How is Canada doing in our national and global effort to fight climate change and transition to a low-carbon future? The short answer is we’ve made progress, but there’s more to be done.

The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy aims for 100 per cent of Canada’s energy to be produced from renewable sources by 2050 and 100 per cent of new vehicles to be electric by 2040. Achieving those goals can only occur by focusing intensely on new technology, collaboration and utilizing our strengths.

Canada’s economic history and success are largely based on how we’ve harvested our natural resources. As we evolve into a green economy, the writing is on the wall: Metals, minerals, water, wind and solar energy are crucial in building the tools and technology that will curb the climate crisis and power society’s low-carbon transition.

To achieve our climate and green economy goals, Canada’s tech, resource and research leaders must work together to find and develop the products and technology to make that future a reality.

In our experience, Canada is on the right track toward creating collaborative climate solutions. We are lucky to have exceptional organizations across our natural resources sector, world-leading research and development capacity, intellectual property ecosystems, and digital skills development in the mining, agriculture, marine and forestry sectors.

We have shown that sustainable solutions for a green economy can be found in the resource sector. We have also found this journey takes time, persistence and creativity. When you think of green jobs and cleantech, you may think of solar panel manufacturing or electric vehicle development. Well, you should also think about mining.

Demand for solar panels and EVs will likely grow five-fold over the next two decades. Currently, global manufacturers and supply chains can barely keep up with demand. One of the main reasons is there is a shortage of lithium, nickel and other critical minerals available to make their component parts. Another critical metal for the low-carbon transition is copper, with global copper demand for renewable energy systems expected to more than double by 2030.

Canada has the resources, knowledge and technology to supply a good portion of these necessary minerals. It will take an all-hands-on-deck approach to ensure Canada is a global leader in supplying the resources required for the low-carbon transition and the inclusion of a critical minerals strategy in the recently announced federal budget is an important step forward. Now, the opportunity is providing these minerals and resources in a sustainable, responsible manner, which Canada is well-positioned to do. That’s where creative collaboration comes in — it is new, different and it has already produced exciting results.

For example, an X-ray mining tool to reduce reliance on hit-and-miss drilling is now in the field. This application can see up to a kilometre below the surface to analyze mineral deposits and precisely pinpoint where to focus on extraction. This technology came about as a collaboration between Ideon Technologies, Fireweed Zinc, Dias Geophysical, Microsoft, Simon Fraser University, Mitacs and BHP, and the result has been a higher yield of important components with less impact on the environment.

Another mining industry innovation being developed that has the potential to make a significant positive environmental impact is the Mining Microbiome Analysis Platform project, the largest investment in planned natural resource genetic sequencing in the history of the sector.

To achieve our climate and green economy goals, Canada’s tech, resource & research leaders must work together to find & develop the products and technology to make that future a reality, write Sue Paish @DTSupercluster & Andrew Milner @TeckResources

Through this groundbreaking project, the DNA from more than 15,000 samples of water, rock and soil will be analyzed to identify microbes that can be used in the mineral extraction process to reduce the environmental footprint and enhance efficiency.

This work would not have been possible without collaboration between project lead Teck Resources Limited and Rio Tinto, the University of British Columbia, Koonkie, BGC Engineering, GenomeBC, Allonnia and the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation. This exciting project harnesses cleantech innovation to enhance the mining industry’s environmental performance as the industry provides the products critical to the low-carbon transition.

We are only at the beginning of what is possible, but we can’t risk losing ground to other countries in the race toward green innovation technology deployment. Canada needs to increase its R&D investment to remain competitive with European countries where investment has been increasing rapidly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ottawa has set ambitious goals for our transformation to a low-carbon, tech-driven economy. The resource sectors play a key role in achieving those goals. We must accelerate, amplify, and broaden investment in innovation across our resources sectors. Time is not our friend. The environment won’t wait, and neither will the world. Canada can lead the world in the green transformation of natural resources.

Sue Paish is CEO of Digital Technology Supercluster, which accelerates the development and adoption of digital technologies that keep Canadians healthy, protect our environment and drive economic productivity.

Andrew Milner is senior vice-president and chief transformation officer at Teck Resources Limited, a leading Canadian-based mining company, producing the copper, zinc and high-quality steel-making coal required for the transition to a low-carbon world.