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How a new ‘nature economy’ is transforming the fight for B.C.’s ancient forests

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Another way a ‘nature economy’ is finding a foothold is through talent acquisition. Scott Sinclair, whose company, SES Consulting, retrofits buildings to move them off fossil fuels, says having a nature-first mindset baked into the business model attracts innovative young minds who grew up with the environment front and centre – as well as clients.

“It’s just, I think, an incredible business opportunity,” he says.

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For some environmentalists as well, this work is about combining environmental action, long associated with protesters blocking roads and affixing themselves onto trees, with the idea of promoting business.

Though still niche, it’s starting to happen.

‘Valuing’ Nature

To understand the economic value of their natural assets, some communities are putting a price on them.

The District of West Vancouver is one of the first in Canada to do so.

There are some rare strands of urban, old growth trees left standing in the city’s Lighthouse Park. In a walk through the park, District officials Matthew MacKinnon and Heather Keith explained the uniqueness of the old growth forest. They told Global News how these ancient trees, some over 500 years old, maintain an extremely biodiverse ecosystem in the park, while offering people a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

“There are trees here that have lived longer than any person that’s alive right now,” says Heather Keith, the senior manager of climate action and environment for the District.

The municipality has determined the idea has value in dollar figures. It’s one of the first places in Canada to take this approach, estimating its natural assets – forests, waterways, parks – to be in the ballpark of $3.2 billion, with forests providing up to $1.8 billion in ‘services.’

They’ve estimated that to be the cost of ‘replacing’ those assets, which provide immeasurable ecological and health benefits to the community, Keith says.

An infographic showing West Vancouver’s dollar valuations of its natural assets.

Many Indigenous communities are also charting a clear path forward toward that new nature economy.

One model that’s proven successful is called Coast Funds. It’s an investment strategy created by coastal First Nations to pool money to help local communities shift from extraction – logging old growth trees, for example – and toward protection. This means keeping those vital resources intact and leveraging them to make them profitable – ecotourism, carbon credits or guardianship programs.

“We understood that 500-year-old trees don’t just grow up overnight,” says Dallas Smith, the president of Nanwakolas Council, a group of six First Nations that’s part of the Coast Funds initiative.

The broader financial and business communities have realized that the costs of environmental inaction are far greater – and are starting to move toward a sustainable direction, too.

Adam Scott is an analyst whose group, Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health, monitors how credible Canadian pension funds are when it comes to climate action. In January, Shift released a report arguing there’s a long way to go. But at least there is a recognition that things need to change.

“The smart players in the financial industry have understood that […] the financial performance of their institutions is based on having a climate strategy,” he said.

Unfortunately, the moves are largely voluntary and without teeth, says Tom Rand, a managing partner with ArcTern Ventures. In other words, he insists, there’s a long way to go before a nature economy becomes the norm.

“If you’re asking if the broad swath of economic actors are understanding that we can make money preserving nature, absolutely not.”

But big trees are offering an inspiration for change. People name them. They trek through the forest to see them, and in the case of photographer TJ Watt, to document them before they’re gone.

A man stands at the base of a huge tree.

Photo:
TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance

“These are some of the most enchanting and beautiful ecosystems on all of Planet Earth,” says Watt, who represents the Ancient Forest Alliance.

“They’re really some of our oldest friends.”

Tracking giants

When author and book editor Amanda Lewis set out to write a book about big trees, she thought she’d focus on the dwindling, majestic resources nestled in the coastal forests of B.C.

But, solo expedition after solo expedition hiking through various groves in search of the biggest of the big led her to another, more optimistic conclusion – “I wanted to focus on what we have left” and not so much on “what we’ve lost.”

The pandemic was a catalyst for Lewis – and, it seems, for many other Canadians too.

 

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Economy

U.S. economy and new incentives put Canada at disadvantage in Stellantis negotiations, professor says – CBC.ca

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  • 1 day ago
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  • Duration 4:03

Two weeks of negotiations between the federal and provincial governments and Stellantis have failed to produce a new deal for the NextStar EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont. Ian Lee, an associate professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, says the economic might of the U.S., coupled with the incentives offered in recent legislation, make it extremely challenging for Canada to compete.

