know what, I want to do the green transition best and fastest,''' she said.

“Canada is definitely up for that.''

Freeland also reiterated Friday her call for Russia to be kicked out of the G20, but she stopped short of offering any specific Canadian measures to expedite that process, or any details on whether the effort is moving forward.

She said she spoke directly to Russia's representatives who were among the ministers and central bank governors – the ``firefighters'' in attendance at the IMF and World Bank meetings this week.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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