by Issam Dairanieh, Special to Montreal Gazette
(Originally published in the Montreal Gazette on October 9, 2017.)
The roads we travel on, the plastics that protect our goods, the fuels that move us forward: what do all of them have in common? These are products we encounter every day, and they each have a role in reducing global carbon emissions.
There are efforts underway today across Canada to reduce the climate impact of heavy industrial products, while also developing new markets and seizing economic opportunities. The technology that gets us there is CO2 conversion, and Canada is currently the world leader. But Canada needs to continue to invest in this exciting and growing sector, as other countries — specifically Japan and Germany — set their sights on dominating CO2 conversion technology.
The ideal example of Canada’s leadership is here in Montreal at Carbicrete. Founded by McGill alumni, Carbicrete has been recognized for their breakthrough technologies using CO2 conversion to produce environmentally friendly concrete, and are semifinalists in the international Carbon XPRIZE competition. Both federal and provincial governments provide policy support for CO2 technology development to make this possible in the first place, and education centres — including McGill’s Faculty of Science and the Department of Electrical Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal, among others — help develop the next generation of clean technology innovators and leaders.
Three key variables allow Canada to successfully support a growing CO2 conversion technology ecosystem: partnerships, policies and people.
Partnerships: Canada has public-private partnerships in the CO2 conversion sector that remain unmatched across the world. Through the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Canadian government has sponsored matching funds programs at both the federal and provincial level to spur innovation in CO2 conversion. For example, the federal government recently sponsored the Carbon Capture & Conversion Institute, based in Vancouver, enabling entrepreneurs to test technologies at a pilot scale.
Canada’s fossil fuel industry is leading the push to manage carbon emissions as well. These private companies are realizing that they can capitalize on CO2 conversion and other clean technology to raise corporate profits while investing in a more sustainable future. Evok Innovations, a partnership between private energy groups, entrepreneurs and CEOs, and Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) are investing in R&D to find solutions to critical economic and environmental issues within the oil and gas industry.
Policies: Canada’ current regulatory system is ideal for CO2 conversion development and deployment — favouring policies that call for decreasing emissions on a large scale while still protecting investments. At the federal level, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s ambitious plan to decrease carbon emissions by 30 per cent before 2030, and Canada has gained international attention for its decision to impose a national price on carbon in 2018.
People: Beyond industry, Canadian research centres and academic institutions have worked on the cutting-edge of energy innovation since CO2 conversion first emerged as a climate solution. The country has helped lead the charge on conversion advancement, including conducting early stage R&D and successfully executing pilot programs.
Public-private partnerships, innovation-friendly policies and world-class research institutions are the necessary elements to expand the CO2 conversion sector. While other countries might excel in one area or another, Canada is a true role model in all three key variables, as the Carbicrete example indicates.
However, for Canada to continue to lead the world in this critical technology space, public and private sectors must increase their investments and commitments in the years ahead to support this unique ecosystem. Every dollar Canada spends on conversion technology research and innovation returns tenfold to the economy, while further positioning the country for global leadership. The opportunity to really reduce carbon emissions and grow new local industries is in front of us, and Canada must seize it.
Issam Dairanieh is CEO of CO2 Sciences, a global research and development platform seeking to catalyze innovative CO2 conversion technologies through funding and partnerships. He is based in San Francisco.About The Global CO2 Initiative:
The Global CO2 Initiative (GCI) was created to develop and commercialize the trillion dollar CO2 products industry. These products use recycled CO2 as a key ingredient; examples include cement, aggregates, chemicals, polymers and carbon fiber. The Initiative coordinates with international partners focused on a common mission to deploy and scale CO2 products across multiple sectors.
CO2 Sciences, the non-profit arm of the GCI, will award R&D funding to qualified research applicants creating innovative technologies. The GCI commercialization arm will work in parallel to accelerate the market for CO2 products by investing in commercial-stage companies. For more information, visit www.globalco2initiative.org and follow the Global CO2 Initiative on Twitter: @reuseCO2