Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 17, 2002
Cutting greenhouse gases would spur economy
By SUSAN ELSTON
With less than three months to go before the World Summit on Sustainable Development, things are beginning to heat up about global warming. The conference, which will be held in Johannesburg at the end of August, marks the 10th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
It was in Rio in 1992 that the world's leaders first promised to do something about the growing problem of climate change. Five years later, without an international agreement in place, they met again in Kyoto, Japan.
The end result was the Kyoto Protocol -- a watered down version of the promises made in Rio. Another five years has gone by and still the Kyoto Protocol hasn't been ratified.
Part of the problem is that in political circles global warming is much less of a tangible concern than the economy. More importantly, there are certain corporate interests that view attempts to restrict our consumption of fossil fuels as a direct attack on their ability to show a profit.
Within Canada, Alberta's Premier Ralph Klein is a perfect example of how some political leaders have become the front men of the "Stop Kyoto" bandwagon. By becoming the mouthpiece for the oil and gas industries, they are blocking the real economic opportunity of addressing climate change. Their self-centred obstructionist positioning is transparent and damaging.
A new study by author Dr. Stephen Bernow, vice-president of the Tellus Institute, confirms that energy-efficiency innovations, cleaner fuels and other measures don't cost money - they would actually generate jobs and economic growth for Canada. Dr. Bernow is an internationally recognized authority on energy policy and a past adviser to the World Bank and the U.S. Department of Energy, among many others.
The Bottom Line on Kyoto: The Economic Benefits of Canadian Action presents an economic analysis of policy proposals from the federal government's National Climate Change Process. The study was commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation and World Wildlife Fund. Unlike some recent position papers from industry, the study weighs both the costs and benefits of shifting to a clean energy economy.
"Our study concludes that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will not slow down the Canadian economy or kill jobs. On balance, industry, workers and consumers will benefit," said Bernow.
"The benefit of implementing these policies to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions would exceed the costs. Our study forecasts the net addition of 52,000 Canadian jobs by 2012, and a $2 billion addition to the GDP, over and above the growth forecast in 'business as usual' Canadian government projections."
The policies that were analyzed would promote a shift to more energy-efficient buildings, cleaner transportation and industrial technologies, and local electrical co-generation. The resulting forecast shows job growth across the economy from industry's investment in new technologies and from consumers re-directing money away from energy to other goods and services.
"No economic study can predict the future, but this report shows that Canadian critics of the Kyoto Protocol are mistaken," said Jennifer Morgan, Washington-based director of the climate change campaign at World Wildlife Fund.
"Canada can enjoy economic benefits and maintain its international reputation by adopting the protocol as soon as possible," added Gerry Scott, director of the climate change campaign at the David Suzuki Foundation.
A number of Canadian companies have already exceeded the Kyoto targets, while saving money in the process. General Motors has reduced emissions by 37 per cent below 1990 levels, while reducing the emissions of the vehicles that it produces by 30 per cent.
IBM has reduced energy consumption 25 per cent worldwide and pocketed $527 million in the process. The company's Canadian operations alone have reduced emissions by 33 per cent since 1990. These are just a few examples of the growing list of companies that are ignoring the doom and gloom of the oil and gas industries and are actually helping to move us toward a more sustainable economy.
The problem, says, Jennifer Morgan, is that we can no longer afford to simply rely on voluntary measures. "Special interest politicians continue to drive government policy."
It's time to let our government know that 10 years is long enough. Kyoto must be ratified. Canadian industries that are unwilling to take voluntary measures must be legislated into doing so. It's time to lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way. The future of the planet is depending on it.
Recommended websites:Send a letter to Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien (email@example.com) and Environment Minister David Anderson (Anderson.D@parl.gc.ca) and let them know that it's time to ratify Kyoto. For a complete listing of federal MPs, go to canada.gc.ca. To download a copy of The Bottom Line on Kyoto: The Economic Benefits of Canadian Action, visit the World Wildlife Fund's website at www.wwf.ca or visit the David Suzuki Foundation website at www.davidsuzuki.org. For the latest information on the Johannesburg Summit, go to www.johannesburgsummit.org.
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