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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 25, 2020
The federal government is making plans to spend billions of dollars to help the economy recover from the effects of COVID-19. Let’s hope that spending is directed toward a green and just recovery – one that takes us on a path to net-zero carbon emissions and supports the well being of our citizens and our earth.
There is lots of good advice and expertise available on an economic recovery. None of that advice includes funding or promoting the fossil fuel industry. Rather we need to pour our resources into making our homes and buildings energy efficient and our natural environments sustainable. Research and development into clean technologies as well as education and training for jobs in the green economy are also important areas for investment.
While the potential and optimism for a green economy and a liveable future is there; so are the warning signs. One of these signs came with the recent revelation by Energy Policy Tracker that, since the beginning of the COVID- 19 pandemic, Canada has committed $12 billion US of public money to support fossil fuel production and consumption. This compares to $1.58 billion US committed to support clean energy. While some of that $12 billion is allocated for relief to airports and for highway projects, much of it goes directly to the fossil fuel industry via regulatory rollbacks, fee breaks, transfers and loan guarantees. In any event, the balance is all wrong.
The Task Force for a Resilient Recovery, an independent and diverse group of Canadian finance, policy and sustainability leaders, released an interim report on July 22 advising that Canada needs to invest $50 billion “... to put our economy on a low-carbon, climate-resilient, sustainable and competitive pathway.“ They recommend investing in energy efficient buildings, jump starting the production and adoption of zero-emissions vehicles, growing the clean energy sector and protecting our eco-systems. These types of initiatives will create good jobs in a low carbon, resilient economy.
The advice contained in this report mirrors the recommendations made in the May, 2020 report of Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and is in keeping with the EU’s fiscal recovery plan based in The European Green New Deal. There is much consensus about the direction we need to head. But Canada’s economy is heavily embedded in fossil fuel production — which has made it a leading laggard in meeting its CO2 commitments. Will the federal government remain “completely captured by the oil industry” as Greenpeace Canada’s senior energy strategist, Keith Stewart, suggests it is; or will it boldly lead us toward a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren? The good news is that, according to a recent Abacus poll, the majority of Canadians say that, in spite of the pandemic, we need to stay focused on combating climate change. Let’s hope our governments are listening.
Marilyn McKay is a resident of Charlottetown and a member of the P.E.I. Fridays for Future Climate Action Group.