PART ONE: USING SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGIES TO REDUCE OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Sackville Tribune-Post :: 5 March 2014
What could we do to pursue natural resource development in N.B. if we abandon the idea of a shale gas industry? The answer to that question is to introduce sustainable technologies that would allow us to transition (over time) from the exclusive use of fossil fuels as an energy source.
Sustainable resources allow communities to enjoy prosperity that depends on clean energy for economic success and a healthy environment. Jim Emberger, a member of the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) has recently become the face of shale gas opposition in N.B. through radio interviews and panel discussions in which he promotes sustainability as a way to foster economic development safely. In his words;
- "Sustainability is based on a simple principle: everything that we need for our survival and well being depends, directly or indirectly, on our natural environment;
- Sustainability creates and maintains the necessary conditions for humans and nature to exist in productive harmony that permits fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations; and
- Sustainability is important to make sure that we have, and will continue to have the water, materials and other resources necessary to protect both human health and our environment."
Governments have yet to come to grips with the life and death issues that have recently been closing in on us and that threaten our health and well being. Problems like climate change, dwindling water supplies world-wide and bee colony collapse are a warning, that to neglect to nurture our environment will result in disaster.
Sustainable technologies are not new and have been extensively developed in the European Union. From 2007-2009 a European Commission set up a framework for renewable energy targets and reduced carbon emissions. They have not done badly, on Jan. 22, 2014 the E.C. announced that it will continue it's efforts by backing a climate target to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030. In addition they are committed to the "20-20-20" targets:
- 20% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 1990 levels.
- raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%.
- 20% improvement in the EU's energy efficiency- all by 2020.
To be sure the EU has had its share of successes and disappointments, but there is a determination to take climate change seriously and a will to reduce GHG emissions.
Contrast this to the U.S. who supported but refused to ratify the Kyoto Accord, then pledged to reduce emissions by 17% below 1990 levels by 2020. This intention, however, was contingent upon Congress passing legislation supporting a cap and trade bill. The bill was later trashed by Congress and now all bets are off on what further commitments, if any, the U.S. is prepared to make.
Canada's attempts to address its own carbon footprint are even more dismal. We had pledged to reduce emissions by 17% down from 2005 levels by 2020. However, a 2011 government report predicts that future tar sands exploration will cancel out any emission reduction targets by 2020, a likely scenario since the Federal Government has announced that it will be tripling the tar sands output in 2014.
The following chart, although highlighting only 4 countries, indicates the different commitments that have been made toward lessening carbon footprints:
COUNTRY POPULATION CO2 EMISSIONS CO2 EMISSIONS
IN METRIC TONS PER CAPITA
EUROPEAN 509,365,627 3,688,880 13.3
U.S. 317,569,000 5,190,000 16.4
CANADA 35,295,770 560,000 16.0
CHINA 1,360,720,000 9,860,000 7.1
We need our politicians to enact legislation and provide support and financial incentives for clean energy. There are proven ways to support sustainable industries, like the retrofitting of existing buildings and the construction of energy efficient new ones as well as the installation of renewable energy systems; solar, geothermal, biomass and wind.
There are many success stories in places like Germany and the Scandinavian countries and more recently in California, Oregon, Vermont, Ontario and B.C. Initially the price of this energy will seem high, but that doesn't take into account the costs to society through fossil fuel use to treat human health impacts, to manage environmental contamination, to compensate for the loss of water, land, watershed and wildlife areas and to cope in terms of cleanup after extreme weather events.
There is also the possibility of enforcing a carbon tax on industry polluters, regardless of whether they like it or not. A carbon tax has the ability to raise significant revenues depending on the carbon price. If a carbon tax started at $16 per ton of CO2 in 2014 and rose 4% over inflation , it would raise more than $1 T in the first 10 years, more than $2.7 T in 20 years. The concept of carbon taxation was first tried in the early 1990's and often failed due to industry pressure on governments. That was a long time ago, perhaps today with the threat of continued climate change on the horizon such taxation would be easier to enforce, and could in effect pay for the R&D to further sustainable growth.
Donna Mclellan for the
Tantramar Alliance Against Hydrofracking