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Watt's Happening: Time to vote

The Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and the Greens have all released climate plans for the upcoming election. Let’s have a look
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Don Pettit: A few of the many Peace Country residents who have gone solar: fighting climate change and reaping the benefits.

Voting is the little bit of democracy we have left. It’s use it or lose it. Believe me, we don’t want to lose it.

I say, vote for change. Vote against the parties most likely to embrace the status quo, or vote for the parties most likely to embrace fundamental change. It’s now or never. 

Federal party climate plans

Canada is one of the worst countries on the planet for levels of pollution (including carbon) emitted per capita. We have excuses (we are big, we are northern) but no good reasons. Are we ready to lead on climate pollution, or drag our heals kicking and screaming into a clean energy future?

The Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and the Greens have all released climate plans for the upcoming election. Let’s have a look.

2030 Targets

Unfortunately, pollution emission targets have seldom been reached in Canada: set a target and let some future government worry about achieving it. Carbon emissions in every province in Canada are still steadily rising.

But here’s the latest batch of promises:

• The Liberal Party: reduce emissions by 40% to 45% from 2005 levels.

• The Conservative Party: reduce emissions by 30% from 2005 levels (lowest possible under the Paris agreement).

• The NDP: reduce emissions by 50% from 2005 levels.

• The Green Party: reduce emissions by 60% from 2005 levels.

Most climate experts agree that anything less than 50% will fall short of what is needed to truly address the climate crisis: significantly reduce carbon emissions and begin to let the planet recover. The time for poking at a few ideas and fiddling with regulations is far past. Action must be extreme or our efforts will fail.

Carbon pricing

• The Liberal Party: increasing from $40 per tonne (current level) to $170 per tonne by 2030.

• The Conservative Party: beginning at $20 per tonne and increasing to a maximum of $50 per tonne by 2030

• The NDP: increasing from $40 per tonne (current level) to $170 per tonne in 2030.

• The Green Party: increasing by $25 per tonne each year from 2022 to 2030 reaching $250 per tonne by 2030.

Any amount of carbon pricing will help in the transition to a clean energy economy, but again, only the more aggressive yearly increases in the cost of carbon will have the necessary effect in the short time we have left.

Every party but the Conservatives has promised to phase out the billions of dollars paid each year in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and those parties each have a plan to use this money to increase investments in renewable energy. Sounds like a good idea.

Costs

All of these plans cost money, but there is more than enough wealth in Canada to do it, and do it well. Any short term costs have to be balanced against the costs of doing little or not enough, which would be, without the slightest doubt, astronomical. Prevention costs a lot less than leaning how to live with it, which just won’t be any fun at all (think droughts, floods, fires…) Spend the money!

The archaic idea of “balancing the budget” may finally have come to its well-deserved end. Running a country, a province or a city is not like running your personal household finances. Sometimes you have to deal with really big things that are going to cost a lot, like global pandemics or catastrophic climate change. Sometimes ya just gotta do what ya gotta do.

But really, the cost is no big deal. Retooling North America to build the World War II war machine took just a few months. It cost a fortune, but it helped win the war. 

The costs of WWII were unprecedented and immense, but it all came back in spades during the boom times we enjoyed through the 50s and 60s. 

The same will happen with climate heating, if we have the will to work together, put aside partisan politics, and truly build a new and better world with much lower levels of all pollutants and a stabilizing climate.

When you vote, vote for the party most likely to make this happen. A tough choice, I know, but the future of Canada is in our hands for this brief moment in history. Let’s make it count.


Don Pettit is a community columnist living in Dawson Creek and Executive Director of the Peace Energy Cooperative.