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Economy

Watch Moody's Analytics' Ell on Asia Economy – Bloomberg

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Watch Moody’s Analytics’ Ell on Asia Economy  Bloomberg

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Theo Argitis and Robert Asselin: Trudeau can't keep juicing the economy with more spending – Financial Post

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World entering period of scarcity, meaning Canada won’t be able to spend its way to prosperity

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The unexpected pick up in Canadian inflation last month — even if it turns out to be a blip — is a fresh reminder that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is facing a more perilous economic policy landscape going forward, with difficult trade-offs on the horizon.

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The natural economic instinct of this government has been generous budget spending and open international migration.

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Yet, Trudeau doesn’t need to look much further than Statistics Canada’s inflation numbers or last week’s call from the G7 for global “de-risking” to see how things are changing.

With the world entering a period of scarcity — from more expensive money to supply constraints — the rationale to juice the nation’s economy is weakening.

The housing crisis is a manifestation of that, as are broader price pressures and the Bank of Canada’s historically aggressive run of interest rate hikes.

Trudeau came to power in 2015 on an anti-austerity platform to reverse his Conservative predecessor’s sluggish growth record which, as the Liberals were quick to remind Canadians at the time, was the weakest since R.B. Bennet was prime minister in the 1930s.

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The economics were sound at the time, even if the growth dividend didn’t pay off.

Canada’s economy was demand deficient early in Trudeau’s mandate as commodity prices slumped, while the extra spending helped ease financial stability risks by taking some pressure off the Bank of Canada to stoke growth.

Higher international migration drove gains in labour income and provided support to a housing market that was still largely within reach of affordability. Inflation wasn’t a worry. In fact, the concern for policymakers was it may not have been high enough.

New social programs, meanwhile, allowed the government to make significant strides on equality and redistribution — particularly with respect to lowering poverty.

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The Trudeau administration’s weighty policy objectives were synergetic to the economic environment. Policies were rowing more or less in the same direction.

The current post-pandemic environment, though, is no longer as accommodating.

While many policymakers and economists still buy into a moderately optimistic outlook, with continued growth and inflation brought into check, less favourable outcomes are increasingly plausible.

There is a real possibility that inflation and interest rates will remain well above pre-pandemic levels, growth becomes more anemic, budget dynamics worsen and the climate transition proves costly.

Instead of working in concert, the government’s three core economic policy objectives — growth, equity and price stability — could become increasingly in conflict.

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For example, increasing immigration is a long-term positive for an economy threatened by aging demographics. And more social spending is typically associated with less inequality.

But higher borrowing costs stoked by large increases in population and government spending will impact disproportionately lower income Canadians and young families, potentially creating divisions and threatening new sorts of inequality.

Add energy transition to the mix and national security issues and the landscape becomes a minefield.

The policy arena will be more ambiguous and the government pulled in multiple directions. Policy paralysis, wasted effort and poor allocation of resources are real risks.

There are certain fundamentals and policy guardrails, however, that can help the government navigate this challenge.

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A construction worker frames a new home in London, Ont.
Temporarily slowing the pace of entrants to allow housing supply to catch up could be a good solution to the current housing crisis. Photo by Mike Hensen/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network

First, policymakers should prioritize growing GDP on a per capita basis and increasing productivity over expanding the overall aggregate economy. Both are important, but the former is where true prosperity lies and where Canada is failing. Masking underlying weakness with gains in national income is just a recipe for stagnant wages. Enhanced productivity also helps dampen inflationary pressures.

Second, toolkits and policy precision matter.

For example, supply side solutions are critical to productivity, but policymakers also need to be cognizant of short-term impacts in an inflationary world. Focusing more on economic migration and temporarily slowing the pace of new entrants to allow housing supply to catch up appears a reasonable solution to the current housing crisis.

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Another example is industrial policy, which needs to become more sophisticated. Advanced economies will compete in advanced industries, where there is a concentration of R&D and skilled workers. Quick fixes through corporate subsidies, however, are not the answer. Canada needs a modern science and technology architecture that translates ideas into economic outputs, higher wages and better living standards.

The third guardrail is the most Canadian: be reasonable and pragmatic.

This seems obvious but we should not take this principle for granted, particularly as we rush (rightly) to meet ambitious climate targets. Canada remains a resource economy. The sector pays a lot of bills, keeps our currency stable and government finances flush with cash.

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It’s also where any global power we may have as a nation lies. That makes an orderly climate transition paramount.

Theo Argitis is managing partner at Compass Rose Group. Robert Asselin is senior vice-president, policy at the Business Council of Canada.

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