A Bold New Climate Vision: If I was Prime Minister of Canada, How Would I Tackle The Climate Crisis?

Bold

By Guy Dauncey

New Scientist magazine reported in June that five meters of future sea-level rise is already locked in, due to the steady collapse of the West Antarctic Ice-Sheet. If we don’t act rapidly, their staff reported, it will be twenty metres.

The full extent of the flooding will not happen for several thousand years, but “locked-in” is the phrase they used.[1] Venice, New York, Miami, San Francisco, Vancouver, London, Mumbai, Kolkata; large parts of Holland; a large part of Bangladesh and many cities in China—all will be under water.[2]

Right now, the climate crisis is causing drought conditions that could end commercial food production in California. The record-breaking heat, drought and forest fires in western Canada are causing distress, fear and death, as well as huge damage. The great blob of warm water and the resulting algae bloom in the eastern Pacific is threatening the salmon as well as the shellfish. With the plankton numbers in the ocean plummeting and rivers being too warm to migrate up to spawn, their future is in peril. Think to the future, and what we’re experiencing today is only a small indicator of far worse to come.

To all except the deniers, the climate science explains what’s causing Earth’s temperature to rise. It’s not the Sun, not the Earth’s changing orbit, not volcanoes, not deforestation, not ozone pollution, not aerosol pollution, not chemtrails: it’s the greenhouse gas emissions that result from burning ancient fossil fuels, destroying Earth’s forests, and other human activities.[3]

If we really understood the severity of the crisis, if we understood in our hearts the grief that our children and grandchildren will experience long after we’re gone, what would we do?

What would I do if I was Prime Minister of Canada in October 2015? It’s an important question that everyone one of us should ask. Canada’s current commitments are abysmal, [4] more informed by religious fundamentalism than by climate science.[5]

My First Week In Office: A Nation-Wide Broadcast 

As the imaginary leader of one of Canada’s main opposition parties, my team would already have already consulted with Canada’s best and brightest climate scientists and renewable energy specialists. As a result, within my first week in office I would host a nation-wide broadcast in which we would lay out the dangers, and show how a future with a greatly reduced use of fossil fuels could be just as comfortable and dynamic as the Canada we know today.

I would then announce a bold new climate vision, telling Canadians that my government would work to achieve an urgent and rapid transition to 100% renewable energy by 2040, moving to the front of technological change and generating hundreds of thousands of new jobs while leaving most of the remaining coal, oil and gas in the ground, supported by public banking to create the credit needed to finance the transition.

To coordinate the process I would create a new department, Climate Canada, absorbing the important energy-related portfolios of Industry and Natural Resources, and my ministers would make two major announcements a week leading up to the crucial UN Paris Climate Conference in December, which I would attend in person, accompanied by the entire Climate Team from my Cabinet.

First Announcement: A Price on Carbon

My government’s first announcement would be in Victoria, BC, where my new Minister of Finance would invite the provincial Premiers to meet as soon as possible to coordinate a plan for a single Canada-wide carbon tax based on BC’s example, starting at $50 a tonne and increasing by $10 a year, with 80% of the income being used to finance the transition to 100% renewable energy and 20% being returned to people on lower incomes. The tax would generate $20 billion rising to $30 billion a year to invest in the transition.

Second Announcement: Greener Buildings

Three days later my new Minister of Urban Affairs would make an announcement in Winnipeg introducing a series of incentives and tax credits to make homes and buildings more energy efficient and to switch to renewable sources of heat. She would announce my government’s intention that starting in 2020 every new building must be zero carbon, and that low cost loans would be available for building retrofits and district energy systems with the goal of reducing emissions from buildings to zero by 2040. In doing so, the work would generate up to 90,000 new direct and indirect jobs. [6]

Third Announcement: Transportation

The following Monday my Minister of Transportation would make a big announcement in Toronto, where he would lay out the government’s commitment to the solar-electrification of Canada’s railways, the integration of provincial electric vehicle incentives into a single Canadian program, and the goal that all new cars and light trucks manufactured in Canada would be electric by 2025.

He would announce a large funding commitment for transit and safe separated bike lanes, that he would work with Canada’s mayors to increase the share of transit and cycling to 50% of trips by 2040, and that Canada would work with other nations to make urgent progress towards 100% renewable energy for the difficult challenges of long-distance trucking, shipping and flying.

The work would generate hundreds of thousands of jobs in transit, 14,000 jobs electrifying the railways, a strong auto-manufacturing industry, and up to 75,000 new jobs in cycle tourism as Canada’s network of safe bike pathways grows.

