Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new program of corporate relief on Monday, designed to help companies that are struggling during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The new program will provide bridge loans of up to $60 million and guarantees of up to $80 million for companies earning more than $300 million in annual revenue. Companies that receive the loans, however, have to abide by a set of rules that include restricting executive bonuses and investing in climate action.
Companies will be expected to publish annual reports on climate investments, detailing how they plan to reduce their environmental footprints, and how their operations support the country’s commitments made under the Paris climate agreement.
"[The loans will] make sure that companies that came into this crisis on a strong footing get to the other side, and can rebound quickly," Bill Morneau, Canada’s finance minister, said in a press conference, according to France 24.
"Companies that receive this funding will be required to commit to future climate disclosures, and environmental sustainability goals," he added.
Canada is currently far off its commitments under the Paris climate agreement, according to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis nonprofit that tracks climate commitments. The country is still too heavily reliant on coal, has failed to rein in the fossil fuel industry, and has made inconsistent progress at the regional level.
The COVID-19 pandemic could push the country to accelerate its climate plans.
Coronavirus has caused countries around the world to restrict their economies by forcing non-essential workers to stay in their homes to limit the virus’ spread. The economic disruption has been immense and countries have had to craft vast stimulus packages to support individuals and businesses during this challenging time.
As countries begin to plan economic reopenings, many world leaders are rethinking the heavy use of fossil fuels. These leaders are increasingly pushing for a "green recovery" in the aftermath of the pandemic that would allow people to get back to work in ways that support national climate goals and the planet’s wildlife.
Embarking on a green recovery would not only mitigate climate change, but it would set countries up for long-term prosperity by cultivating economic sectors — such as sustainable agriculture, ecotourism, and renewable energy — that can thrive in the decades ahead.
The European Union, in particular, has championed the idea of "building back better" and is urging countries to incorporate climate action into coronavirus stimulus plans.
"If an airline goes to national authorities and asks for support, I think it is legitimate to ask: 'What are you going to do for society in return? Are you going to put a cap on bonuses? Are you going to stop paying dividends? Are you going to lower your carbon footprint?'" Frans Timmermans, EU climate commissioner, said in a video call with lawmakers on Monday.