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Refreshing Canada's definition of the blue economy – Corporate Knights Magazine

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In Canada and around the world, “building back better” has become the overarching focus of COVID-19 recovery. Eager to be included in this rebuilding process, Canada’s freshwater and ocean sectors have begun to define ambitious visions for the future, linking environmental priorities with job creation and economic growth.

For the ocean community, this vision centres on the “blue economy,” defined in a recent Delphi Group report as referring broadly to economic activities that are both based in and actively good for the ocean. While “blue economy” remains an emerging and somewhat fuzzy concept, the report echoes a growing trend toward viewing a broad range of ocean-related activities – established industries, emerging technologies and environmental challenges – through a single blue-economy lens.

While we applaud this movement toward integrated management of ocean resources, we can’t help but notice that freshwater is missing from the conversation.

From a management perspective, freshwater and oceans have historically been distant cousins – clearly related, occasionally crossing paths, but largely living independent lives. But as our knowledge of planetary systems has evolved, the distance between these two worlds has narrowed considerably, and the number of connections between them has rapidly grown.

Take, for example, desalination technologies. The ocean-based blue-economy definition classifies desalination as an ocean activity (see the World Bank’s 2017 report). But Canadian water technology companies, such as British Columbia–based Saltworks, are successfully developing and applying desalination technologies to a range of industrial wastewater treatment applications.

Or let’s consider the “wicked problem” of plastic. Plastic pollution is a major issue facing the world’s oceans and is increasingly propelling Canada’s international commitments, from its founding role in the Global Plastic Action Partnership to its strong support for the Ocean Plastics Charter. But plastic pollution is not, at its core, an oceans issue. Of the more than eight million tons of plastic that ends up in the world’s oceans every year, most is carried into the ocean by rivers, with 90% of plastic pollution coming from just 10 river systems.

A recent map of Canada’s water-technology ecosystem highlights dozens of similar connections, from hydropower (emerging technologies harnessing both tidal and freshwater currents) to aquaculture (a rapidly growing sector including land- and ocean-based operations). These connections make it clear that there is no magic dividing line between freshwater and oceans, where one rule book ends and another takes over.

What do we stand to gain from bringing these two worlds together under a single blue-economy umbrella? In no uncertain terms: a lot.

Because of Canada’s size and the number of sectors that intersect freshwater, coordination in this space has always been a challenge. Freshwater simultaneously fits into a range of sectors, from mining and energy to agriculture and municipal services, and lives nowhere, with no dedicated agency advocating for its interests (the current conversation around the creation of a Canada Water Agency is a promising one, which we’re following with interest).

By extension, freshwater infrastructure and innovation, including around drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and environmental protection, does not attract attention or investment at the same scale as the ocean economy.

How, then, can we leverage the strengths of Canada’s ocean community to advance the interests of “all waters”? We can start by learning from and building on the successes of institutions such as Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, a multi-sectoral organization created by the federal government to support ocean innovation, which has provided a hub to coordinate activity around ocean technologies and solutions. An equivalent entity for freshwater could play a significant role in accelerating investment and innovation around water challenges.

We can also draw inspiration from the ocean economy to generate new sustainable business models and investment for the freshwater sector. Hosted in 2018, the first global conference on the sustainable blue economy explored how to harness the potential of our oceans to improve the lives of all and leverage research and innovation to build prosperity. Building on this theme, Canada’s emerging Blue Economy Strategy (currently focused exclusively on oceans) aims to align economic growth in the ocean sector with job creation and climate action, as well as greater participation of Indigenous Peoples, women and under-represented groups in the ocean economy.

Building back better requires us to take a holistic view of water systems and understand the numerous and complex interconnections between freshwater and ocean sectors.

The prime minister’s Speech from the Throne in September 2020 recognized that “investing in the Blue Economy will help Canada prosper.” Reframing the blue economy as “economic activities that are based in and actively good for all water systems” will better position Canada to tackle the complex environmental challenges that water systems face and harness emerging economic opportunities at the interface of freshwater and ocean sectors.

