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The Chalk River reactor, the source of a controversial shutdown last year, from a file photo. (Canadian Press) ((Canadian Press))

While much of the talk about the federal budget centres on trying to get the economy out of the red, the Conservative government hasn’t given up on the green.

The environment is one of the areas that got a boost in the 2009 federal budget tabled Tuesday.

In the action plan, the Conservative government says it's committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. While the budget doesn't give a baseline year for the reductions, the Conservatives had earlier proposed a plan to cut emissions by 20 per cent below 2006 levels. The budget also proposes giving $1 billion over the next five years to support projects that encourage sustainable energy.

The federal government is also pledging $351 million toward the operations of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, which includes the development of the Advanced Candu reactor.

That money would also cover various expenses involved in keeping Chalk River Laboratories both safe and running.

Part of meeting climate-change goals in Canada and countries around the world, says the action plan, would involve an investment in nuclear power.

A review of Canada’s position in the nuclear industry would be conducted to ensure Canada is taking advantage of opportunities abroad and keeping an eye on energy security at home.

In addition, to keep that air at home clear, a new Clean Energy Fund – worth $375 million – would be established for the development of projects such as carbon capture and storage.

The idea is that the carbon dioxide would be captured where it’s produced at industrial facilities and then stored underground.

The government expects the total investment in clean technologies to be at least $2.5 billion over the next five years.

Driving across the enviro-investment aspect

But the development of new technologies isn’t the only environmental focus of the new economic action plan.

To ensure Canadians know why it's worthwhile to invest in the environment, another $10 million would go toward the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators initiative, which reports on clean air, water and greenhouse gas emissions.

The government is also hoping to encourage an understanding of the different environments that the country encompasses. It would put $87 million toward Arctic research facilities to improve Canadians’ understanding of the North, and act as a hub for scientific and environmental research.

Another $245 million would go toward the cleanup of contaminated federal sites over the next two years to reverse any damage thus far.

To ensure Canadians are doing their part, the budget includes $1 billion toward renovation and energy retrofits for social housing.

Still, some green-power people were wondering about the fate of at least one subsidy program in the budget.

Ottawa gives companies that generate power from renewable sources $10 per megawatt they produce.

But, there was no word on whether this program — which was set to run out of cash sometime in 2009 — was getting a reprieve, said Mike Crawley, president of Toronto-based AIM PowerGen Corp., a Toronto wind power company.

"The whole industry was built on this incentive," he said.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story reported the Conservatives pledged in the budget to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020; the story didn't say what year the reductions would be based on because the budget didn't include a year. To clarify, however, the Conservatives had earlier proposed a plan to cut emissions to 20 per cent below 2006 levels by 2020. In comparison, the Liberals had proposed cutting emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, the Green Party called for a 30-per-cent cut below 1990 levels by 2020, and the NDP urged an 80-per-cent cut below 1990 levels by 2050.
    Feb 17, 2009 8:17 AM ET