Monday, January 26, 2009

Economy or environment? It's a false choice

As the federal budget fast approaches, the public eye will once again be focused on Ottawa. Public polling has consistently shown that Canadians expect the government to deal with both issues and are not as easily distracted from the challenges facing us as the conservatives and energy industry would like us to believe.

Economy or environment? It's a false choice

By James Clancy, NUPGE National President
(reprinted from the NUPGE website)

Two major crises facing Canada and the world today are a deep economic recession and climate change. The Harper government thinks we have to choose either a strong economy or a clean environment. This is a false choice that sells our country short. We can and must have both. The current economic downturn actually presents us with a golden opportunity to unleash Canadian ingenuity and develop the green technologies that will renew our economy and confront climate change.

Our economy and the climate crisis are getting a lot worse – faster than predicted. The Harper government is paralyzed in the face of both crises because they obsessively focus on one problem without regard to, or not caring about, the impact on the other problem. The reality is that our economy and environment are and must always be linked. The solutions to the climate crisis are the same measures needed to renew our economy.

I believe it all starts with building a thriving green tech industry in Canada. Dynamic economies constantly reinvent themselves and grow through innovation. We need innovative made-in-Canada technologies that generate renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and strengthen conservation. The potential is enormous. According to the United Nations, the emerging green tech economy will be worth $4.2 trillion annually by the year 2020.

Those numbers are only going to grow. Canada stands to lose out if our federal government doesn’t do more to attract our share. Lots of other countries have already recognized the inseparable links between the economy and environment. Their governments have invested in research and development and partnered with innovative green technology companies. They are gaining a competitive edge and a better quality of life as a result.

Canada must do more to close the green innovation gap between us and the rest of the developed world. We have no reason to shrink from this challenge. We have the creativity, knowledge and resources to be at the forefront of this huge opportunity. But we need the Harper government to make the necessary financial investments that will propel a green tech industry forward in Canada.

What has happened to our economy, what is happening to our environment, forces all of us to face the folly of believing these concerns are in any way separate or individually “fixable”. Let’s hope the Harper government will soon see the (energy-efficient) light and drop its old way of thinking. This is the opportunity of our lifetime; to lead the transformation to a stronger economy and a cleaner environment. Precious time is slipping away. We can’t afford to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.

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