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For use with carbon cap-and-trade stories.
Environmental and economic progress are now inseparable, yet our governments still cling to the fiction that we can’t have both, writes David Henry. - Herald composite

Thanks to Jim Vibert for his Nov. 21 column, “การพนันบอล Carbon pricing is hard on the head.”

He’s right — everyone needs to understand how carbon pricing can work to reduce our collective carbon footprint.  

That said, the core challenge isn’t “how.” It’s “how much.”

Any doubt about this surely evaporated with the recent release of the UN/IPCC climate report, which stated that Paris COP21 commitments won’t limit global warming to a relatively manageable 1.5 degrees Celsius. Add to this the multiple reports that Canada isn’t on track to meet its Paris pledges and the upshot is clear. We aren’t pulling our weight on climate change. Ottawa’s approach is basically sound: its backstop plan, inspired by the Citizens Climate Lobby’s carbon fee and dividend model, essentially reimburses people for the rising cost of energy. But it doesn’t go far enough, fast enough.

Nova Scotia’s cap-and-trade plan appears to achieve even less. The Ecology Action Centre’s analysis found only a one per cent expected reduction in annual carbon emissions — adding, “these reductions are marginal and do not put Nova Scotia on the necessary path for strong long-term climate targets.” Behind the government’s short-sighted appeal to our pocketbooks, its message is clear: our province can’t afford to do the right thing.

In fact, the opposite is true.

Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, which has done extensive research on the subject, states: “Done right, carbon pricing changes household and business behaviour, reduces GHG emissions, and provides an incentive for the development and adoption of the technologies that can play a key role in a low-carbon economy.”

Environmental and economic progress are now inseparable, yet our governments still cling to the fiction that we can’t have both.

The disconnect is that carbon pricing “done right” is focused on the next generation, not the next election. Looking back, can you imagine Canada’s Second World War-era Liberal government shrinking from a full-on commitment to victory because we couldn’t afford it? Or the Conservative opposition refusing to join the effort because taxes might go up? Or either of them putting poll numbers ahead of the common good? Our leaders knew that preserving a free society was worth whatever price had to be paid.

It’s just as true for a livable climate. What’s missing is the leadership.

Many are working to fill the vacuum.

The 2030 Declaration, a campaign calling on Nova Scotia to set strong 2030 emissions targets of 50 per cent below 1990 levels, is a promising example. Backed by an impressive EAC-led coalition of progressive groups, it is grounded in the social justice that must accompany climate action. Reinforcing its commitment to economic progress could make the 2030 Declaration a powerful force for change by attracting, say, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce as a partner. And what a great opportunity this could be for a bellwether like the Chamber to signal that in 2018 business interests include minimizing the destructive effects of a warming climate.

The call to leadership extends to the rest of us, too. It’s up to us to demand decisive action from our politicians and to support campaigns like the 2030 Declaration that point the way forward. If we’re looking for motivation, one of the groups behind the Declaration can surely supply it. Called iMatter, its members are high-school and university-aged Canadians who are working to create a future they can look forward to rather than dread. One way or another, they are our children — and they deserve that future.

Yes, how we stem the tide of climate change is important. But it’s “how much” that will matter in those young people’s lives, in the creation of sustainable businesses and good jobs, and in continuing the social progress we are so rightly proud of.

It’s time to do the right thing on climate change. We can’t afford not to.

David Henry lives in Halifax.

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