Melissa Dick is a program manager with Aqua Forum, a non-profit organization whose flagship program is the AquaHacking Challenge.

Alan Shapiro is the director of waterNEXT, Canada’s emerging water-technology ecosystem, and principal at Shapiro & Company.

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Province Invests in London-Area Businesses to Boost Local Economy | Ontario Newsroom – Government of Ontario News

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Province Invests in London-Area Businesses to Boost Local Economy | Ontario Newsroom  Government of Ontario News



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U.S. Economy Loses Its Bounce as Recovery Turns Into a Grind – Bloomberg

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Sign up for the New Economy Daily newsletter, follow us @economics and subscribe to our podcast.

Just a few months ago, the U.S. economy looked like it was roaring back from the pandemic slump. Now the recovery is starting to look more like a grind. 

The spread of the delta variant has held back millions of Americans from spending on services like restaurants and hotel rooms.

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FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Roadmap to Build an Economy Resilient to Climate Change Impacts – Whitehouse.gov

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Agency Actions Will Protect Retirement Plans, Homeowners, Consumers, Businesses and Supply Chains, Workers, and the Federal Government from Financial Risks of Climate Change

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration released a comprehensive, government-wide strategy to measure, disclose, manage and mitigate the systemic risks climate change poses to American families, businesses, and the economy – building on actions already taken by the Biden-Harris Administration including just this week: a redesigned National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate.gov site to better connect Americans to climate explainers, data dashboards, and classroom-ready teaching resources; the Department of Labor’s new proposed rule to safeguard life savings and pensions from climate risk; as well as the Federal Acquisition Council’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to consider greenhouse gas emissions when making procurement decisions.

This year alone, extreme weather has upended the U.S. economy and affected one in three Americans. Both international and domestic supply chains have been disrupted by climate change – whether it’s floods in China and Texas, or wildfires that have burned nearly six million acres of land, supply chains across critical industries including housing, construction, semiconductors, and agriculture have been affected, causing delays and shortages for both consumers and businesses. American families are paying the costs. Extreme weather has cost Americans an additional $600 billion in physical and economic damages over the past five years alone. Climate-related risks hidden in workers’ retirement plans have already cost American retirees billions in lost pension dollars. Climate change poses a systemic risk to our economy and our financial system, and we must take decisive action to mitigate its impacts.

By addressing the costs of the climate crisis head-on, the federal government will safeguard the life savings of workers and families, spur the creation of good-paying, union jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of U.S. economic prosperity. The roadmap makes clear that protecting the financial health of American households, deploying clean energy in United States, and building an economy from the bottom-up and the middle-out go hand-in-hand.   

The Administration’s whole-of-government strategy includes six main pillars to achieve the goals of the President’s May 2021 Executive Order on Climate-Related Financial Risks, including several major announcements this week demonstrating concrete actions to protect American families, the federal government, and the economy from climate-related financial risk:

Promoting the resilience of the U.S.financial system to climate-related financial risks.

  • A forthcoming report from the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) will kick off the first step in a robust process of U.S. financial regulators developing the capacity and analytical tools to mitigate climate-related financial risks.
  • The Treasury Department’s Federal Insurance Office has launched a process to address climate-related risks in the insurance sector, with a focus on assessing the availability and affordability of insurance coverage in high-risk areas for traditionally underserved communities.
  • Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) staff is developing recommendations to the Commission for a mandatory disclosure rule for public issuers that is intended to bring greater clarity to investors about the material risks and opportunities that climate change poses to their investments. This rule is expected to be proposed in the coming months.  

Protecting life savings and pensions from climate-related financial risk.

