Chair’s Message 2019
The industrial bioeconomy has a communications challenge
For only the 5th occasion in its history, the September 23rd issue of TIME was entirely dedicated to a single topic. Front to back, every page was dedicated to the “Special Climate Issue,” because TIME needed to cover “the biggest crisis facing our planet.” And yet, in laying a path forward to achieve average global warming of 1.5 C, there was not, in 112 pages of editorial, a single mention of the industrial bioeconomy. Eliminating coal, growing wind, solar and nuclear, carbon sequestration, energy efficiency, using less land for agriculture so we can grow more trees, and even changing individual behaviour are all there in TIME’s report of the IPCC’s 30-year roadmap. But the complete lack of mention of the bio-based economy can only be seen as this industry’s communications failure. Clearly, we have to do a better job of communicating our message. We have the opportunity to start that here at Scaling Up.
First, there are four journalists in the room representing the Globe & Mail, Canadian Biomass, Orbichem, and The FutureEconomy. All want to report to their editors on the extent of the industrial bioeconomy opportunity.
In the just completed Canadian election, 65% of voters cast ballots in favour of continuing to act on climate. Yet politicians we elected have little idea how we are going to get on track to meet our Paris obligations. So it is our job to explain that we cannot get there without a bio-based economy – one that supplies thermal energy, liquid transportation fuels, and renewable electricity. Let’s explain that to the journalists in the room.
Of course, there has been some progress on this front since the initial Scaling up in 2016, and this brings me to my second point. There is clearly interest in what we are doing among certain members of Canada’s public service. Why? Because there are some 50 officials from nine different departments attending. Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Natural Resources, the National Research Council, Agriculture, Environment and Climate Change, Global Affairs, Department of Finance, Public Services and Procurement, and Stats Canada are all here in spades! We must let these folks know what’s needed to see the industrial bioeconomy boom – favourable tax treatment, an end to hydrocarbon subsidies, a federal bio-based procurement program, expanding the definition of Canadian Renewable and Conservation Expenses, and overall policy certainty – these would be good places to start.
Third, we need to communicate with environment groups. Some are not on board with the industrial bioeconomy and they hold sway with many politicians. Scaling Up is your opportunity to start that conversation by speaking with Catherine Abreu, Exec Director of Climate Action Network Canada. Catherine is approachable and reasonable. So take this opportunity to get acquainted and tell your story.Preparation for Budget 2020 is already underway. Representatives of the industrial bioeconomy need to decide on our ‘ask,’ and focus on getting it into next year’s budget. We probably only have two budget cycles left to improve our communications story before candidates in the next federal election start casting for climate solutions. Let’s make sure one of those is the bio-based economy.