 Fourth Announcement: Fossil Fuels

The next announcement would be by my new Minister of Climate, in Fort McMurray, Alberta, where she would explain that due to the urgency of the climate crisis no new federal permits would be approved for the transportation or export of Canada’s coal, oil and gas resources, either by pipeline or by rail.

To balance the pain, and to address the gradual loss of 550,000 direct and indirect jobs in fossil fuels, my government would work with communities and the provinces to develop programs to help people retrain for new jobs, and to help affected communities design and build a new future without fossil fuels.

Fifth Announcement: Electricity

The fifth announcement would be by my Secretary of State for Energy at the University of Saskatoon, standing next to a solar home. Working with the provinces, he would develop a plan to phase out all coal-fired power plants in Canada by 2020, followed by all gas-fired power plants, replacing them with solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and other renewable energy resources. He would also launch a Canada-wide drive to increase the efficiency of lights, appliances, fans and other equipment, and to encourage energy-saving behaviour. As an estimate, the work would result in 85,000 new direct and indirect jobs, growing to 125,000 new jobs by 2040.

Sixth Announcement: Business and Industry

The sixth announcement would be in Halifax, where my Secretary of State for Industry and Natural Resources, based within Climate Canada, would issue a challenge to every business in Canada: become a certified Benefit Corporation, embracing a legal change to your governing principles that commits you to produce social and environmental benefits as well as profit, and the government will give you a tax-break.[7]

He would urge every company to seek ways to become more competitive by becoming more energy efficient, and announce plans to develop a Canada-wide program of Green Business Certification based on the model developed on Vancouver Island.[8]

He would also announce that starting immediately every business seeking a grant, loan or export assistance must submit a plan to reduce its carbon emissions by 5% a year, and that to build Canada’s economy without fossil fuels his department would develop a new program to support innovation and entrepreneurship in schools, universities and communities, including First Nations, women and minorities.

Seventh Announcement: Farming and Ranching

Three days later my Minister for Agriculture would make an announcement from a Quebec organic farm, where she would emphasize the importance of organic farming and management-intensive livestock grazing for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. She would list the many externalized costs of conventional farming and announce the government’s intention to introduce a new tax on pesticides and fertilizers, with 100% of the revenue being returned to farmers to support the transition to organic status. She would also talk about the climate impact of intensively raised beef, and urge people to join the federal cabinet in making every Monday a meat-free day.

Eighth Announcement: Forests

Toward the end of that week my new Secretary of State for Forests, based within Climate Canada, would make an announcement in Whitehorse, Yukon. Emphasizing the importance of Canada’s forests as another important source of carbon sequestration, as well as of jobs and economic prosperity, he would invite the provincial forest ministers to meet to develop new standards to protect the carbon in the forest, protect the forests from devastating climate-induced wildfires, and come up with new ways to overcome the American softwood lumber agreement and develop more value-added jobs in the forest industry.

Ninth Announcement: Canada’s First Nations

At the start of the next week, my new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would meet with First Nations leaders in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, where he would make a commitment to regular consultations, and propose an offer to accelerate the treaty-making process, writing off the accumulated legal costs. He would also propose a new initiative to retrofit 200,000 sub-standard First Nations homes, and to train First Nations people in the skills to develop businesses and cooperatives providing solar and wind energy, energy storage, passive house building and zero-carbon home retrofitting in First Nations and neighbouring communities.

Tenth Announcement: Education & Training

That same week my Secretary of State for Climate Education would invite the education ministers from every province to meet in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where, if she has done her homework, they would announce a threefold commitment: to ensure that climate education in Canada’s schools place most of its emphasis on solutions to the crisis, not just the problems; that Canada’s colleges develop the necessary training programs for the renewable energy transition; and that every school, college and university in Canada would convert to 100% renewable energy by 2025.

Eleventh Announcement: Climate Science

For the eleventh announcement, my new Secretary of State for Science, based within Climate Canada, would invite Canada’s leading climate scientists and Inuit leaders to meet with her in Iqaluit, Nunavut, where she would announce her goal that the entire Arctic should become a marine protected area.

She would also announce the restoration of all climate science programs cut under the previous government, and that henceforth all Canadian scientists and researchers would be allowed to speak freely, and never again fear the loss of their jobs for speaking out.

