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February 29 2020

Lalli: Together, we need to create a national vision for resource development

This op-ed was originally published in the Calgary Herald on February 29, 2020.

Policy before politics. Collaboration with accountability. Developing our natural resources AND fighting climate change.

It’s what the Calgary Chamber has been saying for two years now.

It was the guiding principle behind the coalition of eight of Canada’s largest urban chambers of commerce and boards of trade coast to coast to launch the Canadians for Natural Resources initiative.

It was the core message of our open letter to Canadians, our presentation at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York last September, and at both our Energy Summit in October and our Agriculture Summit last month. In the lead up to the federal election, we urged Canadians to rally to the “AND” on polarizing issues, especially climate change and natural resource development.

Still, we are getting in our own way. We are failing each other. Anger and loud voices are simply not in the best interest of our citizens.

Just look at the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, or the Teck Frontier project. We are not making progress. We are divided, steeped in rhetoric, and more entrenched and polarized than ever before. Caught in between are the companies trying to grow, and the families they employ, who are working harder every day to keep their households healthy.

It was with these companies and families in mind that we made a clear statement to all our political leaders: we need real, decisive action on climate change, with tangible outcomes and conviction. We can, and must work together to be leaders in natural resource development AND climate change innovation.

The demand for energy around the world is increasing, and oil and gas will continue to play a key role in supplying that global demand. Simultaneously, so is the demand for real action to solve climate change.

In his January 2020 letter to the world’s CEOs, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink announced that his company, the largest global investment player with $7.43 trillion in assets, will place sustainability at the very centre of their investment approach. Since then, several major companies have made ambitious climate commitments, including Microsoft, Delta Airlines and Amazon. Here in Alberta, several companies have issued similar commitments, including MEG Energy, Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources. And in May 2019, for the first time, the Bank of Canada flagged climate change as a key risk to the country’s financial system.

Climate change is the issue of our time. It underpins nearly all the major challenges we are facing as businesses and as a society — from food security to public safety, to threats to infrastructure and industrial supply chains. And it is felt in one way or another in every household across our country.

From an economic perspective, it’s at the point where the global finance community has fundamentally shifted its practices to mitigate the risk.

Tackling climate change is not, and cannot be, a partisan issue that employs an “either or” mentality. This is especially true when our national economy depends so strongly on the development of our natural resources — from oil and gas to agriculture, to nuclear, to renewable energy.

And so, we ask our political leaders to set aside ideology and demonstrate collaborative, accountable leadership that puts our country first. We need this to answer the most fundamental question: how do we develop our natural resources AND fight climate change, to the benefit of the Canadians they serve.

Every major victory or step forward in Canadian history has come from collaboration between our provinces and our federal government. Now more than ever, we must come together and create a national vision for the future of all our natural resources.

Today, we can have energy development AND solve climate change. We can feed the world AND have sustainable agricultural practices. We can be in business AND be socially accountable to the communities in which we operate.

But we have to do it together.

Sandip Lalli is president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce