Time to work harder at fixing a broken planet

I’ve just discovered the excellent blog of the Pembina Institute. On the day after the Alberta election, executive director Ed Wittingham wrote an excellent piece on the opportunity for the new Notley government to make a real change in our province’s environmental policies. Here’s an excerpt:

One of the most pressing issues is Alberta’s approach to regulating (and ultimately, reducing) greenhouse gas pollution. The oilsands industry is Canada’s fastest-growing source of emissions. By 2020, Environment Canada projects Alberta will be responsible for 40 per cent of all greenhouse gas pollution nationally, with much of this growth coming from oilsands expansion. This upward trend is expected to continue until significant changes are made to the amount of emissions the province will allow, and the price charged to emitters who exceed the limit.

This spring, the NDP criticized the previous government for not doing enough on climate change, with Notley stating that Alberta was “way off track” in relation to its 2020 emissions-reduction commitment, and calling the delay in renewing the provincial climate strategy “profoundly irresponsible”.

The challenge of fixing Alberta’s flawed climate policies now falls to Notley’s government to resolve, and quickly — all eyes are on Alberta now that Ontario and B.C. have announced major next steps toward reducing emissions. After years of being named and shamed at the UN climate negotiations, Canada’s credibility at this year’s talks in Paris hinges directly on how it plans to address the runaway growth in greenhouse gas pollution coming from the oilsands sector.

I agree. I think it’s unconscionable how much of the rhetoric since the election has focused around how the new Alberta government is (in the eyes of the right) going to be an economic disaster for our province. First of all, they haven’t even started yet, and since their tax proposals (to give just one example) would still leave corporations better off than they were in 2004 under Ralph Klein, that seems rather far-fetched to me. But secondly, there is no mention at all of the environmental disaster that the PCs were leaving for our grandchildren to clean up (if anyone ever got around to cleaning it up) (see this page on the Pembina Institute website for more details).

The economy is important, of course, but government needs to be about more than the economy. Good stewardship of our natural environment is hugely important if there’s going to be anything left to pass on to future generations. The Klein government used to bang on about not leaving a huge government debt for our descendants to deal with. But what about the morality of leaving them a broken planet?