WINNIPEG – With today’s budget from the new Manitoba Government, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Progressive Conservatives are going to dither rather than take decisive action to address climate change. The Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition (MEJC) expressed concern that mitigating and adapting to climate change was not a central theme of the throne speech despite Canada’s recent commitments to urgently address climate change at COP21 in Paris this past December; and the terrifying outbreak of forest fires across the boreal forest in western Canada this spring.
“The new government can’t chart a safe economic course without decisively addressing climate change,” said Alex Paterson, Campaigner with Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. “At this critical juncture we need carbon budgets right beside financial budgets. This budget lacks the key analytic mechanisms and financial investments necessary to urgently prepare Manitoba for the increasing dangers and costs of climate change.”
According to research produced at Stanford University, the social cost of carbon could be over $200 per imperial ton. Economists predict this cost to continue to rise as global warming increases.
In spite of the new budget, Manitoba policy still favours fossil fuels. For example, Manitoba does not allow Aki Energy to compete with natural gas service.
“We would have liked to see all subsidies and tax holidays for fossil fuels replaced with increased incentives for climate change solutions,” said Joseph Wasylycia-Leis, board member of MEJC. “We need to create a context for solar, geothermal, and wind power to thrive while we eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050. For instance, money dedicated to multiplying and expanding social enterprises that provide climate change solutions, like Aki Energy, would have been a great step.”
The budget provided little indication on the future direction of provincial energy policy and Manitoba Hydro.
“It seems like the PCs will be continuing the failed policies from the previous government which had Manitoba Hydro dependent on fossil fuels and pipeline development,” said Paterson. “We were hoping for an ambitious strategy to build the infrastructure required for electric car use. We are still missing the charging stations and the incentives necessary to grow electric vehicle use. Electric vehicles would be a sustainable and stable market for Manitoba-made electricity.”
In Paris, the Canadian Government, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, committed Canada to doing its part to achieve a 1.5 degrees or less temperature target. According to analysis of the International Panel on Climate Change report, the world only has 5.2 years left of global carbon emissions for a reasonable shot at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.
“We don’t see the necessary sense of urgency from this new government,” said Paterson. “Last week some red flags went up for us. The new Minister of Sustainable Development refused to identify human-created greenhouse gas emissions as the most important factor contributing to climate change, and we learned it could be longer than a year before we get carbon pricing. We only have 5 years, there was a plan in place, and it seems like this government is returning to square one on climate change.”