Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Liberal Budget Delivers a Raft of Green Promises

The newly elected Liberals first budget makes good on their green campaign promises. The budget called "Growing the Middle Class," was released on March 22, it is intended to help make Canada "a champion of clean growth," and "make a speedy transition to a low-carbon economy."

As explained in the document Canada must now strive to catch up to the low carbon leaders in the world. This is no easy feat after ten years of climate inaction from Stephen Harper's Conservative government. However, rather than focus solely on the challenge ahead, the Liberals are looking to capitalize on the opportunities.

In his budget speech to Parliament, Finance Minister Bill Morneau challenged the old Conservative polemics saying, "Some believe we must choose between a strong economy and a clean environment. They are simply wrong."
"We are at a turning point in world history with the International Energy Agency reporting that the global economy has grown while global carbon emissions haven’t," Morneau said. "The IEA credits the widespread adoption of a clean energy. This is just a glimpse of the future; a future we want Canada to lead."
Here is a breakdown of some of the major green spending in the 2016 Liberal Budget:

Green Infrastructure

The Liberal's have allocated green infrastructure investments of $5 billion over the next 5 years.

Public Transportation

In order to improve and expand public transit a total of $3.4 billion will be invested in communities across Canada.

GHG Emissions Reduction

The government is spending a major portion of its budget to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and honor its COP21 commitments. Financial incentive for the provinces and territories will help to build a pan-Canadian climate strategy. A total of $2.9 billion over the next five years is earmarked to reduce emissions and pay for the pan-Canadian framework.

Water

Municipal and provincial governments have access to $2 billion to improve their water infrastructure and wastewater treatment.

Low Carbon Economy Fund

Beginning in 2017 and stretching into 2018 there will be a $2 billion low-carbon economy fund.

Clean Economy

The Liberals have allotted $1.75 billion over two years to develop a low carbon clean economy and protect the environment

Climate Resilient Infrastructure

A total of $518 million has been earmarked for local governments to upgrade and build a climate resilient infrastructure

National Parks

To add national parks and provide free admission to these parks to mark the 150th anniversary of confederation in 2017, the Liberal's have earmarked $142 million.

R&D

Over the next five years the government will invest $132.5 million into research and development of clean technologies.

Energy Efficiency and Building Retrofits

Over the next five years $128.8 million will go into energy efficiency programs to retrofit buildings and to improve standards for vehicles and products.

Alternative Fuel Charging Stations

Over the next two years $62.5 million will be used to build electric, hydrogen and natural gas charging stations

Discussion to Expand Electricity Infrastructure

The Liberals will also launch regional discussions to identify the most promising projects to expand electricity infrastructure.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

If there is one area where the Liberal's did not live up to their promises it is subsidies. While the Liberal's will continue to phase out a billion dollars in fossil fuel subsidies, they will not do so as quickly or as aggressively as they had promised. Even more significantly, this will not apply to liquefied natural gas (LNG), at least not until 2025. The existing accelerated capital cost allowance for LNG remains in place. This means that companies can continue to write off 30 percent of the cost of their equipment and 10 percent of the cost of their buildings.

Overall this is a decidedly green budget. It just goes to show how quickly political tides can turn. Mere months ago we were tied to the yoke of a petro-obsessed tyrant. Now we have a Prime Minister who has breathed new life into the Canadian political landscape. The tabling of this budget sets in motion a collection of policy initiatives that will help move the nation into the 21 century. We have set a new course, or perhaps it would be more apt to say we are navigating by a different star. One thing is certain this is not Stephen Harper's Canada anymore.

This budget is about more than just doing what they said they would do. This budget makes a statement by repeatedly mentioning the environment. From taxes to trade, the environment was mentioned more times in this relatively brief document than in any of the previous budgets tabled before Parliament.

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