Industrialization of coast looming

Guest column by Chris Genovali
The Province,
May 27, 2009

According to some expert claims, the B.C. Liberals’ re-election can be, in part, attributed to support for their climate-change policy, specifically the carbon tax.

To paraphrase Cuba Gooding’s character in the movie Jerry Maguire, show me the numbers! An April poll done by Robbins Research concluded that 37.5 per cent of survey respondents supported the carbon tax, while 50.5 didn’t support it and 12.5 per cent were undecided.

Likely, a more realistic assessment of the outcome on May 12 is that the B.C. electorate voted for the status quo as a result of fear and anxiety about an uncertain economy, coupled with a lack lustre campaign by the
official opposition.

It’s regrettable the carbon tax became such a political lightning rod during the election as it diverted attention from the real issues at hand, such as substantively addressing climate change, protecting the coast from a potential Exxon Valdez-style disaster and halting the decline of the lifeblood of B.C.’s coastal ecosystems — wild salmon.

Yes, B.C. does need a carbon-pricing system, but one that is aligned with a suite of policies and initiatives that work in concert, not in contradiction. The fact remains there is a stark disconnect between the
government’s implementation of the carbon tax and its continued support for intensive fossil-fuel development.

Backing everything from offshore oil drilling to coalbed methane development, the province is also pushing for the revocation of the 35-year oil-tanker moratorium on B.C.’s coast and the construction of the Northern
Gateway pipeline into Kitimat. These are not the stances of a government that is serious about tackling climate change, not to mention being highly inconsistent with the stated intention of the carbon tax.

Government has a wide range of potential carbon-reducing tools at its command, including cap-and-trade regimes, taxes on fuels, management of forestry and agriculture, regulations on power generation and energy efficiency, and subsidies for renewable energy and improved technologies.

As essential as it is, however, reducing emissions will not be enough. The fossil fuels burned up so far have already committed the world to a serious amount of climate disruption, even if carbon emissions were somehow to cease overnight.

The price to be paid for dodging the “axe the tax” bullet is that British Columbians now have the equivalent of an intercontinental ballistic missile pointed at their collective heads with Premier Gordon Campbell’s “energy corridor” plan about to be unleashed on a largely unsuspecting citizenry.

Regarding the proposed industrialization of the coast, don’t be surprised when the government tries to “turn up the crazy and break off the knob,” as Stephen Colbert is wont to say.

Having put an inordinate amount of emphasis on rescuing the carbon tax, the environmental movement in B.C. comes out of this election a paler shade of green as it just might have cut off its nose to spite its face.

Chris Genovali is head of Raincoast Conservation.

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