03/21/2013 05:54 EDT | Updated 05/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Budget offers little new on the environmental front

Sustainable Development Technology Canada is the big environmental winner in the 2013 federal budget, but the green pickings are pretty slim beyond that.

The government-funded venture capital firm that invests in environmental technology firms will get $325 million over eight years just as its last pool of money runs dry.

“While it’s less than half the investment level we had recommended, the commitment is still good news for the over 700 clean technology companies operating in Canada today,” said Clare Demerse of the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank.

Demerse added that the fact the money is stretched out over eight years is a heartening signal because it means the government is interested in keeping SDTC around.

SDTC has funded companies like Electrovaya in Mississauga, Ont., a battery developer that works in partnership with Chrysler Canada. It has also given funds to N-Solv, a company that has developed a solvent used to extract bitumen at wells in Alberta’s oilsands. N-Solv believes the use of its product will reduce greenhouse gases by 85 per cent and bring the use of water down to zero.

But there was nothing new in the budget to promote energy efficiency, like the government’s popular ecoENERGY retrofit program for homeowners that has now expired. There is no mention of renewable energy either.

As for the government hitting its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions target of 17 per cent below 2005 levels, “there is nothing here that moves the needle,” argues Demerse. The government says it is halfway to meeting its target but many organizations, including Pembina, don’t think their numbers add up to a bullseye.

Demerse was pleased to see an extra $248 million for weather-monitoring infrastructure — but with a caveat.

“At least we will have more information about climate, but no action to tackle it.”