The biggest spending budget tabled in Canadian history includes roughly $17.6 billion directly towards trying to lower greenhouse gas emissions and investing in net-zero technologies.
The 2021-22 budget promises that, with the increase in spending devoted to climate policy, Canada will be able to achieve a 36 per cent decrease in emissions over 2005 levels by 2030 — more ambitious than the commitments made in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
"We are at a pivotal moment in the green transformation. We can lead, or we can be left behind. Our government knows that the only choice for Canada is to be in the vanguard," Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday.
The budget includes the creation of the country’s first green bond, spending and tax credits for carbon-capture and storage technology, and long-term funding for low-emission aviation and marine fuel development.
Two areas of climate spending that will likely be of particular importance in Manitoba are in the agricultural sector, and a new focus on mining for the minerals needed to create batteries (such as lithium).
For farms, an additional $270 million is being allocated to pre-existing agricultural climate programs looking to research and implement regionally-specific practices that can lower emissions.
Additionally, the budget makes commitments to allocate funding to efficient grain dryers. It also announced the expansion of the carbon tax return to farmers to the tune of $100 million in its first year.
The government will create the Critical Battery Minerals Centre of Excellence within the Department of Natural Resources, costing $9.6 million over three years.
The centre will co-ordinate policy across the country, as Canada looks to become a critical part of the supply chain in battery manufacturing. An additional $36.8 million is being allocated over three years to federal mineral extraction research.
In 2016, Canada was estimated to have approximately four per cent of the world’s known lithium reserves, and yet no lithium mines were operating in the country. Lithium exploration in Manitoba is underway by several companies.
Curt Hull, director of Winnipeg’s non-profit Climate Change Connection, said at a bird’s-eye view, he’s happy to see the federal government make such strides in climate policy.
But there is always a want for more funding to fix the problem, he said.
"I am concerned about how much of this the funding that’s being made available is going to be utilized by the provincial government," Hull said.
The Manitoba government has been slow to capitalize on federal climate funding in the past.
Other areas note include support provided to Canadians looking to retrofit their homes for energy efficiency.
Starting this summer, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. will provide interest-free loans up to $40,000 to homeowners and landlords. The program will cost $4.4 billion upfront over the next five years.
"So we see that the retrofits are tied to energy audits, and we’re already trying to scale up that sector," said Laura Tyler, executive director of Sustainable Building Manitoba.
"They’re saying about 200,000 houses will be able to be covered by this. So, that’s not even all of Winnipeg. So it’s only a start. It’s not everything."
The incentive to manufacture zero-emission technologies is ripe, as the budget lays out a 50 per cent tax cut for businesses in that market, effective Jan. 1, 2022, expiring in 2032. The tax break is estimated in the budget to result in $45 million in lost revenues over five years.
The budget also outlined the pursuit of a cross-border carbon tariff to be pursued with the United States. More details are likely to be provided at the climate summit later this week.
Other climate spending areas include funding for innovative technologies for large emitters, urban forestry, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and other mechanisms of lowering emissions from the transportation sector.
Sarah Lawrynuik reported on climate change for the Winnipeg Free Press.