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Ontario promotes green credentials to lure investors

TORONTO STAR; Tyler Hamilton - December 11, 2009

Premier Dalton McGuinty launches a green energy “feed-in tariff" program in September 2009.

Climate talks in Copenhagen this week have cast a bright light on the importance of green technologies and their role in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

It's a theme the Ontario government is running with as part of a $1 million advertising campaign designed to lure U.S. investors to Canada's most populous province.

Print ads, published in high-profile publications such as Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Washington Post during and in the weeks leading up to the Copenhagen conference, are emphasizing Ontario's research and development tax credits, the province's educated and diverse workforce – and billions of dollars that have been invested in nurturing a green economy.

"Transforming green ideas into green business: that's why over 2,600 environment-focused firms already operate here – and another reason why the world works here," according to one ad than ran Monday in The Wall Street Journal. The ad shows a small map of North and South America with Ontario's location highlighted – just in case people aren't sure where it is.

Chris Morley, a spokesman for Premier Dalton McGuinty, said the advertisements have also run in Germany, France, Japan and the United Kingdom. TV ads in major U.S. markets are also running through November and December. The message, which is also being spread through online banners, is geared at "senior foreign investment officials."

The campaign is expected to run until early spring.

"This is part of our plan to raise Ontario's profile as the leading jurisdiction in North America on green energy and clean tech," said Morley.

"The premier's clean tech trade missions to India and China are also part of that effort."

Skyrocketing energy demand over the next few decades, the push to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and energy security issues such as "peak oil" are combining to create massive opportunities for companies developing green energy and clean technologies.

In China alone, policies designed to mitigate climate change and other forms of pollution are expected to result in a $1 trillion annual market for clean technologies by 2013.

The growth potential is huge, given that in the past four quarters worldwide clean technology investments totalled less than $95 billion (U.S.), according to U.K.-based research firm New Energy Finance, which was acquired Thursday by Bloomberg LP in recognition of the "fundamental re-engineering" taking place in the world's energy industry.

"If you believe there will be a meaningful deal out of Copenhagen, it means over the next 30 years we're heading into the biggest industrial reformation we've ever seen in modern times," said Nicholas Parker, co-founder and executive chairman of Cleantech Group, the industry's lead investment research firm.

"What I see that's material to Ontario is that this it the official starting gun for the biggest economic opportunity of our generation."

Canada is already way behind. In a report Thursday that ranks countries based on their clean energy markets, environmental group WWF-International found that Canada's clean-energy technology sales ranked 31st in the world relative to gross domestic product.

Carbon-emissions trading expert Lisa Demarco, head of the energy practice at Toronto law firm Macleod Dixon, said Ontario's role as part of the Canadian delegation in Copenhagen is to show the world that what's happening – or not happening – in Canada isn't representative of the actions being taken on a provincial level.