Thursday, October 18, 2012

We will pay the price, but we will not count the cost

“If we keep our pride though everything is lost, we will pay the price but we will not count the cost”
As Rush performed their song Bravado Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre, this phrase resonated with today’s situation. The fall session of Parliament has been bizarre to witness. From the government comes ridicule of the NDP cap-and-trade proposal for greenhouse gases, even though the Conservatives themselves proposed the same approach in the 2008 election. Across the floor, the NDP deny their plan is a carbon tax, even though it would force those releasing carbon to pay a price. Both are putting spin and pride before the interests of Canadians and the world.
By opposing a price on carbon, what both a cap or tax would mean, they block the best way to stave off further global warming. There is simply no denying the cost that climate change will put upon us all, starting with the neediest in our own communities and the poorest among nations. We can’t wish it away. The only fair response is to ensure those who demand fossil energy, who benefit and profit from extraction of resources, who cause deforestation and soil erosion and ocean acidification, know and pay the true cost of their actions. Because if they get out of paying it, the rest of us must pick up the tab; we will pay the price.
Climate change is already eroding global GDP by 1.6 percent, costing $1.2 trillion a year. In human terms, almost 5 million a year die from fossil fuel pollution or its consequences. Putting a price on pollution and greenhouse gas emissions is the surest way to shift our economy away from waste and toward clean systems.
Some insist carbon pricing would harm our prosperity, yet the opposite is true. Bureau of Labor statistics show that the “greener” an industry or region, the greater its job growth. Meanwhile, Canada’s shift in emphasis away from value-added goods and services toward extraction of resources like oil, gas, and forests has reduced our international competitiveness, according to the Conference Board of Canada. Even worse, our resource sector’s voracious appetite for investment capital is putting more and more of our economy under foreign control.
The biggest myth about carbon pricing is that it would be a tax on everything. False! As long as carbon tax revenues are used to lower other taxes or provide an equal rebate, they won’t make life any more expensive, as BC has already proven. What carbon pricing will do is reward those with a smaller ecological footprint (including the poor), and spur much-needed innovation in our economy, the true driver of sustainable prosperity.
So our governing Conservatives and opposition NDP should stop their bickering against carbon pricing, and agree on a system to implement as part of a much-needed national energy strategy. The sooner, the better for our environment and our economy, our planet and our prosperity.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "Bickering won’t fuel national energy plan"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

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