Executive Summary

Measuring Progress towards Clean Growth

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When it comes to the relationship between climate change and economic growth, pessimists and optimists abound. Pessimists tend to see the historical relationship between economic growth and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as inextricably linked—believing Canada can either pursue growth or reduce emissions, but not both. In the extreme, some pessimists argue Canada’s climate objectives should always come second to the pursuit of growth and jobs, while others see abandoning growth as the only path to achieving Canada’s climate objectives.

Optimists, on the other hand, are convinced smart policy and technological change will deliver growth while fighting climate change. To the optimist, clean energy and clean technologies can reduce Canada’s emissions while generating new sources of economic growth and jobs.

Where does the truth lie? Do Canadians need to sacrifice economic growth, jobs, and income to address climate change? How can Canadian businesses stay competitive through a low-carbon transition? Can the promise of clean technologies replace lost jobs and income if higher-carbon sectors face declining investment and demand? Who will struggle and who will benefit along the way to a cleaner future? These questions are at the heart of the Institute’s research on clean growthdefined as inclusive economic growth that reduces GHG emissions, strengthens resilience to a changing climate, and improves the well-being of Canadians. They are also particularly relevant as governments wrestle with how to make progress on climate change while driving an economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This paper highlights the multiple facets of clean growth by unpacking the connections between economic growth, climate change, and human well-being. We identify 11 data-driven indicators that, together, can guide efforts by governments, businesses, and communities to not only tackle climate change but to do so in a way that achieves sustained growth and the best overall outcomes for people and society as a whole.


Clean growth is inclusive economic growth that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, strengthens resilience to a changing climate, and improves the well-being of Canadians.