Why Canadian Tire is plugging in, Microsoft's plans to go carbon negative, and how hydrogen could soon be cheaper than gas


‘Stomping on the atmosphere’

We just lived through the warmest decade ever recorded. The last five years were the hottest since records began, and 2019 was the second hottest year ever—only narrowly beaten to the top spot by 2016. As the director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies put it, “these trends are the footprints of human activity stomping on the atmosphere.” 

The atmosphere isn’t the only natural system on Earth to receive the heel of humanity’s boot. The past decade has also been the warmest on record in the oceans, with the amount of heat added “equivalent to every person on the planet running 100 microwave ovens all day and all night.” 

This unfathomably large, planetary change is having a profound effect on our weather. A new study has found evidence of climate change affecting Earth’s weather every single day since 2012. That means a seven-year-old child has never lived through a day where they were not influenced by a changing climate. And every year that goes by, more children will be born into a generation that will never know life outside the grips of the climate crisis. 

The heart of the budget

Fighting climate change requires urgent, all-encompassing government action. So it is encouraging to see signals that climate will be at the heart of the upcoming federal budget. As Clean Energy Canada’s Merran Smith put it, “climate change poses risks to both the economy and the country’s financial system. But climate solutions also create new economic opportunities, and Canadians want and deserve a sustainable economy.”

Business leading the way on climate

You’ve heard of businesses going carbon neutral. Many are doing it—and many more should. But why stop there? Last week Microsoft said it has plans to go carbon negative, meaning it will remove more carbon pollution from the atmosphere than it emits, with the ultimate goal of neutralizing the company’s entire emission footprint since it began in 1975. Indeed, as some governments lag on climate, we can increasingly look to the private sector to lead the way. As BlackRock’s CEO said last week, “awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”

Canadian Tire is plugging in

Speaking of business leadership, Canadian Tire is embracing the shift to electric cars by installing 290 chargers at 90 of its stores. The move means its plugged-in customers can charge up while they shop—although, they’ll undoubtedly be spending more time in the home and hardware aisles than engine maintenance.

Electric buses on route to Guelph

The residents of Guelph, Ontario, are soon to be in for a low-carbon transit treat. The city is modernizing its bus fleet by adding 65 new electric buses following investments from the local, federal, and provincial governments. As Catherine McKenna, now minister of infrastructure and communities, put it, “communities across Canada need access to modern, green public transit infrastructure. It’s essential to building a healthy, sustainable future.”

A world-first in B.C.

B.C.’s Harbour Air is aiming to become the first airline in the world to go completely electric. Watch our video of its first test flight last month, which saw the company trial a new electric float plane made by Seattle-based MagniX. 

In December 2019, B.C.’s Harbour Air made aviation history with the successful flight of the world’s first all-electric commercial aircraft.

The Arrival

Korea’s Hyundai and its sister group Kia are backing UK electric vehicle startup Arrival with a $143-million investment. Arrival plans to make delivery vans (that look like they’ve been driven out of the set of Minority Report) with a 300-mile (480-kilometre) range using software by Canada’s Blackberry QXM. Stay tuned, these vans could be bringing sci-fi scenes to a city near you.

A well of opportunity

Oil production and clean energy might not seem like the most obvious partners. But with some innovative thinking, and a rising demand for lithium, some of Alberta’s oil fields could be getting a makeover. An Albertan company has developed a way to filter out lithium for use in batteries using waste brines in oil wells. When it comes to batteries, Canada has plenty to offer—like Canadian startup e-Zn, which recently received $2 million to develop an innovative new zinc battery that can be paired with a solar array. 

Hydrogen could outprice gas

Hydrogen could provide a cost-competitive, clean-burning alternative to gas that can be used in pre-existing natural gas infrastructure. And, given the right policies (like carbon pricing), could outcompete natural gas on price by 2050, according to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Europe invests in cutting pollution

Germany, one of Europe’s biggest polluters, has agreed on a plan to completely phase out coal power by 2038—a big deal for a country that currently uses coal to produce a third of its electricity. The move came shortly after the EU announced it would dedicate a quarter of its budget (a huge US$1.1 trillion) to tackling climate change. Given the alarm bells sounding in the first story of this week’s Clean Energy Review, let’s hope other governments, companies and commissions follow in their footsteps.

Clean Energy Review is sponsored in part by Genus Capital Management, a leading provider of fossil-fuel-free investments. 
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