Climate change to be key element in next Canadian budget: finance minister

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Climate change will be a key element in Canada’s next federal budget, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said on Monday, as he kicked off public consultations on the spending bill.

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivers the fiscal update in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada December 16, 2019. REUTERS/Blair Gable

“That will be a central focus of our upcoming budget,” Morneau told university students during a visit to Ryerson University in Toronto. Canada’s fiscal year starts on April 1.

“I’ve written more checks for fires and floods than any other finance minister before me and those numbers continue to go up,” Morneau said, underscoring the costs of climate change.

“It’s real. The costs are real and the implications for all of us, including especially the younger people in this room, are real.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has cast himself as a champion in the fight against climate change, said during his campaign for re-election last year that the issue would be a priority for his new government.

Trudeau hung onto power in the October vote but lost his majority in parliament and will depend on the support of opposition parties to pass the spending law. Two opposition parties are urging quick action to stem emissions.

Separately, a Bank of Canada business survey released on Monday found a majority of firms, especially those in the goods sector and large and exporting firms, see climate change as a relevant or very relevant topic for their businesses.

The Bank of Canada said more than half the affected firms had noted negative impacts tied to climate change, including financial losses or damage from extreme weather like hurricanes, floods and wildfires.

Changing seasonal patterns, the survey found, are disrupting operations and sales in the agriculture, fishing, transportation and construction sectors.

Many respondents, the central bank said, also referred to increased costs associated with climate-related policy and regulation, as well as higher insurance costs.

The survey also found that one-third of affected businesses said they had experienced positive climate change impacts, often related to new business opportunities, including firms selling environmentally friendly and energy-efficient products and services.

Canada’s central bank has previously said climate change poses risks to both the economy and the country’s financial system.

Reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Dan Grebler