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  • CCPA's National Office has moved! May 11, 2018
      The week of May 1st, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' National Office moved to 141 Laurier Ave W, Suite 1000, Ottawa ON, K1P 5J2. Please note that our phone, fax and general e-mail will remain the same: Telephone: 613-563-1341 | Fax: 613-233-1458 | Email: ccpa@policyalternatives.ca  
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • What are Canada’s energy options in a carbon-constrained world? May 1, 2018
    Canada faces some very difficult choices in maintaining energy security while meeting emissions reduction targets.  A new study by veteran earth scientist David Hughes—published through the Corporate Mapping Project, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Parkland Institute—is a comprehensive assessment of Canada’s energy systems in light of the need to maintain energy security and […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • The 2018 Living Wage for Metro Vancouver April 25, 2018
    The cost of raising a family in British Columbia increased slightly from 2017 to 2018. A $20.91 hourly wage is needed to cover the costs of raising a family in Metro Vancouver, up from $20.61 per hour in 2017 due to soaring housing costs. This is the hourly wage that two working parents with two young children […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Mobility pricing must be fair and equitable for all April 12, 2018
    As Metro Vancouver’s population has grown, so have its traffic congestion problems. Whether it’s a long wait to cross a bridge or get on a bus, everyone can relate to the additional time and stress caused by a transportation system under strain. Mobility pricing is seen as a solution to Metro Vancouver’s transportation challenges with […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Budget 2018: The Most Disappointing Budget Ever March 14, 2018
    Premier Pallister’s Trump-esque statement that budget 2018 was going to be the “best budget ever” has fallen a bit flat. Instead of a bold plan to deal with climate change, poverty and our crumbling infrastructure, we are presented with two alarmist scenarios to justify further tax cuts and a lack of decisive action: the recent […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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Climate change will shape BC in 2035, one way or another

I have an oped in today’s Vancouver Sun as part of its BC in 2035 series.

Climate change will shape BC in 2035, one way or another

We live on a different planet from the one our parents grew up on, says environmentalist Bill McKibben. Climate change from our rampant combustion of fossil fuels has pushed the world into a new era of bizarre weather anomalies.

In BC, warming has been greater that the global average, with costly consequences, including the pine beetle epidemic, downtime for ferries and highways, raging forest fires and flooding.

The big question is whether carbon emissions can be stabilized at some level by human collective action, or whether we will soon pass critical thresholds that will trigger a runaway climate change scenario.

Canada has recently thumbed its nose at global negotiations, in favour of digging ever deeper into the hole of extreme energy that is causing the problem. Even though climate costs are mounting – in Canada and especially in poorer and more vulnerable countries – the immense profits from our exports of coal, gas and oil dominate Canadian politics.

British Columbians in 2035 will be facing a variety of climate-related challenges to a decent quality of life. Food supplies from California will dry up; storms will be more devastating; animal and plant species will be threatened. Even if we are lucky, climate impacts in other parts of the world could lead millions to our shores.

High and growing inequality undermines trust in our fellow citizens, and threatens to erode the social foundation of this future. As federal and provincial governments tear page after page from the social contract, we are moving to a society where you are on your own.

Our current period of official denial cannot last much longer. It may, tragically, take another Katrina-scale disaster, or two or three, but sooner or later, the realities of climate change will catch up to Canadian and US politics.

BC should not get caught flat-footed, but instead the province needs to be proactive to address our share of carbon emission reductions. The good news is that in doing so we can seize new economic opportunities offered by the transition to green jobs and sustainable production. BC’s baby steps on climate action are a plus, and we have the smarts, the technology and institutions to re-write this story.

BC is ideally poised to show the rest of the world what a 21st century sustainable economy can look like. A wealthy part of the world, blessed with abundant resources, BC has a moral obligation to take a leadership role. But it’s also good economics — despite brash claims about job creation, mining and oil and gas only employ about 1% of BC’s workers. There are far more jobs to be had in green alternatives.

Putting climate action at the heart of BC’s industrial and employment strategy requires that BC rapidly shift off fossil fuels. By 2035 we could be very close to zero carbon. But that means having the political will to say no to the proposed Enbridge pipeline, to shale gas fracking and liquid natural gas terminals. And unlike the current “BC Jobs Plan”, it means aspiring to be more than a peddler of fossil fuels in global markets.

The great transition also requires we break out of a mindset based on individual green consumption towards collective action and structural changes.

First, public control over (largely renewable) electricity infrastructure is a vital advantage for BC in a shift to a zero-carbon future. Conservation and major efficiency gains are low hanging fruit, supplemented by district energy systems and small-scale renewables (like solar hot water systems). Retrofitting BC’s housing stock and commercial buildings will also support thousands of jobs.

Second, we must redesign urban spaces into “complete communities” where people do not have to travel very far to get to work or to meet day-to-day needs, making it possible to walk, bike and use high-quality public transit. These communities include a mix of housing types (including affordable housing options), decent jobs, public services and spaces, and commercial districts.

This way of designing communities levels the playing field for seniors, youth, people with disabilities, and low-income families so they can live and move easily, even if they are not able to drive or cannot afford a car. It also means families are not forced to choose between long commutes by car and even longer commutes by transit.

Building retrofits, public transit and so forth will not be cheap. But there is a logical and obvious revenue source to make it happen: a carbon tax. At $200 per tonne by 2020, this would close the gap between BC and European gas prices, and raise billions per year. A portion of the revenues should be transferred back to low- to middle-income households to ensure none are left behind.

Importantly, we face a political problem not a technological one. We will still have to deal with the fallout of climate change, but done well, a bright green future would go hand in hand with better health, stronger communities, and improved quality of life.

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Comments

Comment from Milan
Time: April 30, 2012, 9:00 am

One critical task for BC is phasing out fossil fuel exports. Quite a sufficient quantity of fossil fuels have already been burned. By exporting large quantities of coal, BC is adding significantly to the problem of climate change. That will get even worse if proposed pipelines from the oil sands are approved.

Perhaps the best thing BC can do to protect the integrity of the planet is to refuse to traffic in fossil fuels.

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