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Seeking leadership

October 30, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Laura Campbell

My jaw dropped last week when I saw the title of the provincial government’s new climate change consultation form: “A made-in-Ontario climate change plan.” You can see the whole thing for yourself at https://www.ontario.ca/form/tell-us-your-ideas-climate-change – and indeed, you should go and fill it out.

I do know that the language was likely produced by non-partisan public servants, but also that its directives were taken from Premier Ford and his circle. And that’s exactly why when reading it, I felt myself feeling frustrated throughout the entire thing. Take this line, for instance, under the ‘Areas of Focus’ section: “Ensuring polluters are held accountable and creating dedicated measures that will efficiently reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (My emphasis)” How exactly should polluters be held accountable in this province? Exactly no one is being held accountable without us asking them to pay. And asking polluters to pay is exactly what carbon pricing is.

This new consultation process is not climate leadership. Asking citizens how they feel about climate change is an important exercise, and I do applaud the government for opening up this avenue for all of us to share our concerns. But I’m weary about this for one major reason: Will they take our concerns to heart? Climate change is not a mysterious new public policy issue that has cropped up out of nowhere. There is an entire industry of knowledge devoted to this at every angle you could imagine: science, economy, government, culture, history, anthropology, engineering, mathematics, you name it. Hundreds of thousands of researchers have devoted their lives to analyzing and solving this now-apocalyptic crisis for the past 35 years.

But Doug Ford wants a new plan. Excuse me – but does anyone actually feel confident about that? He wants his government and the public service to come up with a whole new ingenious way to tackle climate change, and his environment minister, who doesn’t appear to have any experience in that sector, has talked about rolling out a “emissions-reductions fund”  instead of carbon-pricing, or any other clean energy solutions, for that matter. Excuse me for asking: What is an emissions-reductions fund, exactly? How does it work, and who pays into it? Are there other jurisdictions where this has been effective? Details matter.

In Paul Hawken’s incredibly important 2017 book, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, he compiled the most up-to-date research available on solutions to climate change and ranked them according to carbon-reduction efficacy at the end of the book. Hawken and the book’s essayists and researchers compiled nearly 5000 citations, references and sources in the process of writing- and over 60 researchers helped produce the project. This is not a personal mission of some crazed environmentalist. And guess what is listed as the top two most effective solutions? 1) Refrigeration 2) Wind Turbines (Onshore). Both of these areas have a major lead on the 78 other other solutions listed below it, in terms of their atmospheric C02 reduction capacity.

Let’s chat about solution #2. Windmills as an energy source have the capacity to reduce emissions by 84.6 Gigatons- and would cost $1.23 trillion (US) with net savings of $7.4 trillion by 2050! So where is our provincial government on this file? Well, Premier Ford and Environment Minister Rod Phillips are steadfast in their effort to fight the lawsuits coming their way, after they cancelled contracts with windmill project developers. Instead of fixing the fine print in the contracts, they have cancelled the projects altogether. By now the consensus is that this will cost Ontario taxpayers millions of dollars. How can people read that in a way other than, ‘They aren’t serious about finding a solution to climate change.’?

One of the photos on our MPP’s website shows her standing in solidarity with anti-windmill protestors. And again, are windmills to blame for bad hydro prices, or are the contracts to blame? Didn’t Premier Ford boast about his business acumen? His ability to negotiate good deals? If we aren’t going to make polluters pay, then at the very least we need to be incentivizing the Clean-Tech industry, and attracting that business to Ontario, rather than shutting them down and subsidizing big polluters.

Windmills are not without their issues, but at present time, in order to prevent the full acidification of our oceans, our best bet for getting clean energy is also a business-friendly one. MPP Sylvia Jones says cancelling the cap-and-trade program will save taxpayers $260 per year. But what are we losing in terms of jobs and tax revenue from renewable energy production? Let’s do that math, too.

I feel frustrated that at this stage of our knowledge on climate change, our government wants to cook up solutions that don’t conform with the global consensus.  We don’t have time to dilly dally on this topic. And we certainly don’t have time for costly fights with the federal government on this, either. So the question is: where is our leadership?

Last night, Orangeville elected Sandy Brown as our new mayor, and an entirely new council. The people of Orangeville thought long and hard about exactly what kind of change they’d like to see – preserving Orangeville’s community charm at perhaps a lower, if not consistent, tax rate. It would seem they got their selections right.

Across the province, municipalities had the same conversations about what kind of leadership they need in such a complex political climate. Local candidates were tackling issues where the province hasn’t taken a clear position: infrastructure, transit, housing, and crucially, protecting the environment. We have to support our new mayors and councillors in their own efforts to combat humanity’s biggest crisis. They’ve got their work cut out for them.

         

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