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Shifting away from outdated energy sources

Actu SB ours

Two years after the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic here in Quebec, the question of maintaining an economy based on fossil fuels is a hotter topic than ever. Scientists, business people, unions, health-care professionals, young people, economists and decision makers around the world — even Pope Francis — are adding their voices to those of environmentalists to encourage governments to get away from fossil fuels and focus on a sustainable development model.

In the run-up to the federal election, tell us your chief environmental concerns. What environmental issue would you like our elected officials to prioritize in the election campaign? Take our survey.

What scientists are saying

A new report titled Health and Climate Change: Policy Responses to Protect Public Health, published June 23 in the renowned British medical journal The Lancet, concluded that: “The implications of climate change for a global population of 9 billion people [by 2050] threatens [sic] to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health.”

And at the beginning of June, 100 Canadian and American scientists also publicly called for a moratorium on the expansion of tar sand development. Not to mention the periodic warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which, in 2013, clearly demonstrated for the first time that human activities, especially the use of fossil fuels, have led to an extraordinary increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which are changing the climate at an unprecedented rate.

What politicians are saying

At a Winnipeg meeting held June 22 and 23, the provincial ministers of the environment renewed their commitment to fight climate change and formed a new committee to facilitate ongoing engagement on this issue.

At the conclusion of their June summit, the G7 countries also admitted the urgency of acting to slow the impacts of climate change and set a target of cutting GHG emissions to 40% to 70% below 2010 levels by 2050, adding that we must “fully decarbonize” the world’s energy systems by the turn of the century.

What economists are saying

In June, a new study by Mercer, Investing in a time of climate change, demonstrated the potential impacts of climate change on investment and that investors could no longer assume that economic growth will remain largely dependent on an energy sector powered by fossil fuels.

Last fall, a Global Commission on the Economy and Climate report titled Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy —to which 24 political and business leaders from 19 countries contributed—showed that economic growth and environmental protection could be reconciled and at a lower cost.

Furthermore, in recent months, the terms “divestment” (investors’ withdrawal from the oil, gas and coal industries) and “decarbonization” (reduction of the gaseous carbon compounds released as a result of the use of hydrocarbon fuels) have become increasingly common in discussions of the economy.

Two ways to shape the world we want

Despite all these signals that the time has come to embark on a kind of development based on sustainability and renewable forms of energy, our elected officials are continuing down the fossil fuel path, as they approve Enbridge’s plan to reverse the flow of its pipeline, despite the company’s serious failures to comply with National Energy Board rules, by requesting low-cost public hearings by the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement on TransCanada’s Energy East oil pipeline. And the federal government’s enthusiasm for all pipeline and oil sands projects is no great secret. The same goes for the commitment of this government—the only one in the world to have withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol—to reducing GHG emissions (with the lowest target of the G7 countries). Worse: according to an International Monetary Fund study, global public subsidies to the fossil fuel industry will top $5,300 billion by 2015.

Citizen engagement and political will are the only real ways to block such retrograde projects, like the controversial Northern Gateway project in British Columbia and the American Keystone project.

 If you have not yet signed the petition No to tar sands!, there is still time!