Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's My Planet Too

Imagine you owned a home and that home required major work. A new roof, foundation repair, something structural and unquestionably expensive. You know it will be hard on your wallet to get it done, so you decide not to - even though the reasons for doing it are compelling and the cost of not doing anything could be far greater down the road.

Instead you decide to spend money on aesthetic improvements, like painting, or on amenities. Things that make you feel better when you are in the house, but do nothing to address your real problems. An outside observer would call this decision-making shortsighted.

Heads-up Canada, this is exactly how we are making climate change policy in our country.

Jeffrey Simpson has just written a good piece in the Globe and Mail on how Australia is trying to come to grips with the climate change question. His piece accurately describes the challenges a government faces when trying to tackle a long-term problem with solutions which are seen as expensive, and which do not deliver a "visible" benefit for some time.

Canadian policy-makers have been trying to get their head around this issue since the 1990s, with little success. Yes we ratified Kyoto, but did not take any of the difficult decisions that meeting our commitments required. We have done small things to improve and promote energy efficiency, but have studiously avoided meaningful debate on the oil sands and pricing carbon.

Sadly, despite being a country with a lot at stake, our federal government has played at the margins on an issue which could define the next century. Policy-makers have mastered the art of having "half the conversation". Some examples...

- The government has made great fanfare about its plans for asserting and protecting our Arctic sovereignty, yet has not highlighted the fact that climate change and its effect on sea lanes has helped to make the arctic such a pressing issue.

- Tremendous effort has been expended dealing with natural disaster at home and abroad, but there has been little if anything from government about the role climate change is playing on weather patterns and disasters which are becoming less freak and more the norm.

- Energy policy, and in particular discussions on the oil sands, rightly highlights the security aspect of Canadian energy but wrongly fails to acknowledge the trade-off in terms of the environmental impact of oil sands development.

By only having half the conversation, our policy makers are limiting discussion about the linkages between climate change and a host of public policy issues. Why? Because of the potential political ramifications. Those who do try are attacked and marginalized, first by their political opponents and then by a public which too often is more concerned with the here and now and not the long game.

Not for the first time, it may come down to the provinces to move the yard sticks in Canada. Lead by British Columbia and Quebec, the provinces (and their stateside colleagues) may be able to implement policies which demonstrate leadership and de-mystify the economic impact arguments of this opposed to taking real action.

As promising as that may be, it also serves as another indictment of federal policy on an issue which is no longer emerging. Climate change is here and Canadians need to see the Government of Canada tackling the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

So to MPs currently on summer break, please take a moment to consider what climate change might mean for the people in your riding. Think about it from a health issue, consider the economics (short-term and long-term), consider the impact of weather on food production. Think about your role as a steward for this country; about being a government holding Canada in trust for current and future generations.

Please. It's my planet too!

1 comment:

  1. Well said Guy!!

    We all need to wake up and set a course our children and grandchildren will be proud of.

    Trifon Haitas, Green Party Candidate
    Oak Ridges-Markham


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