Canada needs an energy strategy for the 21st century
NDP MP Peter Julian
The Hill Times
"[this] boom will inevitably turn into bust, taking with it the impetus to design Canadian resource policy for the long term. The result will be that when the next boom arrives, we will be equally unprepared," The 9 Habits of Highly Effective Resource Economies: Lessons for Canada, Canadian International Council, October 2012
If Canada is to become a true clean energy superpower, the time has come to look
seriously at the environmental and economic needs of future generations and to the resources that they will have available to them. New Democrats believe that the federal government has an important leadership role to play in
helping Canada move towards the balanced development of renewable and non-renewable resources within a framework of sustainable economic development unfortunately, a role that is currently being ignored by the Harper government.
The way we produce and consume our energy has major implications both for the competitiveness of our economy and the sustainability of our environment. A sound and sustainable energy policy for the 21st century must come in partnership with the provinces, integrating both renewable and non-renewable energy sectors. It must be framed in the practical understanding that durable economic success and the protection of the environment are deeply intertwined.
Innovative developments in green energy are making renewable sources more and more affordable. Wind, solar, hydroelectric, and other renewable energy sources are all becoming increasingly practical for producing large amounts of clean energy. Investment in green technologies would provide Canada's economy with good manufacturing jobs, helping to offset what Canada is losing because of globalization and Canada's high resource dollar.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body of the world's leading climate scientists convened by the United Nations reports that within four decades, green energy could account for almost 80 per cent of the world's energy supply if governments implemented the policies needed to promote renewable power. Canada has the expertise, skill, and drive to become one of the world's leaders in the research and development of clean energy, an area with massive growth potential. What we lack is the will of government to make this a policy
The Conservative government has refused to understand the new energy reality and to provide comprehensive policy support. For instance, by failing to keep up with U.S. President Barack Obama's investment in renewable energy, per capita, Canada has missed out on as many as 66,000 quality jobs between 2009
and 2011 alone. What's more, the green energy gap between Canada and other
industrialized countries is growing: Canada gets far less than one per cent of the worldwide renewable energy sector which is estimated to exceed three trillion dollars by 2020.
We have also been falling behind in research and development Canada's investment in research and development is now the lowest among industrialized countries. In one quarter of 2011 alone, there were 600 new patents for sustainable energy innovation in the U.S. compared to just 10 in Canada. Instead of taking advantage of the tremendous potential of renewable energy technology, the Conservative's laissez-faire approach has left Canada trailing behind in the global clean energy marketplace.
The transition to renewable energy is not going to happen overnight ramping up the use of green energy must be balanced with the responsible use of existing non-renewable energy resources. This is where the federal government must lead, working with the provinces, territories and aboriginal stakeholders to set a policy
framework that would reduce the carbon footprint, curb pollution and ensure
that future generations' access to Canada's valuable resources will be safeguarded. A successful policy would also ensure that prosperity from non-renewable energy leads us into the transition to renewable energy, for the long-term benefit of Canadians and our economy.
Unfortunately, under the Conservatives, Canadians are treated to a great deal of talk about responsible energy development but very little responsible action. Due diligence is simply not being done, particularly when it comes to environmental
regulation as was made very evident by the Conservative's gutting of the Environmental Assessment Act in the Trojan horse budget bill this spring. The irony of the Conservative rush to dismantle environmental protections is that in the long run it will harm the very projects it's meant to expedite effective regulation means having robust consultations, they depend on each other.
The Conservative push to extract and export raw resources as rapidly as possible, a "rip it and ship it" policy, is as economically unsustainable as it is environmentally risky. In effect, Canada is selling on the cheap to foreign refineries, exporting jobs along with bitumen. By looking at ways to maintain domestic refining and upgrading capacity, Canada can protect quality jobs, reduce reliance on foreign oil, and boost the economy. Conservative policies, which favor the massive export of raw resources only to import them back as finished products at a higher price, lead to the kind of unbalanced economy that has harmed the Canadian manufacturing sector and cost us family sustaining jobs.
Canada can indeed become a clean energy superpower, if the federal government demonstrates leadership and commitment to the project. The vision of long-term, sustainable development of resources that will create wealth and prosperity for generations to come can be realized, if there is political will to get there.
NDP MP Peter Julian, who represents Burnaby-New Westminster, B.C., is his party's energy and natural resources critic.
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