Former Bank of Canada and Bank of England governor Mark Carney doesn’t think Canada should turn its back on fossil fuels just yet.

Carney, who is currently the United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance, said the combination of a brutal economic shock from an end to fossil fuels combined with Canada’s need to match its energy infrastructure to new sources of power means patience is necessary during the transition to a greener economy.

“The economic impact would be severe. It takes time,” he said in the interview for CTV’s W5 and BNN Bloomberg, when asked if shutting down fossil fuel production is the quickest route to achieving climate goals. “The electricity across this country, 85 per cent of it is hydro, or nuclear, or increasingly wind and solar. We should get that to 100 per cent as soon as possible … but we have to build all those power plants, we have to build the interconnections across our provinces.”

While the federal government has pushed hard on the green energy file by incentivizing cleaner power and introducing a price on carbon, it also bought the Trans Mountain Pipeline project for $4.5 billion, a move critics say undermine Ottawa’s environmental bonafides.

Carney said existing energy infrastructure can be valuable to companies and governments as Canada shifts toward greener fuels, so long as they take a long view of how those assets could be repurposed in the future to meet domestic energy needs.

“If I own a pipeline, I own a right-of-way. That [pipeline] might be today for oil or natural gas, but, and you have to do some refurbishments, but could be for hydrogen tomorrow, and could be part of the hydrogen economy,” he said. “And actually that option value, that’s worth a lot if you’re thinking about the end state and then working back.”

Carney said Canada should look to invest the proceeds from the current hydrocarbon economy to help pay for that further shift to a greener grid, rather than turning a cold shoulder to the role fossil fuels can play in plotting Canada’s energy future.

“I think what we do want to do with our hydrocarbon economy, which is huge and important, is to reinvest as much as possible of that, whether the money comes back into the government through taxes, or in companies through their R&D and investment plans to build the industry and the job of the future,” he said.

“It’s called a transition for a reason, because there is an element of time to that, and so I don’t think we can just, or should, just stop.”