Current Affairs

Planning for a Clean Future

8th July 2021

By investing in its natural resources, Canada, one of the largest countries in the Western Hemisphere, is emerging as a global leader in the drive toward clean and sustainable energy through industry-leading expertise and thriving events.

Words Lane Nieset

In 2018, clean technologies, energy and environmental goods and services comprised $66 Billion of Canada’s nominal GDP—a 39.3% jump in just a decade. Canada’s natural resources sector now accounts for 1.9 million jobs in the country and $589 Billion of investment in major resource projects. Innovation taking place on the ground is one way Canada’s natural resources are making an impact on a local scale, but through business events, conferences in Canada’s regional powerhouses are helping leave a legacy that is reducing carbon and ecological footprints while helping restore natural habitats. 

Canada’s hydrogen hub

Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan aims to exceed its 2030 Paris Agreement emissions reduction goal by moving in the direction of net-zero emissions by 2050, and is joining over 120 countries in this commitment. Tree planting and carbon capture, for example, can help offset or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, and this plan is already well underway in regions like Edmonton, home to Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association, the country’s largest hydrocarbon processing cluster, where over 40 national and multinational companies have $40 Billion in investment. As Anna Look, director of Business Events for Explore Edmonton puts it: “Having the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub on our doorstep in Edmonton paves the way for welcoming business events to our city that can use this local, yet world-leading, expertise to enhance their conferences, speaker pool and delegate experience through access to talent, infrastructure and technical tours that can show the world, through business events, how Canada is working towards a sustainable future.”

Air Products, a leader in hydrogen production, for example, has a multi-billion dollar plan to construct a net-zero hydrogen energy complex in Edmonton, which is intended to be the lowest-carbon-intensity hydrogen network in the world. Now, the region is innovating in a new way with the Alberta Carbon Truck Line, which offers the world’s largest capacity pipeline for CO2 from human activity, and can transport up to 14.6 million tons per year.


Through these projects, Edmonton, Canada’s fifth-largest city and largest northernmost metropolis, is leveraging its position as a hydrogen powerhouse and attracting associations who are interested in joining this energy transformation. Explore Edmonton even brought an Emissions Specialist on staff this year to help planners customize carbon reductive initiatives, and will even cover the cost of carbon-offsetting business events. 

“The amount of interest we are receiving from our clients and partners around the leading clean energy projects underway in the Edmonton region is growing at a phenomenal rate.  In just a few years, we have gone from explaining the scientific rationale for carbon capture and storage to reminding visitors to the region that we are home to some of the largest, most innovative and safest commercial-scale projects that are informing others from across the world,” says Brent Lakeman, director of the Hydrogen Initiative at Edmonton Global. “This is just part of the evolution of our energy sector.  We are showing the world how we can produce net-zero energy, drawing upon the ingenuity of the university researchers and innovators.”

The Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub is working to transform what it means to be an energy powerhouse and help serve as an example for the region, inspiring the energy transformation toward the zero-net economy. “While we have always been Canada’s hydrogen hub, we are now aggressively moving to show that we have the talent, ingenuity and infrastructure to produce net-zero emissions hydrogen and be part of the multi-trillion dollar opportunity associated with the clean hydrogen economy,” says Lakeman. “It’s not just about producing hydrogen, but showing that we can integrate hydrogen into our existing industrial systems and find innovative ways to accelerate the transition to this clean fuel.  As a region with a diverse industrial base, we are showing others how hydrogen can be an integral part of economic growth and competitiveness, whether it is our transportation fleets, our power generation or our chemical industries.”

Revolutionizing cleantech

Regina—located at the edge of the Bakken Formation—is regionally leading Canada’s pioneering efforts in carbon capture, thanks to institutions like Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC), whose Aquistore Project is considered the world’s most comprehensive, full-scale geological field laboratory for CO2 storage in the world. Just outside of Regina, the SaskPower Boundary Dam power station became the world’s first power plant with carbon capture and storage (CCS) when it opened in 2014.

