Kyoto: a socialist plot

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Stephen Harper was right when he called the Kyoto protocol a socialist scheme. After all it is an intergovernmental agreement to make corporations reduce greenhouse gas emissions, where tardy rich countries have the option of funding emission reductions in poor countries.

But socialism is more than government trumping corporations, and rich giving to poor. And, most importantly, caring for the environment goes well beyond adhering to Kyoto.

In fact, if you really want to protect the environment, the best measures would resemble a full-blown socialist plot. Green goes best with socialist red.

Most environmentalists, let alone Canadians, would not self-identify as socialists. But democratic planning, public ownership, and mandatory regulation of corporate investment and production have to be part of a serious green agenda. For instance, socializing investment decisions, where the community interest takes precedence over the profit-maximization motive, is an old-fashioned socialist goal.

With climate change focusing our attention, it suddenly makes more sense to think about collective input into choices about not just exploiting natural resources, but about how financial resources are allocated.

The great ruling fiction is that adding up my choices, your choices, and everybody else's choices, produces the best possible outcome for all. Not only does this approach ignore the existing distribution of income, wealth and access to resources, so that some have lots of market choice while others have none, it also neglects the structure of ownership of productive resources — aka, the means to pollute, and create environmental havoc.

The socialist ethic suggests your choices affect me, and concern us, so we need to agree about what to produce, and how much, and drop the fiction that market choices produce optimal outcomes.

The green ethos suggests that we should produce in a sustainable way, so as to achieve environmentally friendly outcomes.

Planning production is where socialists and the environmental movement can feel free to join hands and sing together. Without such a songfest what we are likely to get is green washing where, say, the main energy companies, take on renewable energy as part of their mission of increasing share holder value, and governments subsidize them to produce wind, solar, and tidal energy.

Turning over alternative energy production to big oil, without regard to the need to directly control and reduce the overall environmental impact of current economic practices is classic bait and switch politics.

Show us the bait, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and then switch from the direct regulation approach, to the high cost, and ultimately futile alternative of subsidizing big energy to produce green solutions to problems they are creating daily.

The lowest cost, most efficient way to produce clean energy is to mandate crown corporations to bring alternative energy sources into being. Being under public ownership would facilitate the planned introduction of wind, solar and tidal power. With a federal government guarantee, Crown corporations could borrow the capital they need at the lowest rates going.

Public power at cost was the socialist scheme for hydro-electricity. It is still a good choice for greenhouse gas reduction.

Public ownership, the collective control of green energy sources is the best way to go beyond Kyoto to a truly sustainable future for Canada, and the world.

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