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2015 IEEE-IAS/PCA Cement Conference - Sustainable Strength Through Innovation


Remarks by CAC President and CEO Michael Mcsweeney, April 28 2015

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Cement Association of Canada and its members and concrete partners across Canada, it is my pleasure to be here with you this morning to introduce our keynote speaker ? Glenn Thibeault, Parliamentary Assistant to the Honourable Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Yes, you heard me right. Ontario has a Minister of Climate Change. And one of his first acts in this role was to announce what could be a trend in many jurisdictions around the world – enacting a price on carbon. I will leave it to Mr. Thibeault to provide the details of the work his government is doing, but allow me to begin by acknowledging the ambitious work that the Government of Ontario is undertaking and their proactive approach to working with the Cement industry to help us contribute to the province’s climate change goals.

What I learned early on in my career, as someone who practices in the public affairs arena both nationally and provincially, is that it is vitally important to build trust and credibility with your stakeholders. In recent years, the Cement Association of Canada has invested considerable effort reaching out to and working in a consistent, coordinated and constant way with governments, environmental groups and other key influencers and decisions makers on the vital role that cement and concrete play in our world and especially on the challenges and opportunities the cement industry brings to the sustainability imperative. We have a good story to tell and as an old marketer once told me: if you don’t tell your story, who will.

This audience is familiar with the statistics – twice as much concrete is used than all other building materials combined; 3 tonnes of concrete per year is consumed for every man woman and child on earth; water is the only commodity consumed in greater quantity than concrete. While we enjoy a relative light footprint on many environmental metrics, the sheer volume of cement and concrete production means we can’t ignore those impacts, especially when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Many of our companies have robust sustainability plans and have been working on reducing GHGs for over two decades.

Globally, our industry has invested billions of dollars to become more efficient, cleaner, more transparent and increasingly focused on product-based solutions to sustainability challenges. We're proud of the progress we've made. A modern cement plant is significantly cleaner, 20% more energy efficient and produces 20% less GHGs than technology widely used only a couple of decades ago. We are much more active and engaged in the communities in which we operate. We are heavily invested in research, and low-carbon energy projects that promise to lead the next wave of environmental progress in our industry. And there is a raft of innovations that we are very excited about - pervious pavement, ultra-high performance concrete, air purifying concrete panels and carbon capture and re-use technologies like the Pond Biofuels project that our IEEE Conference Chair Martin Vroegh oversees at the St. Mary’s cement plant. Much of these developments are unknown even to those in the industry, which is why here in Canada we have been claiming that concrete is “even smarter than you think.”

Despite all this progress, there are still many questions we struggle to answer: How do we measure the economic, social and environmental value of a substance so essential, so fundamental, so critical to modern economies and modern living? What role will concrete play in building a sustainable future? How do we participate in advancing key policy decisions, like carbon pricing, while always being mindful that we must secure the ongoing competitiveness of our industry?

We know that these are difficult questions with no easy answers but, also, that our social license to operate depends on our ability to respond and work with all stakeholders. These questions also help us understand that the sustainability of the cement and concrete sector is larger than our industry. It is more than incremental progress in efficiency and environmental technologies. It is about our role and responsibility to partner with others, governments, ENGOs and communities, to better understand cement and concrete’s place in a sustainable and more resilient future.

A few years ago I came across a quote by American philosopher Eric Hoffer, and it struck me as an eloquent expression of the choice we all face in shaping and adapting to the future – Hoffer  said that, "In times of change, learners inherit the earth and the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."

The cement industry, while one that has been around for over a century, is an industry that has learned and implemented many lessons and is still learning. But one of the most important lessons we’ve learned here in Canada is that sustainability is a fundamentally collective challenge ? one that is larger than any one sector ? and one that demands collective solutions. It’s a journey that will fail if taken alone. This is all the more true for a sector such as ours whose product is so ubiquitous, and touches so many sectors’ interests. Indeed, government is one of our largest single customers and so it only makes sense that we work closely together to support broad progress on public policy.

This is precisely what has been happening here in Ontario on this challenge of climate change.

Our environment ? and our economy ? needs a price on carbon.  A well designed cap and trade system, such as the Quebec and California system that Ontario recently announced it would join, guarantees emissions reductions, while sending a signal to the market that rewards good environmental behaviour.  But a price on carbon is only part of the solution to climate change. Buildings and transportation make up the lion’s share of GHG emissions in Ontario, as they do elsewhere, and so we will need new thinking and new approaches to how we plan, build, and power our communities.

For government, it will be essential to adopt a deeper commitment to using life cycle assessment as a means of optimizing the economic, environmental and social value of our investments in public infrastructure. It will also mean taking bold regulatory steps, such as dramatic improvements to the building energy codes and streamlined permitting processes for new lower carbon technologies and processes.

Case in point, we along with our partners in the environmental community, asked Premier Wynne and Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray to help us reduce our coal use, and in recent months, they delivered, with a proposed new regulation to facilitate the use of low-carbon fuels in cement kilns. This regulation will help our sector achieve significant near-term GHG reductions and lay the groundwork for deeper reductions into the future.

Climate change is among the greatest challenges that society faces today. As a northern country that stands to experience some of the greatest changes in a warming world, Canada’s provinces are on the “front-lines” of climate change; what we need now most of all, to protect not only our environment, but our competitiveness as well, is for provincial governments, the Canadian government and our trading partners to get on the same page and work towards harmonized climate change policies.  This is the best and most robust way to secure long-term competitiveness while delivering needed GHG reductions.

The goal of anyone who practices public affairs is to get a ‘seat at the table’ and we’re very pleased that the Premier of this great Province has invited the Cement industry, the only industry selected, to sit on her Climate Action Group. We will be on the “front-lines” of innovating solutions that protect the environment and our competitiveness.

On that note, I am pleased to introduce Glenn Thibeault.

Throughout his career, Glenn has shown an unwavering commitment to a better, fairer Sudbury, his constituency. He has fought tirelessly for support for persons with developmental disabilities, and for quality services for families struggling with autism. As a director with the United Way, he led many successful campaigns in support of community development. And as a proud volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and minor hockey and football leagues, he has helped empower Sudbury youth to reach their full potential.

Glenn remains focused on building opportunity and prosperity for his constituents and all Ontarians.  Glenn was elected to the Ontario Provincial Legislature this past February and was subsequently appointed by the Premier as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Please join me in extending him a warm welcome.



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