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Canada's clean tech industry on the rise after decades of investment

A wind turbine outside Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
A wind turbine outside Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex in Toronto. Photo: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images

Canada has emerged as a clean technology leader, with 12 firms on the Global Cleantech 100 list. The list, published by industry monitor Cleantech Group, identifies firms most likely to make a significant environmental and economic impact in the next 5–10 years.

Why it matters: Businesses are facing increasing pressure to reduce their environmental footprint and mitigate risks tied to extreme weather events. Clean tech helps traditional industries operate more efficiently, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and feed a growing population more effectively by creating sustainable construction materials, purifying contaminated water, turning plastics into specialty chemicals, making farming more efficient, and improving energy efficiency in buildings.

Details: Canada's clean tech sector has grown through investment from both industry and government. Sustainable Development Technology Canada, an arm’s-length fund of the federal government that finances clean technology demonstration projects, has seeded the sector with $1.36 billion in funding since 2001.

  • Support for the sector was maintained even as other developing technologies were attracting more investment.
  • Private venture capital is also expressing renewed interest: $365 million was invested in Canadian clean tech companies in the first half of 2018, double the amount in the same period of 2017.

Yes, but: Even as last year’s UN report highlighted the urgency and scale of climate change, carbon emissions rose 3% in 2018. Clean tech can offer some ways to mitigate carbon emissions, but it is far from sufficient.

The big picture: The greatest problems facing the environment are extremely difficult to solve. But entrepreneurs are working hard to develop solutions, and countries that have invested in those solutions will be well positioned to reap the economic benefits.

Jane Kearns is a senior adviser with MaRS Cleantech.