Green market squandered by Canada: study

Canadian business is failing to take advantage of the exploding global market for green technology, according to a study by the Conference Board of Canada.

Canadian business is failing to take advantage of the exploding global market for green technology, according to a study by the Conference Board of Canada.

The report — Global Climate-Friendly Trade: Canada's Chance to Clean Up  said world trade in climate-friendly technologies grew by an average of 10 per cent annually from 2002 to 2008. But it said Canada's exports in that area didn't grow at all during that period.

Canadian business could do a lot more to take advantage of its relative strength in several clean technologies, the Conference Board of Canada says. ((CBC))

"The trade data suggest that Canada is not deeply engaged in the global market for climate-friendly technologies," the report says. "To the degree that it is involved, it is more of a technology adopter than a technology maker."

It says Canadian businesses have the potential to be leaders in some of these technologies if they adopt more globally oriented business practices and get more policy support from government.

"Governments should eliminate domestic and international barriers to developing, trading, and investing in climate-friendly technologies," the report urges.

The report estimates that total global imports of technologies that help to cut greenhouse gas emissions were $209 billion in 2008. Canada's share of that was $4 billion — about a 10th of Germany's share. 

Climate-friendly techologies include things like energy-efficient lighting, solar power, hybrid cars, fuel cells, thermostats and wind turbines.

"Canada will not be a leader in everything, but it is not too late for this country to be a leader in some technologies, parts of technologies, or related services," said the report's author, Danielle Goldfarb, who is also associate director of the Conference Board's International Trade and Investment Centre.

"We have areas of relative strength due to our geography and resource base that we could harness to become world leaders in specific climate-friendly technologies and services."

Some of those areas of relative strength include gas turbines, membranes for landfills, waste containers and photovoltaic system controllers.

China leads

In a separate study released Thursday, Pew Charitable Trusts said Canada plowed $3.3 billion US into clean technologies in 2009. China was in the lead, investing $34.6 billion US in clean-energy financing, it said.

The Pew study said countries like China, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain that have "strong, national policies aimed at reducing global warming pollution and incentivizing the use of renewable energy are establishing stronger competitive positions in the clean energy economy."

Coincidentally, the Toronto Stock Exchange and Standard & Poor's launched the S&P/TSX Clean Technology Index Thursday. It's designed to measure the performance of TSX-listed companies that develop green technologies.

"A growing number of investors are interested in the clean technology investing theme," said Jasmit Bhandal, director of S&P Indices in Canada.