When governments spend tax money on public infrastructure they should prioritize environmentally sustainable, low-carbon construction materials and Buy Clean.
Construction materials— including aluminum, cement, steel, and wood— are in nearly everything we build and a vital economic backbone for Canada. Given the scale of our built infrastructure and how long we expect our roads, bridges and wastewater systems to last, what we build with matters.
Our buildings account for 13% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and when you add in our built infrastructure, you get a hefty portion of our carbon footprint. How we spend on public construction can create jobs and help to cut pollution. This crucial part of our Canada’s economic recovery is detailed in Blue Green Canada’s latest report.
The good news for us: when it comes to the carbon footprint of these construction materials, Canada has a unique advantage. Thanks in large part to our country’s clean electricity grid (which is now 82% emissions-free), goods produced here often have a smaller carbon footprint than those produced elsewhere. When you combine this with the efficiency of our manufacturers and the fact that it’s less polluting to ship materials across a land border than across an ocean, it becomes clear that Canada’s advantage is also its opportunity.
Canada’s target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 requires substantial carbon reductions across all economic sectors. Changing the way we look at public infrastructure can unlock previously overlooked pollution reduction opportunities while simultaneously supporting Canadian manufacturers and creating the conditions for them to thrive in the low-carbon global marketplace.
Our governments have an opportunity to build climate considerations into public infrastructure spending and policies in a way that rewards climate leaders and supports the low-carbon transition of Canada’s industries and economy. Building on a wealth of global precedents, there is an opportunity for Canadian governments to create similar policies and shift their procurement to lower carbon options while supporting local suppliers.
In addition to cutting pollution, “buying clean” and investing in public construction also creates jobs at a crucial time when our economy is in recovery. These employment and economic benefits are outlined in our latest report which recommends three actions to take advantage of Canada’s low-carbon advantage.
Blue Green Canada looks forward to supporting governments across the country to implement these achievable actions designed to capitalize on Canada’s domestic carbon advantage and support Canadian workers.