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Green climate plan offers ambitious blueprint for emission reduction

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Image: Laurel L. Russwurm/Flickr

The Green party platform for the 2019 election, titled "Honest. Ethical. Caring. Leadership," is extremely long (18,950 words). It is full of details, including end notes. There are a few fact-based observations on actions and non-actions taken by previous governments. Otherwise, this document is ad hominem-free.

Could the Green plan meet its goals of "addressing the climate emergency" and "transitioning to a green economy"?

The goals are set for 2030 because that is "the deadline for the reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals," which this platform uses as a template.

The 17 sustainable development goals are: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequality, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water and life on land. The sustainable development goals are used to measure all the policies within the Green platform.

The Green party believes that greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by the current and former governments are dangerously inadequate to address the climate emergency.

"A Green government will pass into law a Climate Change Act requiring a 60 per cent cut in climate-changing emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, reaching net zero in 2050. Interim targets would be set at five-year intervals beginning with 2025." To reach this goal, "Canada must utilize every tool in the federal toolkit, including regulations, public spending, and pollution pricing." 

The Greens propose stronger versions of the existing regulations and policies, also proposed by the NDP, such as increasingly strict emission restrictions for industry, revenue-neutral carbon tax, funding for more renewable energy sources, funding for building retrofits, changing the National Building Code, funding for increased charging stations, funding to transition workers out of dirty industries into clean industries.

They have many original proposals:

  • "Establish a cross-party inner cabinet to deal with climate change to limit the destructive impact of partisan politics which has thwarted strong climate action for two decades." If anyone could pull off this difficult but sensible idea, it would have to be someone with a trustworthy reputation, talent and experience, like May.
  • "No new pipelines, or coal, oil or gas drilling or mining, including offshore wells, will be approved."
  • "Existing oil and gas operations will continue on a declining basis, with bitumen production phased out between 2030 and 2035."
  • "Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations will be banned outright due to impacts on groundwater quality, methane release and seismic activity."
  • A national grid strategy, "Canadian Grid Strategy," would make renewable electrical sources such as wind and solar reliable.
  • "Cancel the Trans Mountain pipeline."
  • "Implement a major ramp-up of renewable electricity. By 2030, 100 per cent of Canada's electricity will come from renewable sources. This includes getting remote and northern communities off diesel generators." This process is already underway under the current government with funding for projects such as the solar farm in Old Crow and the biomass-generating plant in Teslin. Neither the current government plan, nor the other parties' plans will get us off fossil fuels by 2030. (The NDP's goal is 2050.)
  • Determine "which orphaned oil and gas wells are geologically suited to produce geothermal energy. This will turn provincial liabilities into potential income-generating renewable energy, ideally in partnership with First Nations. Those with weaker geothermal energy potential may be used in district energy, including for greenhouses." This could provide some, but not all, replacement jobs for oil patch workers.
  • "Ban the sale of internal combustion engine passenger vehicles by 2030."
  • "Exempt new and used electric and zero-emission vehicles from federal sales tax."
  • "Maximize emissions reductions in all transportation through the use of sustainably produced biofuels, made from waste wood byproducts and used vegetable oils, where electric and fuel cells not viable."
  • "Enact the Via Rail Act to implement a passenger rail transportation policy. Invest $600 million in 2020-21, rising to $720 million by 2023 to develop regional rail networks and strengthen rail connections between regions."
  • Build high-speed rail in the Toronto-Ottawa-Quebec City triangle and the Calgary-Edmonton corridor.
  • Require all passenger ferries to convert to electric or hybrid systems by 2030.
  • Create a national cycling and walking infrastructure fund to help support zero emissions active transportation.
  • Develop a Green Freight Transport program to address greenhouse gas emissions and pollution in partnership with the freight industry, shipping companies and delivery businesses.
  • "Introduce an international tax for aviation and shipping fuels earmarked for the Global Climate Fund." (Also known as the Green Climate Fund under the auspices of the United Nations.)
  • "Implement national standards for reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizers in crop agriculture, reducing erosion and rebuilding soils to retain carbon, and transitioning away from industrial livestock production."
  • "Direct the Canada Infrastructure Bank" to invest in "climate-proofing essential infrastructure, prioritizing upgrades to drinking water and wastewater systems to protect against flooding, droughts and contamination."
  • Use the "existing Green Infrastructure Fund" to "launch a national program to restore natural buffer zones along waterways, and carbon sinks through ecologically sound tree-planting and soil re-building."
  • "Invoke federal powers for peace, order and good government to develop non-commercial aspects of forest management, such as massive tree planting, creating fire breaks and fire suppression, for climate change adaptation."

"Transitioning to a Green Economy" focuses on labour problems. High-paying jobs in the fossil fuel industry will disappear, regardless of who forms the next government. The Greens, NDP and Liberals acknowledge that this must be managed to avoid large-scale unemployment.

Here is what the Greens propose:

  • "Establishing a dedicated, comprehensive, inclusive and flexible just transition funding program for affected communities," "just transition plan for workers in fossil fuel sectors" and "locally driven transition centres in affected communities."
  • "Establish a Canadian Sustainable Generations Fund to make critical investments in trades, apprenticeships and education required for the transition to a green economy."

(The Greens are alone, so far, in acknowledging the larger impact of automation on employment. They propose to study shorter work weeks, to fund guaranteed living incomes and to eliminate post-secondary tuition fees.)

In the federal 2017 budget bill, the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) received a new mandate to price electoral platforms.  "Honest. Ethical. Caring. Leadership" has been submitted to the PBO for estimates which have been released.

If a Green federal government stopped existing financial incentives to the fossil fuel industry, it would save Canadians $3.13 billion. If they increased income tax for corporations, we would gain $16.73 billion. If we stopped corporate tax deductions just for meals and entertainment, we would gain $888 million. And if we applied the Green tax to sugary drinks, we would accrue another $946 million.

Is the Green plan adequate to meet our emission reduction goals? It appears so. Will there be consequences to adopting the Green Plan? Yes. Some people will become unemployable. Citizens, industry and municipalities would be forced to change how they conduct themselves. 

Will the consequences of the Green plan be as catastrophic as the consequences of failing to address the climate change emergency? No. The Green plan will be lifestyle-changing. Runaway climate change will be life-ending.

Download the Green party platform at this link. Read about PBO electoral campaign platform estimates here.

Read Linda Leon's full analysis of climate platforms in the 2019 federal election here.

Yukon is full of artists, thinkers, eccentrics and rabble-rousing political trouble makers. From the windows of her Acting Out Studio, Linda Leon observes the view from North. Every good artist knows that you have to stand far away to get a full perspective.

Linda Leon is not now, nor has she ever been a member of any federal political party.

Image: Laurel L. Russwurm/Flickr

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