Pembina Institute: Business Coalition for a Clean Economy

Business Coalition for a Clean Economy // Building a Business Coalition to Support a Clean Economy

The narrative we’re used to is that the business community is pro-development and pro-economy and that conservation and pro-climate sentiments lie with the environmental community. It’s widely accepted that there is a bad guy and a good guy in this story, told as if it were a fairytale, and never the two should meet, unless one of them is only going to narrowly escape being eaten or some such.

The Pembina Institute—a Canadian non-profit think tank focused on climate and energy policy—is among those who know that the reality is far more complex. It’s more like a RussiaTolstoyn novel, in fact, with many characters, offering differing perspectives, driven by a variety of motivations and, indeed, moral imperatives. The truth is that many companies believe in the vision of a clean economy and understand the need for the right policies to get there. These companies know that strong climate and energy policies provide certainty and are good for business.

 Moreover, these businesses have valuable insight for government on the opportunities, catalysts, and challenges of transitioning to a clean economy. Theirs’ is not a minor, or by definition, adversarial roll and they’re not about to be written out so listening carefully matters.

There is a prominent business voice in Canada that says government needs to slow down on climate action but this is often based on the views of heavy/extractive industry players. However, in their conversations with companies—-in 2017 the Pembina Institute conducted a needs assessment stage with key companies with whom they had a history of collaboration—- the Pembina Institute concluded that this booming “business voice” did not represent the views and values of many other businesses in other sectors.

The need to unify and amplify that cleaner voice was identified and from that understanding the Business Coalition for a Clean Economy—a community of progressive companies that can participate in public discourse and call for action to transition to a clean future—was born. Its mission in life being to champion bold climate action by government and industry, engage in the design of effective and durable climate policies via discussions with government and inspire climate action and investment in clean solutions.

This matters so much in part because as governments come and go, a province’s commitment to a low carbon economy can, as we’ve seen, change. The plot can be lost. Yes, the current B.C. government has demonstrated its commitment to a low carbon economy but, as have seen in other jurisdictions, a turnover in government can result in a shift in priorities and policies

The business sector, however, isn’t going anywhere and has a powerful role to play in broadening the support base for a clean economy.  Business leaders from a diversity of sectors calling to transition decisively towards a prosperous low-carbon economy provide an important, consistent voice. The Pembina Institute is getting that voice listened to.

With the release of a revised climate and energy plan in B.C. in December 2018 (CleanBC), and the allocation of $902 million over three years to support the implementation of the strategy, the B.C. government has signaled strong commitment to meeting provincial targets for cutting carbon pollution across the economy.

The B.C. government will need continuous encouragement to realize the long term ambition of a prosperous low-carbon economy, and to build on the momentum created. This means following through on development and implementation of strong policies and allocating adequate resources. The Business Coalition for a Clean Economy’s official launch, which saw 42 companies join as members, representing over 11,000 jobs and $3.4 billion in annual revenues, shows that support is there. (Since the launch, the coalition has grown. There are now 46 members, representing over 13,000 jobs and $4.3 billion in annual revenue). The coalition emboldens government to build on climate progress, rather than back away, because decision-makers see businesses do support climate action.

The coalition provides an organized, progressive business voice — which is currently lacking. Many businesses do not have government relations capacity, let alone the capacity to track policy progress, that niche is being filled. A community of businesses that champion a clean economy, want to engage in discussion and design of policy solutions to this end, and inspire action (internally to their staff and externally to their customers and suppliers) has been formed.

The coalition facilitates access between business and policy makers to inform policy design and as a result of this success, businesses—many of whom have operations across Canada, and internationally—are asking for the coalition to engage beyond B.C.

The best news in this story is, there are going to be sequels.