  • This week, the Department of Labor announced it is proposing a rule that protects workers’ hard-earned life savings by making clear that investment managers can consider climate change and other ESG factors in making investment decisions. The proposed rule – which, if finalized, would help safeguard the more than half of American workers who participate in a retirement plan through their job, representing over 140 million Americans and more than $12 trillion in retirement savings and pensions – would protect workers by making sure that retirement managers don’t turn a blind eye to climate risks and other important factors. It would also make clear that retirement managers can take important environmental, social, and governance factors into account when making investment decisions, so that workers can share in the gains that come from sustainable investments.
  • The Department of Labor is also working to protect the nearly 6.5 million participants in the Thrift Savings Plan – the largest defined-benefit contribution plan in the world – by analyzing how to further factor in climate-related risks.

Using federal procurement to address climate-related financial risk.

  • The federal government is the world’s single largest purchaser of goods and services, spending over $650 billion in contracts in fiscal year 2020 alone. This week, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council will begin the process of exploring amendments to Federal procurement regulations to require agencies to consider a supplier’s greenhouse gas emissions when making procurement decisions and to give preference to bids from companies with lower greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this work, the FAR Council published this week an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to gather information to help major Federal agency procurements minimize the risk of climate change.
  • The FAR Council is also actively exploring an amendment to federal procurement regulations that would improve the disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in federal contracting and set science-based GHG targets. By identifying and mitigating climate risks through procurement, the Federal government is leading by example, deploying public procurement policy as a tool to strategically shape markets and promote a more resilient economy.

Incorporating climate-related financial risk into federal financial management and budgeting.

  • OMB, federal agencies, and the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board are taking steps to develop robust climate-related risk assessments and disclosure requirements for federal agencies.
  • Next year, the Fiscal Year 2023 President’s Budget will include an assessment of the Federal Government’s climate risk exposure and impacts on the long-term budget outlook, along with additional assessments.
  • In addition, agencies will further incorporate climate-related financial risk in both the Budget and agency financial reports to increase transparency and promote accountability.

Incorporating climate-related financial risk intofederal lending and underwriting.

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Treasury Department are each working to enhance their federal underwriting and lending program standards to better address the climate-related financial risks to their loan portfolios, while ensuring the safety and security of communities most impacted by climate change.
  • HUD is working to meet the challenges that climate change poses to American homes, beginning by identifying options to incorporate climate-related considerations into the origination of single-family mortgages.
  • The VA, which has nearly $913 billion in loan volume outstanding to U.S. Veterans, is conducting a review of climate-related impacts to its home loan benefit program.
  • USDA is addressing climate risk in its own single-family guaranteed loan programs, with the goal of applying lessons learned across its entire range of loan programs.  

Building resilient infrastructure and communities

  • This week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began the process of updating its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) standards to help communities align their construction and land use practices with the latest data on flood risk reduction. Through a new Request for Information, FEMA will gather stakeholder input to make communities more resilient and save lives, homes, and money through potential revisions to standards that have not been formally updated since 1976.
  • In addition, agencies have come together to build resilience from other types of more severe and extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, storms, and wildfires.
  • Also this week, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a suite of products to make the Federal government’s climate information more accessible to Americans. NOAA upgraded its website to make it easier for governments, communities, and businesses to access the data they need to prepare for and adapt to climate risks. And Federal agencies also delivered two reports that lay out a comprehensive plan to further increase open-access delivery of climate tools and services for the public.
  • More than 20 agencies released climate adaptation and resilience plans to safeguard federal investments – and taxpayer dollars – from the costs of climate change. The plans reflect President Biden’s whole-of-government approach to confronting the climate crisis as agencies integrate climate-readiness across their missions and programs and strengthen the resilience of federal assets from the accelerating impacts of climate change.

 These steps will help safeguard the life savings of workers and families, spur the creation of good-paying jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of U.S. economic prosperity in the decades to come. Together, they will help usher in a new era where climate-related financial risks are thoroughly understood – where they are measured, disclosed, managed, and mitigated across the economy to the benefit of American workers, families, and businesses.

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