As of last year, close to one thousand institutions with three per cent of global savings under management have engaged in some form of divestment from fossil fuels.

In June 2019, Norway’s parliament unanimously voted in favour of directing its $1.06 trillion Government Pension Global Fund (GPGF), the Norges Bank, to divest more than $13 billion from fossil fuels while dedicating more investments to clean technologies.

The caveat is that this will apply only to companies that are exclusively in the business of upstream oil and gas production and some coal sector investments. The GPGF is Norway’s sovereign fund derived from oil industry revenues to assure Norway has a steady source of revenues in the post-oil world.

Shell has expressed concern that the growing fossil fuel divestment movement could impact on the company’s performance.

Here in Canada, Export Development Canada has issued more than $2 billion in Green Bonds in the last half decade, however this option is only available to institutional investors. The Business Development Bank has a minimalist allotment in Budget 2017 through to fiscal year 2021-22 for clean technologies without opportunities to Canadian citizens to enhance the BDC clean tech activity.

Should a Canadian citizen want to make investments which exclude the fossil fuel sector or divest from fossil fuels, and is inclined to give priority for Canadian companies, they appear to be out of luck.

The problem is that, although there are a wide variety of socially responsible investing (SRI) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria funds in Canada, hardly any of these funds offer such a choice. And the options for priority for Canadian assets in this category are only slightly above zero.

A glance at the top ten investments of each SRI and ESG fund portfolio illustrates the problem. Typically, the portfolios of these funds include investments in one or more other financial institutions. This means that while one is investing in an “ethical fund” the third-party investors among the top holdings of a given portfolio are free to invest your money in anything they want, contrary to the good intentions of a purchaser of this stake in the fund.

To illustrate, should one want to give priority to placing one’s “ethical” money in Canada, there is the IA Clarington Inhance Canadian Equity SRI Class. The top 10 holdings for this portfolio include RBC; TD Bank; CIBC and the Scotia Bank. All of these banks are among the top 10 banks listed in the US as those that most heavily invest in fossil fuels. RBC tops the list for tar sands development.

The IA Clarington Inhance Global Equity SRI Class top 10 portfolio investment include JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Visa. JPMorgan Chase is a major investor in Arctic oil and gas projects, liquified natural gas, and ultra-deep-water oil and gas extraction. Hence, the investor in this fund risks placing a significant portion of one’s money in fossil fuel assets.

One of Canada’s largest ESG group of funds are those of NEI which claims to be Canada’s leading provider of Responsible Investment (RI) solutions. Looking at the top 10 investments of NEI Canadian Dividend Fund Series F and PF, one finds the TB Bank, Scotia Bank, Power Corporation, Enbridge and Canadian Natural Resources otherwise known as Canadian Natural.

With a Google search, Canadian Natural is described as “one of the largest independent crude oil and natural gas producers in the world.”

The NEI Canadian Equity Fund Series F and PF is no better. For this fund, the top 10 comprises the TD Bank, Scotia Bank and Sun Life Financial.

One would hope that Canada’s Desjardins Group, the largest financial cooperative in Canada, would be different. Desjardins boasts of its environmental funds, but even these funds also leave much to be desired.

The Desjardins Societerra Environmental Fund top holdings entail investments in MasterCard and PayPal, which are financial institutions of another form. Canadian assets represent 8.5 per cent of the portfolio whereas the U.S. accounts for 55 per cent of the geographic allocation of the fund investments.

The most dedicated Desjardins fund to the green economy is the Desjardins Societerra Cleantech Fund. However, the geographic allocations have Canada associated with five per cent of assets while the U.S. allotment is 36 per cent.

There is one investment entity for individuals that want to invest “100 per cent Canadian green,” CoPower which issues Green Bonds. These bonds come in the form of private fixed bond rates and focus on small Canadian clean energy and energy efficiency projects such as LED lighting retrofits for condos; solar farm initiatives; and the conversion of a residential buildings to geothermal energy.

True, every effort to go green is a noble gesture, but the initiatives of this small fund are far from measures for a transition to a green economy. Worse, CoPower sales of Green Bonds are currently closed.

Frustrated with the market choices to invest in Canadian green products, the alternatives are purchasing shares in Canadian clean techs companies and small cap funds.

For the former, the choices on the Canadian stock market are very few, Canada never having had a federal or provincial government which provided significant portions of annual budgets to the development of clean tech sectors.

Indeed, many clean tech firms in Canada have been transferring their clean techs initiatives outside Canada or risk losing their global competitive edge.

Small cap investments are a last resort in that many furnish alternatives to fossil fuel sector financing but to the best of my knowledge, none are slanted favourably towards clean techs.

