Lorraine Mitchelmore says Canada needs to move to green economy quicker

Here's why former Shell Canada executive Lorraine Mitchelmore is focusing some of her time towards pushing for a quicker transition to a green economy in Canada.

Former oil executive the co-chair of new think-tank pushing for accelerated low-carbon shift

Shell Canada president Lorraine Mitchelmore speaks during the opening of Quest carbon capture and storage in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., in November 2015. Mitchelmore left the position by the end of the year. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

A few months removed from leading Shell Canada, Lorraine Mitchelmore is focusing some of her time towards pushing for a quicker transition to a green economy.

She's co-chair of Smart Prosperity, a think-tank aimed at promoting carbon pricing and other methods to lower carbon emissions in Canada. 

You never want to be the marginal barrel [of oil] economically or environmentally- Lorraine Mitchelmore, former Shell executive

The group includes other prominent business leaders such as Loblaw executive Galen Weston and Telus executive Darren Entwistle. Smart Prosperity has five main goals:

  • Accelerate clean innovation across the economy.
  • Boost energy and resource efficiency.
  • 3 price pollution and waste. 
  • Invest in advanced infrastructure and skills.
  • Conserve and value nature.

Here are four questions we posed to Mitchelmore about the new initiative. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the Smart Prosperity launch this week (Submitted Photo)

Q: Explain what attracted you to Smart Prosperity?

A: This happened a couple of years ago. You could see the global economy starting to change and I think we needed to have a broader cross section of people to look at how could Canada compete in this changing economy? An economy where we are transitioning to a much higher performance, lower pollution economy globally because what I think is driving that is population growth of 2 billion people on the planet and the challenge of climate change, which is the biggest challenge of our time. I could see that we as a country needed a vision because I think it is a turning point where we become a much more of a global player in this new transitioning economy.

Q: So this organization has been in the works for a while?

A: Yes, that's correct. We brought together people from business, indigenous, labour, environment, just a broad cross section of people and I think that's what makes it different and unique. I think it's a group of people that is trying to find solutions and solutions where the environment and economy are no longer at odds. It's really about our resource economy is a strength, if we can develop it much more sustainably and actually enables the transition to a cleaner economy. In order to that, we actually have to have a conversation in Canada that focuses on solutions.

Q: Do you think oil companies are committed to this clean economy?

I think oil companies have already demonstrated that they believe in climate change and they demonstrated that they want to reduce the environmental footprint because I don't think you would find anywhere else in the world where you have 13 companies that have come together in the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance to openly share all of their technology for the sole purpose of reducing environmental footprint. So I think they are very committed. Also, no where else in the world would you see, I'm confident in that, that they have put a cap on emissions in our industry. I hope that through finding solutions we will be able to get our products to global markets because at this point we are selling our resources to the U.S., our only customer who has now become our competitor, at a discount. This is not right for Canadians to do.

Q: Based on the downturn in the oil industry, how big of a challenge is it right now for these companies to try to invest in new technologies and reduce their environmental footprint?

A: Our industry is really challenged right now. The second challenge is the investment in new technology. But I see this as a potential industry, clean technology because it is not just industry that needs to invest in this, it is a whole new market economy that actually could invest in finding solutions because finding solutions for the economy is quite important for us in the long term to export our product to global markets. The world is demanding more energy, but they are demanding it at a reduced environmental footprint. You never want to be the marginal barrel economically or environmentally. We need innovation to make sure our product is economically and environmentally competitive.

Some of the interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Continued growth of bitumen production is expected in the oilsands.