Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NOT A Green Federal Budget

The CBC has a good summary of reactions to yesterday's Canadian Federal Budget from environmental groups and others, including Green Party leader Elizabeth May: 'Green' budget falls short for environmental groups. As expected, throwing a few goodies at the problem simply does not cut it. The lackluster green car rebate/gas guzzler levy (more here and here), reviving a few Liberal programs in reduced form -- without a plan on how to actually implement the Kyoto Protocol -- without even mentioning Kyoto by name -- is not nearly enough.

Tax subsidies for the Oil Sands would be phased out -- but not until 2015.
"They're going to continue to subsidize the big oil and gas companies at the same level as today for another three years," said NDP Leader Jack Layton. "That's billions of dollars shoveled into the bottom lines of Exxon and such companies while they continue to pollute."
The absurdity of helping the world's wealthiest -- and most polluting -- corporations to destroy the planet to the tune of $1.4 billion per year is apparently not enough for this Government to end it immediately.

Spending most of the water strategy budget on Coast Guard ships does little to address the looming water quality and shortage issues of the 21st century -- which would be made worse by lack of action on Climate Change.

The list goes on and on.

For more opposition reaction, see Bloc to support budget; Liberals, NDP say no.

Elizabeth May summed it up best:
"We're just losing time and we can't afford to lose time."
Beyond these criticisms, there is no National Transit Strategy, and no linking of infrastructure spending to success in curbing urban sprawl.

In general, the Conservative Government has no vision on how to transition Canada to a sustainable economy based on renewable energy. Thirty-four years after the publication of the Canada as a Conserver Society by the Science Council of Canada (in 1973!), the federal budget does not even try to make environmental and social costs part of the economic bottom line. This unscientific approach amounts to economic and ecological negligence, almost guaranteeing the continuation of "uneconomic growth" (some of these issues are also covered in the interview with David Suzuki on the Treehugger Radio podcast).

Writing about the Conserver Society idea in the Canadian Encyclopedia, Dixon Thompson notes:
"As we move to the 21st century... capitalism has begun to look beyond its own horizons and has seen the profitability of conservationism blooming on the hillsides. Advanced conserver societies may thus have better prospects for the future."
In the U.S., 65 financial companies and investment groups representing USD $4 trillion have just called for:
  • "Long-term greenhouse gas reductions by 2050, in line with the 60 to 90 percent cuts below 1990 levels that are urgently needed to avoid worst case scenarios — including 'mandatory market-based solutions, such as a cap-and-trade system, that establish an economy-wide carbon price, allow for flexibility and encourage innovation.'
  • "Realignment of U.S. energy and transportation policies to promote research, development, and deployment of new and existing clean technologies at the scale required.
  • "Clear guidance from the SEC [U.S. Securities Exchange Commission] on what companies should disclose to investors relative to climate change."
(Sources: Wired Blogs - Autopia; Boston Globe).
One of these days, Canadian businesses will wake up, too. If the message comes from a business lobby, perhaps the Conservative Government would start to listen.

More realistically, it would take an election to displace the Conservatives before we see real progress.

This is where the parochialism of the Bloc Québécois endangers us all: their own web site links to a brochure [PDF] titled "Save Kyoto" that opposes the oil-sands subsidy (on p. 1), and says says (on p. 2):
"If nothing is done to combat climate change, future generations may well end up living on an uninhabitable planet where natural disasters are the rule rather than the exception.

"Kyoto is an all-round winner for Quebec. We need it to save the planet and allow our children to continue to live comfortable lives.


"Each barrel of oil that Quebec doesn’t consume enriches us and helps reduce pollution.

"Kyoto is necessary for the environment and essential for Quebec’s economy."


[Bolding added.]
Yet somehow, just increasing federal transfers to Quebec, without even a mention of Kyoto, has made this budget good for Quebec in the Bloc's view. They will support this budget, and let this Government stand.
"Après moi, le déluge" -- literally, and by their own admission.

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