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Canada Can Create 20 Million Jobs If It Invests in Sustainability: Report

AP Images/Michael Dwyer

Sustainable energy isn’t just good for the planet — it’s a great way to create new jobs.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Columbia Institute that found that Canada can create 20 million jobs by 2050 if it invests in sustainable energy initiatives.

For a country with just over 36 million people, that would cover more than half of the population.

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"If Canada is serious about meeting our climate commitments, we need to move faster in areas like renewable energy, green building construction, building retrofits, and transportation infrastructure," Columbia Institute Executive Director Charley Beresford said in a statement.

"Meeting our climate goals is good for the planet and good for the economy and job creation," he said.

Through this transition, Canada would also be fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals, which Global Citizen campaigns on. Global Goal 11 calls for sustainable cities and communities, and Global Goals 7-9 call for clean energy, innovation, and economic growth, among other things. You can promote these goals by taking action here.  

The report from the Columbia Institute argues that Canada’s job boom would come from a broad range of sources, both direct and indirect.

Sustainable investments would generate 4 million direct jobs and 16 million indirect jobs, according to the report.

Canada is currently trailing behind most of the rest of the world when it comes to jobs in renewable energy. In 2016, the country had just 36,000 jobs in the sector, compared to 769,000 in the US. When accounting for population size, that’s roughly double the amount of jobs.  

In 2010, Canada had 264,000 jobs in the broader energy market, the bulk of which were in petroleum-related fields.

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The new report suggests that Canada can untap vast economic potential if it redirects its investment priorities.

Two million of the direct jobs through 2050 would be dedicated to erecting green buildings and retrofitting existing infrastructure to be more environmentally friendly. Nearly 25% of Canada’s carbon emissions come from buildings so this project would help the country meet its goals under the Paris climate agreement.

Overhauling the existing electrical grid to be dependent on renewable and nuclear energy would generate 1.18 million jobs. Roughly 40% of these jobs would come from hydroelectric plants, 25% would come wind farms, 10% from solar power sources, and 5% each from tidal and nuclear power, with the remaining jobs coming from geothermal and other sources.  

The rest of the direct jobs would be in “district energy systems,” such as water pipes that can efficiently regulate the temperature of neighborhoods.  

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The direct job boom would have a cascading effect throughout the economy, the report argues, bolstering other jobs sectors, boosting demand for new products, and creating cottage industries to support renewable energy.

While this analysis reflects other reports of recent years, it also has a strong basis in current economic trends.

For instance, the US saw renewable energy jobs grow 17 times as fast as the rest of the economy in 2016. China, meanwhile, has plans to create 13 million direct renewable energy jobs by 2020.  

Oftentimes, economic growth and green energy are framed as either/or pursuits. This latest report is further evidence that jobs and sustainability can actually go hand-in-hand.