A case in point is the NEI Canadian Small Cap Equity RS Fund Series F and PF for which the 10 leading investments encompasses IA Financial; Secure Energy Services; AltaGas; and Superior Plus. Secure Energy Services serves upstream and oil and natural gas producers. AltaGas, as the name implies is a natural gas company, which among other things is involved in fractionation in the U.S. Marcellus/Utica basins. Superior Plus markets and distributes propane and distillates.

As for what is done with our tax dollars, at the April 2017 G20 meeting, Trudeau agreed to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2020. This obviously is not going to happen since Budget 2019 had insignificant content on the matter.

Yet the Government of Canada did acquire the assets of the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion and it remains unclear whether the federal government will foot the tab for the expansion of the pipeline. That tab could be anywhere from $7.4 billion to $20 billion, depending on who is doing the calculating.

Not surprising is that the U.K. Overseas Development Institute ranked Canada as the worst on fossil fuel subsidies.

This leaves the choices for going Canadian green to changing Canadian voting habits and doing what one can on reducing one’s personal environmental footprint.

As per the information described on “ethical funds” in Canada, despite the Trump administration hostility on climate change, the U.S. furnishes a much more favourable landscape for clean tech investments. This is in part a reflection of the existence of progressive states like California and the residual impacts that remain from the Obama years.

It would be nice if the Government of Canada issued green bonds to individuals wishing to invest in Canada’s own clean tech firms.

Keep reading

I could add a few items to this list of things I've invested in. Please don't consider these recommendations, just offering this as a list of things to look into for people inclined in this direction:

* There are at least two funds traded on the TSX that make investments in large scale renewable projects and have fairly attractive dividends: Brookfield Renewable (BEP.UN) and Pattern Energy (PEGI).
* Canadian Solar (CSIQ) is actually based in Guelph and has a manufacturing plant there, even though they are traded on a U.S. exchange.
* When I lived in NS, I invested in Chebucto Windfield, which had a share in a number of wind projects. I sold my shares a couple years ago, so am not sure what they are up to now:
* For people who live in Ontario, the Solarshare co-op has an impressive portfolio of projects which were funded under the former feed-in tariff model. They do not currently have an offering open, but that's a temporary situation from what I understand.

Thanks very much for sharing your experience on this, William.

Thanks for this information. I am aware of Brookfield and Pattern Energy. I would another renewable developer with a good investment rate of return, the windpower firm, Innergex Energy.

Potentia Renewables is also a Canadian renewables project builder, but is wholly-owned by Power Corporation of Canada.

An important caveat is that Canadian developer does not imply the use of Canadian clean energy technologies. Note the link below to a Potentia Renewables 200-megawatt Saskatchewan wind farm that will use China's Goldwind turbines.

On your reference to Chebucto, their web site indicates Chebucto has 2 wind projects and is not taking any more investments.

As well, you have indicated in there are cooperatives that offer investment opportunities for community projects, Solarshare being one of them. In Ontario, other clean energy cooperatives taking advantage of the fact that one can sell one’s surplus energy back to the utility in question are the Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative and CoEnergy:,

But the latter is small stuff on the scale of a nation-wide transition to a green economy. Canada, among developed nations, is a laggard in this regard when compared with China, the European Union and even the U.S., despite Trump.

The sad reality is that the Government of Canada has never had a serious program to develop Canadian clean tech sectors. In one of my articles, I referred to Canadian electric vehicle technology firms moving their clean tech initiatives outside Canada and or losing their global leadership. The link to this article can be found below, providing some disheartening examples of the negligence of the federal and provincial governments. For example, Canada’s New Flyer builds its electric buses in Alabama and has its electric Vehicle Innovation Center alongside.

Attempts to build a clean tech sectors in Canada have been rather random. Former Ontario and Nova Scotia initiatives follow.

Under the Ontario McGuinty administration, an one-off contract was signed with Samsung consortium regarding 1369 gigawatts of renewable energy and a guarantee that 4 manufacturing plants would-be built-in Ontario. Pattern Energy was a member of that consortium and to comply with exigencies regarding the construction of four manufacturing facilities, Canadian Solar built a plant in London and Siemens constructed a windpower blade manufacturing plant in Tillsonburg Ontario.

Both Siemens and Canadian Solar had counted on the feed-in-tariff premium which required that renewable projects have Ontario content. In May 2013, the World Trade Organization ruled against the Ontario content exigencies and the Tillsonburg plant shut down in early 2018. The Canadian Solar facility in China appears to its largest manufacturing plant.

Under the short-lived NDP government in Nova Scotia, a government-industry partnership was set up with Daewoo for a Trenton windpower tower and blade manufacturing plant. But that plant seems to have been closed down. The same goes for the NDP COMFIT program to support community-based renewables projects which was terminated by the Liberal government in 2015.

The bottom line is that investment opportunities for Canadian clean tech firms and initiatives are at the margins.

