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UPDATE: What is The Blue Economy Initiative?

The Council of Canadians is monitoring The Blue Economy Initiative and developing an analysis on their agenda.

What is The Blue Economy Initiative?
On June 17, “The Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation, Canadian Water Network and RBC Blue Water Project announced The Blue Economy Initiative, which will provide information to Canadians and key decision makers about the economic benefits of protecting Canada’s fresh water, and the economic risks of neglecting the health of our watersheds.” In their media release, they state that the Blue Economy Initiative seeks to address questions including: “What is the value of protecting/restoring aquatic ecosystems? What is the competitive advantage of Canada’s relative water abundance compared to the rest of the world?” They add, “The Blue Economy Initiative will be led by Nicholas Parker, Chair of Cleantech Group and Parker Venture Management. Its first milestone will be the fall of 2011, with the release of a ground-breaking economic study of the contribution of water to the Canadian economy, authored by Canada’s foremost water economists Steven Renzetti and Diane Dupont, and award-winning journalist, Chris Wood.”

By November 11, The Blue Economy Initiative had launched their report titled ‘Running Through Our Fingers’, which they describe as “an attempt by two of Canada’s best environmental economists, Drs. Steven Renzetti and Diane Dupont, and award-winning journalist Chris Wood to quantify the value of water’s contribution to the Canadian economy.” They observe, “In the 25 years since a similar analysis was done, the country’s economy has almost doubled, yet water’s measured contribution to it has apparently declined. The report makes it clear that we lack the data needed to properly account for this value and without it we may be letting our most valuable asset slip away.” They highlight that, “Water stewardship will help Canada secure competitive advantage and support a prosperous future.”

Who is The Blue Economy Initiative?
On November 16, another media release announced, “Corporate Knights Inc, Toronto-based publisher of Corporate Knights magazine, which is distributed as a quarterly insert in the Globe and Mail and Washington Post, announced this morning at the Toronto Stock Exchange market open that it closed an investment round with a prestigious group of investors, led by Vancity Community Capital. This private investment will allow Corporate Knights Inc. to launch a new division, Corporate Knights Capital, which will leverage Corporate Knights rankings to create a global suite of clean capitalism-themed passive investment products tailored to meet large investor needs.” That media release notes, “Nicholas Parker is Chairman of Corporate Knights Inc. He is also the co-founder and chairman of the Cleantech Group – the market-leading research company that introduced the cleantech concept to the investment and business community in 2002, The Blue Economy Initiative, and the WaterTAP Corporation.”

In November 2007, Chris Woods, one of the authors of the recently released Blue Economy Initiative report, wrote, “Maude Barlow, the most celebrated water lobbyist in the country, continues to preach a stale mish-mash of nature-worship and socialism that serves mainly to prop up her anti-trade bias but stands in the way of real change in the way we manage water. …So successfully has the anti-trade, anti-business campaigner demonized the private sector from her soapbox at the (presumptuously misnamed) Council of Canadians, that the two most effective means for reigning in our near-criminal waste of water — raising its price at the tap and allowing markets to allocate it to the most efficient use — have become a third rail for political ambition in this country. A full deconstruction of Barlow’s rights-and-commons nostrums would require more space than is available here… The bullets, however, are these: declaring anything a human ‘right’ is a symbolic, not a practical gesture; the ‘public commons’ is quite possibly the most lethal repository imaginable for any environmental asset (think cod fish). As for Barlow’s self-promoting resistance to the ‘privatization’ of utility services and the ‘commodification’ of water, it nicely mirrors the religious right in its fight against gay marriage: motivating the faithful to keep writing cheques while doing absolutely nothing to make the world a better place (indeed, rather the opposite).”

In a November 25, 2008 speech, RBC chief executive officer Gordon Nixon said, “As pressure mounts on the world’s limited water resources, individuals, industries and governments will all have to start managing our shared water resources better. And that means there is a role for business in offering innovative solutions to the challenge. That’s where Canada comes in. Before I get a sternly worded letter from Maude Barlow, I should clarify that I’m not talking about privatizing water here, or exporting Canadian water to the United States. I’m not going to wade into the debate about whether water is a commodity or a human right, or offer an opinion about water policy, or the role of government. But in the last few years, I’ve gone on record advocating for Canada to focus on niche areas in which we can compete globally.” He added, “Some call this picking winners and losers…Water could well be one of those winners for Canada…Canada is well positioned to develop and commercialize technologies to conserve, reclaim, rehabilitate and purify water. The opportunities are limitless. The global water industry is estimated at $400 billion a year and is expected to increase to $1.6 trillion US in the next ten years.”

Where is this heading?
The Ontario provincial budget released on March 29, 2011 states, “In 2010, the government set a goal to make the province a North American leader in the development and sale of new technologies and services for water conservation and treatment. The Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act, 2010 was passed in November 2010. It will encourage the creation and export of innovative clean water technologies, promote water conservation and attract economic opportunities in the province.” The provincial budget also said, “The water strategy also encourages innovation and commercialization in the water sector. For example: the Innovation Demonstration Fund Water Round, which focuses on the commercialization and demonstration of water technologies and assists water technology companies with the potential to be globally competitive in demonstrating their innovative technologies in Ontario…” By May, the province hosted the first Ontario Global Water Leadership Summit which included speakers from the aforementioned Cleantech Group, United Water/ Suez Environnement North America, Veolia Waters Americas, and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.

And on March 14-16, 2012 in Vancouver, companies and organizations will come together for the ‘GLOBE 2012’ conference “to find business solutions to some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges” and “determining a strategic and successful path on the ‘Road to Rio+20’, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.” Along with keynote speakers from Veolia Waters America, the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative, the Mining Association of Canada, PepsiCo, and Shell International, there is “Nicholas Parker, Chairman, Blue Economy Initiative & WaterTAP Corporation, Canada”.