Aid package will help sustain 10,000 jobs in environmental clean-up and emissions reductions, as companies grapple with coronavirus pandemic
By Jack Graham
TORONTO, April 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A major energy sector aid package announced on Friday by Canada's Prime Minister featured major funding for sustaining 10,000 jobs in environmental clean-up and emissions reductions, as companies and workers grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
The $2.5 billion ($1.8 billion US) package will include $750 million ($536 million US) to help companies reduce emissions that contribute to global warming, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference outside his residence.
"Just because we're in a health crisis doesn't mean we can neglect the environmental crisis," he said.
"Right now, many energy firms are experiencing a cash crunch so they don't have the funds to invest in technologies to reduce emissions or fix methane leaks," he said.
The coronavirus has killed 1,250 people in Canada, and there have been 30,670 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Friday.
The emissions reduction fund, which includes $75 million ($54 million US) to help the offshore energy industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, will provide loans to companies to help reduce pollution and waste, with a focus on methane, the government said.
Methane is believed to cause around 25% of manmade global warming and is Canada's second most common greenhouse gas emission after carbon dioxide, according to the government.
Trudeau said the measures would maintain 10,000 jobs.
"Our goal is to create immediate jobs in these provinces while helping companies avoid bankruptcy and supporting our environmental targets," he said.
On Twitter, the package was called a "win-win" by the Business Council of Alberta that said it would "keep thousands of Albertans working in some of our hardest-hit industries, while also improving the environment."
With $1.7 billion ($1.2 billion US) earmarked to clean up orphan and abandoned oil wells, the package could kick-start significant job growth in clean-up work, said Julia Levin of Environmental Defence, an advocacy organization.
"The government's support needs to be focused on transitioning workers towards a sustainable, clean energy economy," she said.
However, some climate activists said they were concerned that the investments could let private companies off the hook for environmental damage by making taxpayers pay for cleaning up orphan oil wells and reducing emissions.
"At the end of the day we should be moving towards a 'polluter pays' model, where industry is responsible for those emissions reductions," said Vanessa Corkal, policy analyst at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a think tank.
(Reporting by Jack Graham, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.