Trump’s Paris accord pullout highlights Ottawa’s clean-tech opportunities


As debate swirls about the political and economic impact of the U.S. government's intention to withdrawal from the Paris climate change accord, an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions, an Ottawa clean-tech firm says it’s poised to profit from the era of tighter global regulations.

Bill Crossland, CEO of Thermal Energy International, says the attitudes towards tighter carbon reduction policies since the Paris Climate Accord was first agreed upon have meant a boom in business for the Ottawa firm that develops products for companies to increase their energy efficiency.

“It’s having a positive impact. We’ve seen a real shift, change in the marketplace,” Crossland says. “It’s not just countries that have agreed. Virtually every multinational company around the world, of which many are our customers, are in support of it as well.”

There’s a business case to be made for environmentally-conscious operations under an international accord. Crossland says that energy-efficiency products, such as the heat and steam recovery systems Thermal Energy develops, are attractive money savers for firms that have the added benefit of reducing carbon emissions.

“There’s lots of ways you can reduce carbon emissions, but increasing energy efficiency is the cheapest, the easiest, and the fastest way by far to do it,” he says.

Signals that the U.S. might pull back its climate change goals rang of opportunity for Canadian cleantech. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce in a speech last December that Canada would gladly step up to take advantage of the need to reduce carbon emissions, and Canadian investor Tom Rand told a San Francisco cleantech conference in February that “if the U.S. wants to walk away from climate action, then Canada will be more than happy to eat its cleantech lunch.”

Crossland says corporations have been setting their own targets for carbon reduction before the Paris Agreement, and that he anticipates American firms to continue to do so for the economic benefits.

“It’s great that governments and corporations are willing to meet this commitment, and we have seen an increased interest in our products, but, at the end of the day, so far, I haven’t seen any major corporations saying ‘We’re going to make this investment to reduce carbon because it’s good for the world.’ They make the invest to reduce carbon because it saves them money. They’re doing it because it’s a good return on investment.”

Crossland says Thermal Energy’s American customers are not incentivized by federal policies, rather benefiting from state-sponsored programs. States such as California, New York and Washington run their own climate policies, and have even announced that they intend to unite as many states as possible in maintaining the United States’ cooperation with the Paris Accord.

For these reasons, Crossland doesn’t anticipate “a huge impact” in American companies’ carbon emissions operations coming from Trump’s policy shift. The long-term agenda on climate change has been established, and he anticipates clean-tech companies will continue to thrive in the sector.

“I think that most people realize that this is a policy position of the current government, or the current president in the U.S., but I think that companies and certain states are still supportive of it.”