The article and the previous comment are both enlightening and disheartening. My financial advisor and I have been vainly trying to find clean/green investment opportunities for the past few years. I am a (very) small investor but very anxious to walk my talk. So far I have been stymied.

Canadian Green organizations, institutions and industries must collaborate to create a market exchange to enable investors like me to fund our future.

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Betsy. Would you like to see more articles/advice columns about areas of green investing in the future? We cover climate and finance broadly (climate risk, big corporate investments etc) but this might be something worth considering if there's an audience interest in it.

I'm definitely interested too, Jenny. The Tyee had a interesting series of articles last year, including quite a lot of information on the CoPower bonds. though again, the research unfortunately led to few promising totally green investment options. Hopefully this will change going forward and it will be very helpful to see that widely reported!

The point of departure opportunities for Canadian clean tech investments, is appropriate government policy to nurture the creation of clean tech sectors. China has done so well in this regard in that it is experiencing a transition to a green economy that is greater and more intense than the industrial revolution.

To this effect, China has proven that legislation and the right supporting policies, such as research support and incentives, can kick-start a whole new industry push. With its legislated sales/credit quotas, which began with year 2019, amazingly global and Chinese automakers are capable of complying NOW and in the next few years with wide arrays of electric vehicle lineups. It is projected that 2M electric vehicles will be sold in China in 2019 and up to 50% of vehicle sales in the country will be electric by 2025. And China puts 9,500 additional electric buses on its roads every five weeks, NOW. The spin-off of these government initiatives are reflected in the fact that there are now 400 Chinese electric vehicle technology companies.

The European Union is not far behind on electric vehicles. You can refer to my article below comparing China, the European Union, the U.S. and Canadian government initiatives. The article needs to be up-dated, but the essentials remain current.

In contrast, I invite to look at my article below on how the absence of government initiatives in Canada has resulted in Canada’s electric vehicle technology enterprises transferring activities outside Canada and/or losing their global leadership.

The harsh reality is that the Government of Canada has never had a serious plan for a transition to a green economy. A green economy can be defined as one where economic and sustainable development are similar and, as such, are reflected in the annual Budget.

Canada’s clean tech sectors not having critical mass, the options for Canadian clean tech investments are minimal or at the margins. No matter what one’s liquidity, it would be nice to have one’s savings match one’s convictions, rather than just enrich one’s bank, which in turn, invests in everything.

Great article Will - it certainly is a challenge to find clean/low-carbon/zero carbon investment options in Canada. However, I would echo a suggestion by another commenter - co-operatives present amazing options to invest in the low-carbon/clean economy. I am a member of the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op ( and CoEnergy Co-op (, both of which provide options to individuals living across Canada to invest directly in clean energy generation and energy efficiency projects.

Refer to my above response to William Lachance.

While I am delighted to learn of these cooperative investment options, they do not constitute a nation-wide endeavor to migrate to a green economy. The federal and provincial governments offer pitiful support for the development of clean tech sectors, hence there isn’t much to choose from by way of investment options if one wants to make a significant difference.

Legislation combined with incentives/disincentives and programs are essential to create a Canadian landscape for the development of clean tech sectors. This is not the case in Canada. But while Canada remains in a coma and remains focused on a resource economy, China is making the transition to a green economy at a pace and intensity greater than the industrial revolution. The European Union is not far behind. The result of the initiatives of other nations, including the U.S., despite Trump, is a growing consensus that peak oil – when oil consumption peaks and then declines – will occur in the 2020’s. Even Shell has figured this out.

By the time any new pipeline can be completed, it will be a white elephant.

Does anyone know if is legitimate?

Many thanks for bringing to my attention the Genus Fossil Free investment management firm. I was not aware of it. At first glance, it appears to be legitimate, claiming the David Suzuki Foundation as one of its investors.

I could not, however, verify, its percentage of Canadian holdings since the portfolio charts offered on the site lump together, Canadian, U.S. and global stocks. But I would not fault Genus if the Canadian portion is low, since Canada’s clean tech investment opportunities are rather thin. This is what happens when the federal and provincial governments don’t have substantive legislation, policies, programs and research dedicated to the green economy. Unfortunately, Canada is way behind its competitors in this regard. Refer to the responses to other commentators on Canada being in a coma with Budgets that do not reflect the need to render economic and sustainable development similar.

Just a short check of the genus website informed me that their minimum investment is $250,000. That puts it out of reach of most people. Too bad!

I've also been looking for clean energy investment opportunities and eventually came to the same conclusions reached in this article. Just wish that I'd found the article first! I'm continuing to look so I hope National Observer will post more articles on the subject.

I wanted to add that I would be very interested in further reporting on this topic. I was very much hoping to invest in co-power bonds, and am wondering if I will have the opportunity in the future given their acquisition by VanCity?