The politics of carbon pricing

Today, I was a panelist on Smart Prosperity’s Politics of Carbon Pricing webinar, representing the Green Party. This is what I said:

The climate crisis is like a wildfire, where the embers are already sizzling on our roof. The Liberal and NDP policies are like trying to save the house with  a garden hose. A garden hose is better than throwing gasoline, as the Conservatives do, but it won’t keep the house from burning down.

The Liberals and NDP have used the smoke screen of constitutional doubt as a figleaf, an excuse for not doing very much. Now that the court has ripped away this fig leaf, it is clearer than ever that they could deal with the climate crisis effectively, they just choose not to. This is the same point that Seth Klein made in his excellent book, the good war.

In the Second World War, almost every aspect of public and private life in Canada was designed to win the war. We will know that our leaders are taking the climate crisis seriously when everything in our daily lives is consistent with a livable future. In this world we would:

1. Have a strong climate law consistent with science so that we were actually on track to keep a stable climate and healthy ecosystems. Our emissions would be dropping by half this decade. There would be more rights for children and for nature than for corporations. 

2.Be actively disrupting fossil fuel lock-in, so that we do not dig a deeper trap for our children and grandchildren. That means no new money-losing pipelines, no new oil sands mines, no new suburbs. And it means investing our pension money in the future we want to live in, instead of in dead ends that will destroy it 

3. Be bending every effort to build a green, circular economy. We would be using Canadian human, financial and natural resources to invent and build the clean technology and equipment that the green economy needs. We would be supporting regenerative agriculture and eating better food as a result. We would have millions of good jobs, retrofitting buildings and building green infrastructure. Urban streets would be quiet, green, and safe, with clean air, lots of people, and silent buses. We would be able to hear the birds.

4. We would protect nature as if our lives depend on it, which it does 

5. We would see a steady decline in the inequality that the mainstream parties allowed to explode  for the last 40 years. Everyone would have a decent place to live within existing urban boundaries, with clean air, good transit, good schools and jobs and services nearby 

If we lived in that world, we could look our children and grandchildren  in the face and promise them a fair chance at a good future in a stable climate. 

But that is not the world we live in now. Right now, Canada has the highest per capita emissions in the G7. Our Paris commitment is weak and we’re not on track to meet it. And it’s so late in the game that winning slowly is the same as losing.

The mainstream parties keep going along as if the scientists can safely be ignored without consequences, as if we have so much time that tinkering at the edges is enough. They hint that they’re really doing as much as anyone could expect, that  people would never vote for real climate action, that we should be grateful for what they are doing.

Both the Second World War and the pandemic have shown us, again, that people respond to strong and honest leadership in a crisis. On the climate crisis, we’re not getting strong or honest leadership from any of the mainstream parties. What their policies really mean is “we know that we’re going to use it all up, but we’re doing what we can. Anyway  I’m going to be out of office by the time it gets really bad and then it won’t be my problem.”

That’s why Canadians need the Green Party. We tell the truths that the other parties skirt, and we show how a green lens illuminates better answers for a whole range of public problems, from housing to mental health. And once the public knows these answers are possible, it changes the mainstream conversation.

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