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Province must stand up to industry to achieve emissions goal

If our province has any hope of achieving carbon neutrality by 2080, it will require some backbone; something the embattled provincial NDP is lacking since the fallout from raising the PST. It will require standing up to industries that have to produce emissions to survive. It will require channelling the populist roots of the New Democratic Party/Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.

Instead, one of the province's key emission-reduction tools is what they call a carbon-stewardship model that could place decision-making power concerning emission reductions directly into the hands of those industries that have the most vested interests in continuing to pollute. Could it be any more friendly to industry?

Brady Road Landfill on the outskirts of Winnipeg is one of Manitoba's major emitters of greenhouse gases.

The new carbon-stewardship model would see Manitoba set emission-reduction goals for each sector and create a producer responsibility organization (PRO) to govern stewardship programs aimed at achieving these goals. The PRO would be able to establish environmental levies, and then be responsible for managing the revenues and expenditures from these levies to achieve their emission goals. This approach might have some merit for sectors that can thrive in a new economy -- agriculture, many types of manufacturing. But in an era where carbon neutrality is the goal, creating a PRO for the oilpatch in southwestern Manitoba, for instance, amounts to asking an industry to put itself out of business. Some industries simply need to be phased out altogether and replaced with new ones that provide cleaner, healthier jobs.

This means who Premier Greg Selinger puts in charge of carbon stewardship will be one of the most significant make-it-or-break-it decisions of this new plan. Rather than having PROs managed by industry, they could be managed by scientists, non-governmental organizations and other citizen stakeholders. The emitting sectors could form an advisory committee that could be consulted, but would not have final decision-making power. This approach would reverse the current decision-making structure of PROs in Manitoba, where advisory committees generally consist of non-industry stakeholders and where industry makes the decisions -- results that often serve industry far more than the people of our province.

A carbon-stewardship model sounds eerily familiar to former prime minister Stephen Harper's useless sector-by-sector approach to emissions and would be following the disappointing lead of the federal Liberals. The federal government's course appears to have been set during the election campaign when Trudeau's co-campaign manager was found to be advising TransCanada Corp. on lobbying tactics. Now, after Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr's announcement his new chief of staff is oilsands PR expert Janet Annesley, it is clear the federal Liberals are holding steady to an oil- and pipeline-friendly course. Annesley spent nine years with Shell and three years with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Carr's choice puts into context his announcement the National Energy Board hearings for the Energy East and TransMountain pipelines will go ahead without reforming the board. It also puts into context a tweet from federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna: "We are all in this together."

We are not all in this together. There has to be a loser in the fight against climate change. That loser has to be the industries that burn up the planet to be profitable, lobby to stay in business and steer climate policy in the wrong direction the world over. Here in Manitoba, we have companies such as Koch, whose fertilizer plant is one of our province's top five emitters. Koch has actively funded climate denial throughout North America. Can we really trust industries in a business that requires emitting?

The federal government wants us to think we can meet meaningful climate commitments by singing Kumbaya with those who have a vested interest in the status quo. The likely outcome is far too predictable and far too dangerous to fathom. Can Selinger set himself apart from this sad state of affairs?

The CCF and NDP were born as an organization deeply committed to social justice and skeptical of corporate influence. The federal NDP lost the recent election because it strayed from these origins. If ever there were a time for Selinger to separate Manitoba's NDP from the pack and return to its roots, that time is now.

 Alex Paterson is a community organizer with the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. Mary Robinson is chairwoman of the Winnipeg chapter of the Council of Canadians.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 7, 2015 A9

About Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition

Grassroots citizens' group working to bring climate justice to the energy sector for Manitoba.
Province must stand up to industry to achieve emissions goal
Province must stand up to industry to achieve emissions goal
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