Climate leadership and action at the local level: it works and makes good economic and environmental sense.
If the federal and provincial governments want to deal with climate change in an urgent manner, one of the best things they can do is begin a massive funding initiative to local governments (municipal and regional). Local communities are on the line for the cost of adapting to climate change and mitigating the most severe consequences while having little ability or economic power to set meaningful and robust climate change policies.
Our municipal tax base is expected to carry a burden which, under the threat of climate warming, it simply cannot possibly meet. Right now, only eight cents of every tax dollar Canadians pay go to cities; the other 92 cents go to federal and provincial governments. This has to change.
Local communities, cities, towns and regional districts are on the frontline. With economic support and investment from the provincial and federal governments they can bring the kind of creativity and initiative that will help the province and country reach carbon reduction targets.
Presently, we transport goods in cargo ships, jumbo jets and heavy trucks, hauling raw resources and products across the globe. This way of doing things is wasteful, costly and very carbon intensive.
Researchers at the National Academy of Sciences have concluded that the rise in emissions from goods produced in developing countries and consumed in industrialized countries is six times greater than the actual emissions savings of industrialized countries.
Re-localizing production of goods, funding cities through something like a Green New Deal would begin to turn this around. It would help local growers and small businesses accelerate the transformation to green alternatives and sustainable initiatives.
It would improve social equity, build resilience against climate warming disasters and encourage environmentally sustainable practices by investing in the local production of food, energy and goods. It would increase energy security and strengthen municipal and regional economies.
How to pay for it? Well, let’s start with this: Instead of subsidizing oil and gas industries to the tune of 3.3 billion dollars per year, federal and provincial governments would subsidize local renewable projects and training for new climate jobs; they would provide grants to retrofit existing buildings and invest in green energy infrastructure, public housing and zero emission forms of transportation.
Instead of increasingly more traffic leading to poor air quality, unacceptable levels of noise and a weakened sense of neighbourhood and local community, investment in electric trains and buses are ways of reclaiming public spaces and city streets for people not cars. This is not about private-for-profit investment, but government investment in cities and towns.
If we are going to achieve a future that is cleaner, healthier and environmentally sustainable, we need to embrace the concept of re-localizing our economies and unleash the creative potential we all know exists in our cities, communities, towns and regional districts.
A crucial part of Climate Action Powell River’s mission is to help Powell River and qathet Regional District make the transition toward a more sustainable future by discovering innovative ways to re-localize our economy.
Fred Guerin is a philosophy professor at Vancouver Island University. Climate Action Powell River Society is a non-profit society committed to helping the residents and businesses of Powell River to reduce their greenhouse gas.