Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson says that the Canadian clean-tech industry does not get the recognition or respect that it deserves.
Speaking at the Canadian Clean Technology Showcase conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre, the mayor said that the high-tech sector—and particularly companies helping to bridge society off fossil fuels—deserve to be highlighted much more frequently in the media.
"The most conservative estimate is over 80,000 jobs in technology [in B.C.], which is more than forestry, oil and gas, and mining combined," Robertson said. "You don't see that in the business sections of our papers every day, but the innovation economy and technology are dominant."
He pointed out that the clean-tech sector "overlaps significantly with the resource sectors and provides solutions to pollution, to saving energy, [and] to protecting our environment".
He said that companies in this sector "are absolutely critical to our future".
"So we need more clean-tech champions," he said. "Other industries don't think twice when touting reasons why they are the key to our economic future. So given the staggering impacts and costs of climate change and the absolute necessity of taking action on it, clean tech has the most compelling reason of any industry in Canada for why it should be the focus of our economic-development efforts [and] why it should gain a lot more mind-share."
The conference brochure profiles 21 companies involved in everything from solar heating (Solaris Heating) to anaerobic digestion of waste (Paradigm Environmental Technologies) to capturing energy from streams without water diversions (Hydro Run Technologies).
"There is so much talk about the imperative of getting fossil fuels to market, to international markets, right now," Robertson said. "It's certainly dominant in the media. We need the same kind of talk about businesses that deliver energy that can power the grid and leave the air cleaner than before."
He stated that Credit Suisse's new LEED platinum office tower in downtown Vancouver will emit 85 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the norm.
The mayor said that all levels of government should be helping engineering companies that are able to do this to reach international markets as soon as possible.
"As a city and as long as I'm mayor, Vancouver will continue to lead the conversation on how we build our economy, how we plan for our future, and how we address climate change," Robertson said. "We are blessed with incredible natural resources and human capital here. We can't sit on the sidelines."
Citing the International Energy Agency as his source, Robertson said that worldwide fossil-fuel consumption subsidies reached $544 billion in 2012.
He contrasted that with significant reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions in some of the world's great cities.
In Vancouver, for instance, he said emissions have fallen four percent since 2007.
Vancouver's goal is to achieve a 20 percent reduction by 2020 and an 80 percent drop by 2050.
The mayor also said that there has been an 11 percent reduction in waste sent to landfills since 2008.
"So I'm proud that as a city, we've changed the conversation about what city hall can do," Robertson stated. "It's not just about reminding people to turn off their lights or shut down their idling vehicles. It's a long-term holistic planning approach with serious resources that are invested and a commitment to partner with public and private sectors and organizations and the community to deliver those results. In short, it's Vancouver using the immense challenge of climate change that is a very real threat to our future to help drive the innovation economy."