As Ottawa develops a national climate change approach and prepares to sign the Paris Agreement later this month, Canada’s largest mining companies are embracing carbon pricing as the best way to reduce emissions and drive the innovation investments needed to move to a lower carbon future.
This may surprise any who think a major extractive sector industry would run away from instead of running towards such an idea.
But our members want policy makers to know that we agree that carbon pricing has important potential to help the country meet economic and environmental goals.
MAC’s Principles for Climate Change Policy Design, released today, identify several keys to making a national carbon price regime successful.
- It should be broad-based and should apply to all sectors of the Canadian economy.
- It should factor in and be sensitive to the challenges faced by emissions intensive and trade exposed sectors, as well as the unique circumstances of remote and northern regions.
- Given that several provinces already have carbon pricing and others are moving in that direction, it should work in tandem with existing and future schemes to avoid duplication.
While carbon pricing is a useful policy solution, it is not a silver bullet when it comes to addressing climate change. We see other measures as critically important as well.
Revenue neutrality is absolutely integral to meeting targets and accelerating change. Revenues generated through carbon pricing should be invested to support the development of lower carbon technologies and fuels, and energy and fuel efficiency, with a particular focus on investment in research and technology improvements in the resource sector.
Canadian policy must place the environment and the health of our economy on equal footing. Climate change policy needs to strike the right balance: it must translate into emissions reductions, while building Canada’s economic competitiveness and ensuring Canadians participate in the benefits of a transition to a lower carbon economy.
We need to think long-term and work collaboratively. The recent federal budget made important commitments to increase investments in research and development to cultivate the infrastructure and technologies that will be needed to reduce emissions, adapt to changing climates, improve fuel efficiency and help Canada transition to a lower carbon future. Industry and government can tackle this through strategic public-private partnerships.
While effective public policy is a cornerstone of what will drive change, industry also has to do its part.
Since our initial policy on climate change was adopted in 2000, our members have improved energy efficiency and reduced emissions through measures such as MAC’s mandatory Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative as well as through individual company efforts. In 2009, we went a step further by adopting the International Council on Mining and Metal’s climate change policy, which recognizes that sustained global action is required to address climate change.
MAC members have also undertaken first-of-their kind technological innovations all across Canada. In the mining sector, GHG emissions are largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels for energy. The best way we can reduce emissions is by managing our energy use.
Both the Raglan Mine in northern Quebec and the Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories have tapped into the power of wind to diversify their energy sources, reducing diesel consumption and CO2 emissions significantly.
In British Columbia, Teck is experimenting with liquefied natural gas as a fuel source in haul trucks – a first for a Canadian mine site. With this innovation, there is the potential to eliminate approximately 35,000 tonnes of CO2e annually at Teck’s steelmaking coal operations.
These are just some examples of how the industry is changing and improving. But, like everything, more can always be done.
The time is ripe for governments, industries and all Canadians to get even more creative about meeting our emissions goals. The Canadian mining industry sees itself as part of the solution. Our products—whether it be the extra copper needed in electric cars, the nickel and steelmaking coal used to make the steel in windmills, the rare earths and precious metals used in new and emerging battery technologies, or uranium in the generation of carbon-free nuclear energy—are essential to living in a lower carbon world.
With the right policies, including putting a price on carbon, Canada will achieve climate change aspirations while positioning its industries, such as mining, as leaders in a competitive next generation, lower-carbon global economy.
Pierre Gratton is President and CEO of The Mining Association of Canada.