Tuesday, July 22 2014

Climate change gridlock: What you can do

Last week the Council of the Federation (COF) meetings brought Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial premiers to Winnipeg to discuss issues of importance to the country. They had a full plate, and outcomes included requests for the federal government (related to launching a Canada-India economic partnership and negotiating an open skies agreement, among other topics) and some interesting new initiatives, such as endorsing a water charter and agreeing to consolidate purchases of prescription drugs and medical supplies. But the provinces couldn’t agree on a plan to tackle a major concern of many Canadians: climate change.

According to this article by PostMedia reporter Jason Fekete, while the provincial leaders could agree that action on climate change is crucial, their preferred approaches are far from consensus. It’s worth reading the article, but in a nutshell, the leaders of B.C., Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba favour a cap and trade system where companies that exceed emissions targets could purchase carbon credits from greener firms. The leaders of Alberta and Saskatchewan, on the other hand, are in favour of pursuing carbon capture and storage programs (despite the fact Alberta has a form of cap and trade already operating in the province).

Ultimately, the meeting is yet another example of political gridlock on climate change. We’ve seen this at the federal level in Canada, south of the border (which many in Canada feel needs to be settled before we can make our own plan) and internationally. Back in December 2009 The Economist proclaimed climate change as the defining issue of the century, saying: “Climate change is the hardest political problem the world has ever had to deal with. At issue is the difficulty of allocating the cost of collective action and trusting other parties to bear their share…”

So what can individuals do while we wait for political leadership on climate change? Plenty. First, simple steps to conserve energy, such as those recommended by leading environmental groups WWF-Canada and the Pembina Institute, can have a major impact when done collectively. Second, you can ensure that your elected official keeps climate change on the front burner by calling or writing your MP or provincial representative. Third, you can vote with your wallet by choosing products and services that are less harmful to the earth. To this point, by voluntarily paying just a little more (less than a dollar a day for the average home), Canadians in most provinces can make a 100% clean electricity choice with Bullfrog Power. In doing so, they reduce their electricity-related carbon emissions footprint and support the development of new wind power in Canada.

We would like to hear from you on the COF meetings. What are your thoughts on what was achieved at the meetings―and the premiers’ inability to develop a united strategy on climate change?

Theresa Howland
Vice President, Western Region, Bullfrog Power


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