Twelfth Announcement: Community Engagement

For the penultimate announcement my Secretary of State for Community Engagement, based within Climate Canada, would meet in Glassville, New Brunswick, with staff and volunteers from the Falls Brook Centre and with Craig and Marc Keilburger from the youth empowerment organization MetoWe, where they would jointly invite Canadians to gather in stadiums across the country for a series of inspirational celebrations of Canada’s new vision and our determination to be a world-leader in the fight against climate change and our embrace of a renewable energy future. She would also announce a new funding program for community climate initiatives, and invite 20,000 Canadians to train to become Climate Solutions Leaders in their communities.[9]

Final Announcement: The Paris Climate Conference

Finally, before leaving for the UN climate conference in Paris, I would bring my entire climate team to Charlottetown, PEI, where I would once again emphasize the urgency of the crisis and where I would announce Canada’s intentions to work with the world’s nations to achieve three things:

  1. A mandatory global carbon cap set low enough to create a 75% chance that the temperature would not rise by more than 2°C, requiring an average 5% reduction in emissions by every country, every year.
  1. That in addition to their commitments to reduce their emissions the world’s nations would agree to work on a series of climate solutions treaties to accelerate specific solutions.
  1. That the world’s wealthier nations would do everything in their power to produce by 2020 the $100 billion Green Climate Fund promised in 2010 to help developing nations with the cost of coping with the climate crisis and to support the renewable energy transition. I would announce that Canada, with 2.25% of the global GDP, would provide $4 billion at $1 billion a year.

What would these announcements cost? My Climate Solutions Budget (Appendix 1 below) shows annual expenditures of $22.5 billion, set against carbon tax income averaging $22.6 billion over three years.

By retaining 80% of the income from the carbon tax, $20 billion would be withdrawn from consumer spending, but it would all be spent back into the economy, generating jobs and restoring consumer spending. Over the period of the transition to renewable energy, the plan would generate almost twice as many jobs as would be lost, enabling Canada’s economy to come through the transition in good shape.

*

This is just one possible way to address the climate crisis: there will be many more. What would you do? What would you ask our actual political leaders to do?

With every month that we delay, the carbon emissions keep growing, the forests keep burning, the ice keeps melting, the ocean and rivers keeps warming, the sudden floods and deluges keep coming, the droughts keep lasting longer, the stream of climate-related refugees increases, the death-toll keeps rising, and the likelihood of a locked-in 20-metre sea-level rise keeps growing. We must act now.

About the Author

Guy Dauncey is an author and futurist who works to develop a positive vision of a sustainable future, and to translate the vision into action. He is founder of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, and the author or co-author of nine books, including the award-winning Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic and The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming. He is currently completing his tenth book Journey to the Future: A Better World Is Possible. He is an Honorary Member of the Planning Institute of BC, and a Fellow of the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. His websites are www.earthfuture.com and The Practical Utopian.

 

Appendix 1: A Climate Solutions Budget ($ CAN billion)

Initiative

$ IN

$ OUT

A carbon tax starting at $50 a tonne on 500 million tonnes of CO2. 80% of the income to finance the transition to 100% renewable energy, 20% returned to low-income Canadians. Income averaged over three years. For income from future years, see below. 22.6 0
For building retrofits, the tax credits and incentives would pay for themselves through GST on building products. Low-interest loans self-financing through savings. The government would create the credit needed to advance low interest loans by forming a new Public Development Bank. 1.0
The shift to renewable electricity would be self-financed through the normal process of tendering for wind, solar and geothermal power, supported by solar feed-in tariffs until the price of solar PV falls sufficiently. 1.0
Based on the Ontario Metrolinx Go Rail electrification numbers, railway electrification would cost $7 billion a year, split between the railway companies and the government. Canada’s railways hauled 289 million tonnes of freight in 2010.[10] Several studies have outlined the benefits of electrification:

·       50% reduction in rolling stock operating costs.

·       15% reduction in infrastructure operating costs such as track maintenance due to lightweight trains.

·       3% increase in rolling stock availability.

·       22% reduction in vehicle leasing costs.[11]

3.5
The investment in safe, separated bike lanes would be shared with local communities, with a $1 billion federal contribution. If the cycling rate in towns and cities reaches 25% there would be $43 billion annual savings in healthcare costs due to increased fitness. This compares to BC’s current BikeBC commitment of $11 million a year and Ontario’s $8 million a year. Vélo Québec has estimated that cyclists on the Route Verte spend $95.4 million annually, generating revenues of $15.1 million for the government of Québec.[12] 1
The investment in transit, at 50% of the level proposed for the MetroVancouver Mayors’ Plan, would cost $12 billion a year. 12
The electric vehicles incentives program, targeting 100,000 vehicles a year with a $5,000 incentive, would cost $500 million a year. 0.5
The transition to organic farming would be self-financed through the new tax on chemical pesticides and fertilizers. 0
First Nations funding for zero-carbon housing and training 1
Climate science, education and community engagement 0.5
Canada’s Contribution to the Global Climate Fund 1
Program administration (spread between initiatives) 1
22.6 22.5