It’s no surprise, then, that Regina attracts conferences and events like the IEAGHG International Carbon Capture and Storage Summer School, a five-day programme held in 2019. The event brought 60 students (over 20 of whom were from both industry and research) who are all world-leading scientists in a range of fields, to network and discuss the capture, transportation and storage of CO2.

Canada is actually a world leader in clean technologies: it is home to over 850 cleantech companies, and ranks first in the G20 and fourth overall on the Global Cleantech Index. Just outside of Edmonton, the largest CCS project in Canada—Shell’s Quest CCS project—began capturing CO2 in 2015 and injecting it into an underground reservoir for storage. Leaders in the industry are adopting clean technology use not only for their own energy and mining operations, to reduce environmental impact, but also to help other companies, cities and countries do the same. “It is important that conference delegates understand that the Edmonton region is the place where we can execute major clean energy projects; we had the first carbon capture and storage projects, like Shell Quest, where over 1 million tonnes of CO2 is being sequestered on an annual basis,” Lakeman explains. “We have the researchers at our post-secondary institutions who will continue to come up with innovative new ideas, but what really sets Edmonton apart is our ability to quickly scale these ideas so that we can receive the economic and environmental benefits of these new ideas.”

Mines of the future

As a response to the growing demand for clean energy technologies, Canada has emerged as a global producer of copper, nickel and cobalt, in addition to hosting advanced mineral projects for rare earth elements, lithium and graphite. Everything from smartphones to solar cells, wind turbines and batteries for electric vehicles come from raw materials that hundreds of thousands of Canadians produce. In fact, mineral exports accounted for 19% of Canada’s total domestic exports in 2019. The minerals sector also invested $14 billion in new capital construction and equipment in 2019, and its production totalled $48 billion. There are over 200 active mine sites in Canada, including the “Mine of the Future,” Newmont Goldcorp’s Borden mine, in Ontario, which has a mutually beneficial partnership with local communities and features state-of-the-art health and safety controls, digital mining technologies, and low-carbon energy vehicles. Also in Ontario, Toronto plays host to the annual Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada(PDAC) Conference—one of the largest mining events in the world—which attracts more than 25,000 attendees from 135 countries.

The world’s third-largest producer of diamonds by value—and third-largest by volume—Canada’s communities like Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, is considered one of the main meeting spots for those looking to tap into Canadian expertise in mineral extraction. It’s where the largest diamond found in North America—a 552-carat yellow diamond—was uncovered, and where this specific type of industry leadership makes it an ideal destination to host events like the 2018 Indigenous Women in Mining Conference.


Sudbury, in Ontario, has over a century of history in mining and is home to the NORCAT Innovation Centre, the world’s first operating underground test mine, as well as the world’s largest integrated mining complex and a number of post-secondary and research institutions, including Cambrian College and MIRARCO Mining Innovation. These types of institutions and innovation centres are what’s attracting events like the International Symposium on Ground Support in Mining, the Underground Construction 2019 and the OECD Mining Regions Conference 2019. 

“As a global mining innovation hub, Sudbury is advancing the development of several initiatives for mining in the digital age, including those related to mine electrification and adoption of battery/electric technologies,” explains Liam McGill, manager of investment and business development, City of Greater Sudbury. “International companies, executives and government officials come to Sudbury to learn from our expertise, visit our world-class facilities and explore our beautiful landscapes.” 

Blueprint for a low-emission economy

As Canada’s research and technological advancements are driving forward innovation and development in its cleantech and natural resources industries, collaborations and knowledge-sharing are helping the country in its transition to a low-emission economy and bringing clean technology to a global market. Sustainability has long been a buzzword in the meetings industry, but what does this look like in a post-pandemic world? With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development placing sustainable societies at the forefront of the discussion, Canada is looking to share its wealth of development on a global scale—and business events are one of the key ways industries like cleantech can inspire some of the brightest minds to adopt or innovate on technologies. Not only do visiting associations gain access to the cutting-edge research taking place in Canada’s centres of excellence, but they can also help be part of the innovation taking place that will lead to a more sustainable future for societies across the globe. 

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