Five ideas for how Canada can double down with Warren Buffett on renewables

The Oracle of Omaha has spoken and renewables are the future. Warren Buffett said earlier this week that he plans to double his investments in wind and solar to $30 billion.

As the legendary investor spoke, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) launched a new report calling for governments and the private sector to act to double renewable energy’s share of global demand to 36% by 2030. IRENA’s report, REmap 2030, suggests this goal is achievable using existing technology and that success will help prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

According to the report, hitting the 36% renewables target would reduce global demand for oil and gas by 15% and for coal by 25%, while also creating a net gain of nearly one million jobs.

So what can governments and industry in Canada do to ensure our country is well positioned to prosper from the renewables boom?

Here are 5 ideas:

1. Establish a Green Bank. A world-first, in 2012 the UK Government established the Green Investment Bank with a one-time capital injection of £3.8 billion and a mandate to invest in sustainable projects. It’s a real bank, operating independently of government, with serious investment criteria, and the goal of acting as a catalyst to attract private capital into priority sectors. If we want to be an energy superpower 50 years from now, we need our own Green Bank today.

2. Carbon pricing for all. I know, everybody (well, not everybody . . .) says that, with President Obama singing the carbon-pricing-tune loudly this week. Bottom-line, set a meaningful price on carbon and let the entrepreneurs and the market figure it out.

3. Turn down the rhetoric. OK, not exactly a solution. But it’s true that rhetoric – from all sides – is getting in the way of meaningful dialogue and progress. Climate and energy issues are a blood sport in this country. Not sure who that’s helping. Certainly not our economy or our environment.

4. Transform how energy incumbents see themselves. Oil and gas is going to be important to Canada’s economy for years to come. But the long-term health of our economy depends on these companies seeing themselves more broadly as purveyors of energy solutions. Plus, they have the money and the engineering prowess to move renewables more quickly from niche to mainstream. This shift is underway with large pipeline companies making multi-billion-dollar bets on renewables.

5. More love for Sustainable Development Technology Canada. These people are smart. They invest in innovation, including renewables. Give them more money, lots of it.