Appendix 2: Carbon Tax Income

2016-2026

Year Carbon tax Tonnes of CO2 (million) Revenue (billion) 80% (billion)
2016 50 500 25,000 20.0
2017 60 475 28,500 22.8
2018 70 450 31,500 25.2
2019 80 425 34,000 27.2
2020 90 400 36,000 28.8
2021 100 375 37,500 30.0
2122 110 350 38,500 30.8
2123 120 325 39,000 31.2
2024 130 300 39,000 31.2
2025 140 275 38,500 30.8
2026 150 250 37,500 30.0

Endnotes

[1] Latest numbers show at least 5 metres sea-level rise locked in. New Scientist, June 10, 2015. www.newscientist.com/article/mg22630253-300-latest-numbers-show-at-least-5-metres-sea-level-rise-locked-in

[2] Coastal Nations, Megacities Face 20 Feet of Sea Rise. Climate Central, July 9, 2015. www.climatecentral.org/news/nations-megacities-face-20-feet-of-sea-level-rise-19217

[3] What’s Really Warming the World? Bloomberg Business, June 24, 2015. www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-whats-warming-the-world

[4] Canada’s INDC Commitment, via Climate Tracker: http://climateactiontracker.org/countries/canada.html

[5] Stephen Harper’s Covert Evangelism, by Andrew Nikiforuk. The Tyee, Sept 14, 2015. http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2015/09/14/Covert-Evangelism-Stephen-Harper/

[6] All jobs numbers come from Almost Twice As Many: Green Jobs in Canada in the Transition to 100% Renewable Energy, by Guy Dauncey. The Practical Utopian, September 2015. https://guydauncey.wordpress.com/2015/09/10/almost-twice-as-many-green-jobs-if-canada-phases-out-fossil-fuels/

[7] Benefit Corporation: www.bcorporation.net

[8] Vancouver Island Green Business Certification: http://www.vigbc.ca

[9] Me to We: www.metowe.com

[10] With CO2 priced at an average $100 over 10 years, the carbon tax would add $268 to each 1,000 litres of fuel. In 2009, Canada’s railways used 1.87 billion litres of diesel, costing $500 million a year. With full electrification, fuel costs will fall from $2.8 billion a year (diesel at $1.25/litre + carbon tax at $100 /tonne) to $400 million for electricity, saving $2.8 billion a year. See 2010 Rail Trends, page 22. www.railcan.ca/assets/images/trends/2010_12_29_RAC_Trends_2010_en.pdf

[11] Toward a clean train policy: diesel versus electric. West Toronto Chapter, Professional Engineers Ontario. www.academia.edu/5399500/Toward_a_clean_train_policy_diesel_versus_electric

[12] Quebec Cuts Funding to Route Verte – Outcry from Cycling Community and Municipalities. Pedal Magazine, Nov 11, 2014. https://pedalmag.com/quebec-cuts-funding-to-route-verte-outcry-from-cycling-community-and-municipalities

7 thoughts on “A Bold New Climate Vision: If I was Prime Minister of Canada, How Would I Tackle The Climate Crisis?

  1. Everybody feels the need to assure us that we’ll be just as comfortable without fossil fuels as with them. In other words, the assumption is that the public isn’t willing to be inconvenienced.
    Well, the first part is a lie and if the second part is a lie too, then we’re even more screwed than we need to be.
    A bold vision would be an honest one. We need to give up everything we don’t need. Vacation air travel. Cruise liners Constant-temperature homes. Freighters and semis carrying shet that nobody needs. We need to learn to find achievement and satisfaction in something other than greed.

    We need to stop hiding behind comforting lies.and face things as they really are.

    1. That’s only true if you assume that no other country will act. If every country did as planned here, we’d be down to zero emissions by 2040, so global CO2 would cease to rise. The next task is eco-sequestration, to draw down the surplus.

      1. The management of this planet are driven by a cocktail of power, prestige and money. Disasters are an opportunity to enhance all of the above. “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel Climate Change is a “good crisis”. when it becomes a crisis, but not until.

  2. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and most importantly, the wisdom to know the difference. I support and encourage you courage, but, we all know, to play in this game, you have to have a seat at the table. When you get a seat or control or occupy a seat, game on.

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