New Brunswick’s climate change talking points

 

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Greenhouse gas emission targets, like New Year’s resolutions, are made to be broken. Still, as loyal supplicants of the state of denial otherwise known as New Brunswick, it behooves all of us to wish Premier Alward and company all the best with their new Climate Change Action Plan.

Luck? You’re going to need it. 

“To do its part under the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG-ECP) 2013 Climate Change Action Plan,” the strategy, released on Monday, declares. “New Brunswick has committed to achieving greenhouse gas reduction targets of: Ten per cent below 1990 levels by 2020; and 75-85 per cent below 2001 levels by 2050.”

Apparently, this is perfectly doable. After all, as the report notes, the province managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent between 2005 and 2010, even as it grew its economy by 19 per cent over that period.

Forget that in 2011, New Brunswick belched 18.6 million tonnes of 

CO2 equivalent, which amounted to the third-highest per capita emissions in the country, behind Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Forget, too, that as the plan clearly states, “New Brunswick’s economy faces challenges due to its high ‘carbon intensity’. In other words, the province consumes a relatively large amount of energy per dollar of economic production, and despite recent 

progress, much of the energy New Brunswick uses still comes from refined petroleum products. With the transition to a lower carbon economy well on its way, people around the world are making significant changes to the way they do business. As a province that exports much of what it produces, New Brunswick’s reputation and real performance in climate change may affect its trade competitiveness in international markets.”

All of which is another way of saying what U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman warned this week: If we don’t soon get our climate-change act together up here, north of the 48th, there will be economic consequences to pay elsewhere on the world stage.

“We need to continue (the) work together moving toward a low-carbon future, with alternative energy choices, with greater energy choices, with greater energy efficiency, and sustainable extraction of our oil and gas reserves,” he said in a speech in Ottawa on Monday. “This is not a task we can take on individually. It can only be successfully challenged together.”

Mr. Heyman made his remarks as his boss U.S. President Barack Obama’s unveiled sweeping, new plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 per cent by 2030. 

Again, like New Brunswick’s targets, the number feels arbitrary. Who knows what can happen in five years, let alone 15 or 35? Almost no one foresaw the industrial output-killing Great Recession of 2008, which, incidentally, did more than all the earnest policy makers in the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Still, it’s a start, and that’s more than we can say for our own venerable leader Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose only response to criticism this week that he’s not moving fast enough to match US. initiatives on climate change was downright surly: “(Obama is) acting two years after this government acted and taking actions that do not go nearly as far as this government went.”

The unvarnished truth is, however, that the Yanks are on course to cut all of their emissions by 15 per cent by 2020. In contrast, we Canucks are more or less happily sitting with our heads stuck in the Alberta oil sands, where production dooms any hope of meeting our oft-stated reduction target of 17 per cent a scant six years from now.

In New Brunswick, several factors militate against the new action plan’s chances of success. Oddly enough, none of these has anything to do with tight oil and gas development, an as yet unrealized sweet dream, or wretched nightmare, depending on who’s doing the talking.

Without dramatic, even temporarily traumatic, changes to the energy mix in this province – without a concerted effort to cut back usage, conserve electricity and, finally, migrate to renewable sources for in situ consumption – all of our greenhouse gas reduction targets will remain, like so many of our other promises in New Brunswick, made to be broken.

 

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