Climate-friendly technologies could clean up

March 31, 2010

OTTAWA: The market for technologies that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is exploding, yet Canadian companies are failing to take advantage of opportunities to sell climate-friendly technologies globally, says a Conference Board of Canada report. But there are still areas in which Canadian companies can still excel.

Global Climate-Friendly Trade: Canada’s Chance to Clean Up says Canadian companies are not seizing or even maintaining opportunities to sell such “climate-friendly” technologies globally.

World trade in these technologies grew an average of 10% annually from 2002 to 2008. Leading traders are in Europe and Asia, particularly China, which saw trade grow 40% over that period.

Canada’s exports did not grow at all during this six-year period, but fell (when inflation is taken into account), says the Conference Board. Moreover, while Canadian businesses are slowly increasing their adoption of other countries’ climate-friendly technologies, they are doing so at a much slower rate than the world average.

The report notes Canada does have some areas of strength. They include:

• Gas turbines under and over 5 megawatts

• Membranes for landfills, gas stations and oil refineries

• Solid waste linings

• Towers, masts, clutches and universal joints for wind turbines

• Waste containers, large and small capacity

• Distilling and rectifying plants

• Hydraulic turbines and water wheels, parts

• Medical, surgical and laboratory stabilizers for energy efficiency

• Parts for non-electric heating appliances

• Photovoltaic system controllers

“It’s not too late for this country to be a leader in some technologies, parts of technologies, or related services,” said Danielle Goldfarb, associate director, International Trade and Investment Centre and author of the report.

She says the worldwide industry is estimated to become the third largest in a decade’s time as the world stabilizes greenhouse gas emissions through wind and solar power, hybrid cars, more efficient electrical appliances, and waste minimization technologies. Carbon capture and storage, tidal and wave energy, and advanced electric cars are examples of technologies that are expected to become available soon.

To become a world leader, the Conference Board says governments need to send clear policy signals and encourage more globally oriented business strategies by eliminating domestic and international barriers to developing, trading, and investing in climate-friendly technologies.

Canadian businesses also have some work to do. The Conference Board says they need to identify technologies, parts of technologies, and related services in which they have the potential to be world leaders, and become more willing to adopt global technologies in other areas.