Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Canada's New Government and Hopes for Climate Action

On October 19th 2015 Canadians rejected the Conservative's corrupt fossil fuel pipedream and voted for change. The Liberal party of Canada led by Justin Trudeau now has a solid majority in the Canadian parliament and a solid mandate to alter the nation's direction. A new day has dawned in Canada but to realize the promise of a cleaner future we need to see concrete climate actions.

Canadians have successfully ousted the climate averse Conservatives but now the real work begins. During the debates leading up to the election Trudeau criticized outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative party for having done nothing to address climate change during their 10 years in office. Now, the Liberals must prove that this critique was more than just campaign rhetoric. They must use their mandate to steward a new course and move beyond the 19th century energy obsession of their predecessors.

We can begin to lay out plans for an energy economy that looks to future rather than the past. We can begin to imagine what must be done to support a green economy. We can begin thinking about strategies to erect a clean energy infrastructure.

After a decade of failed climate leadership from the Conservatives, the country has a long way to go to catch up with the world's cleantech leaders. The Harper government put forth the weakest emissions reduction plans of the G7 and they were failing to meet these commitments.

Rather than being a climate laggard Canada is now free to dream of a future that will benefit both current and future generations. We can return to our rightful place as environmental leaders or we can continue to invest in an energy source that has no future.

To augur a cleaner future we will have to transition away from fossil fuels. However this constitutes a massive challenge and it will require political will and popular support. The Liberals are called to lead and leadership means that they must educate the public, enact bold policies and pass audacious legislation.

The case must be made for policies that help to create a clean energy economy. This means we will need to reduce our carbon pollution and create the right environment for renewables to flourish.

To realize the broad visions of Canadians, the Liberals under the new Prime Minister will need to lay out a strategic vision. While there is a strong case to be made, the new leadership must redress ten years of misinformation.

Canadians concerns about jobs and the economy must be met head on. The promised infrastructure spending must lay down the foundation for a 21st century economy. The new PM must combat Conservative lies and make Canadians aware that the clean energy sector already provides more employment in Canada than the tar sands.

There is a hopeful vision emerging of a government that will support renewable energy and invest in radical efficiency.  Canadians want less fossil fuels and more climate action and the Liberals 184 seat majority, put them in position to show bold leadership.
The environmental, climate and economic rationale justifying the move towards a cleaner future is readily apparent. Renewable energy is both necessary and feasible, it does not contribute to climate change or damage the environment.

Renewable energy offers a host of financial and employment benefits. During the Munk debate Trudeau correctly tied climate change to the economy. According to some analysts, investment in clean energy can provide 6 to 8 times more jobs than similar investment in the oil industry. Further a cost benefit analysis shows that acting on climate change is fiscally responsible. This is a view born out in research from LSE and Citibank.

We need to understand that after a decade of Tory mismanagement, we have fallen far behind much of the world. A vast amount of effort and energy is required to build a post fossil fuel world. However, the combination of market forces and supportive governance can build a new clean energy infrastructure. We may also see the country seriously engage radical efficiency and vastly expand its electric public transport networks.

To succeed the new government must avoid the missteps of the previous government. First and foremost we need to stop investing in an energy source that is both economically and ecologically destructive. As explained by Tzeporah Berman an Adjunct Professor York University Faculty of Environmental Studies:
"We need to do everything we can to avoid new infrastructure that locks us in longer to a fossil fuel economy."
To begin Canada needs to get serious about emissions reduction and to do this the country will need to move away from fossil fuels and the tar sands in particular. The provinces have provided support for clean energy and this will continue, however now it is now time for the federal government to provide bold leadership.

The Liberal party has promised to provide more incentives to the provinces for meeting as yet unspecified climate principles.

For the health of all of Canada's inhabitants and to ensure that we leave a habitable planet to future generations Canada must rejoin the community of nations and assume its responsibilities to combat climate change.

The change of government comes at a pivotal time. We are headed towards COP21 where expectations are high that we will finally secure a global climate agreement.  Prime Minister Trudeau is in a position to spearhead a cleantech revolution in the country but to do so the Liberals must advance ambitious climate, energy and environmental polices that are informed by science.

Now is a time for hope. However, if Canada is to emerge out of the fog of its fossil fuel nightmare we will need more than sunny ways, we will need courageous leadership.

Related
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