Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Climate Solutions Institute?

Gordon Campbell Announces $94.5 Million Cutting Edge Climate Solutions Institute: Believable Conversion or PR Exercise?

Encourage this new BC government initiative, support it, promote it if you wish, but be aware that while Gordon Campbell is making this announcement he is speeding up the processes which allow this province and its resources to be ransacked and pillaged by his corporate friends. While Gordo fiddles a pretty tune, the province continues to burn. It's unfortunate but true that the good people he is hiring are rapidly becoming ‘Nero's guests.’ If citizens want this institute to work they are going to have to watchdog its every step. Otherwise the bulk of this money will likely be spent on buildings, staff, flashy media announcements, meaningless conferences and letterhead.

If this is a true cutting edge institution it will require none of these things, only video conferencing and emailing as needed and some major solutions within the year.

If Campbell really meant to do anything about environmental issues he would have convened a special session of the legislature months ago and introduced bills to enforce climate change and compliance on his corporate friends. He would have already completely revamped government so that floatplane and helijet use is banned, to give just one example of the government addiction to fossil fuels that must be overcome. Do you hear any corporations or government nabobs squealing yet? Until they are you can bet nothing is happening. Campbell isn’t passing the ‘squeal test.’

If he cared at all he would have created a financial cushioning commission at arm’s length from the government for those people and businesses who will suffer due to change. All drive-throughs would have been closed immediately. Fast food outlets would have to prove that their food came from BC and that their packaging was minimal and fully recycled. He would have set up recycling depots in every city and town that would take everything, no ifs, ands, or buts. All environmental initiatives would be fast-tracked and full environmental assessments would be made for every project, public or private. David Suzuki or a lawyer chosen by him would have been hired as an environmental watchdog reporting every breach to the Legislature immediately and with the power to punish infractions severely.

And Campbell would most definitely not be supporting TILMA or any of the other trade agreements that have been made without citizen input. These agreements are his ‘out’--he can promise the moon because he doesn’t have to deliver.

He has changed the Parks Act so that any 'run of the river' company can ask to have the park boundaries changed to clearcut for transmission lines. There will be no public hearings. Liquid Gold by John Calvert should be mandatory reading for every voter in this province. He has allowed his Minister of Forests to take land from TFLs and sell it to developers. It's true we may have saved Jordan River, but none of the other sales have been stopped yet. Ask West Coast Environmental Law and the Sierra Club about the rest of the Island. He is building a hugely dangerous liquid natural gas terminal for Texada against the wishes of the residents. Prince Rupert is being built into a major oil and gas shipping port with tankers spilling oil all down our coast. Ask the Dogwood Initiative.

You can list these things all day long: raw log exports are higher than they have ever been while mills close and stumpage rates drop. Sea lice kill off wild salmon while the government denies the studies are real. Proposals are being made for uranium mining in the interior and the flooding of the Similkameen to provide more power to sell to the US (ask the thriving winery industry how they feel about this). The sacred headwaters of the Stikine are going to be covered with gas and oil rigs if people can't stop it. More and more roads are being pushed through the Lower Mainland destroying farmland.

So look closely at this announcement, with giant understated government surpluses of $4 billion per year only a miniscule fraction, not even $100 million, is to be spent incrementally ($4 million per year) to do research: Not to start changing what we already know we have to change, but to do research. That’s fine in itself, but it is not the most urgent move that government needs to make. Much of the research we need is already done. Northern Europe is far ahead in implementing changes. They have roads that act as solar panels and also keep themselves clear of snow, passive heating so your body and your toaster warm your house. Paris has 10s of thousands of bicycles in place and London has fees for driving in the centre of town rather than coming in by bus or rail.

I am concerned about the number of times this announcement and it’s background paper talks about private partners.

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