Carbon tax floated as a way to pay for post-flood reconstruction.
by Gillian Steward
The devastating flash floods that swamped much of southern Alberta — including Calgary’s downtown core — have suddenly made the projected effects of climate change quite tangible.
Climate change is no longer just a concept or a gaggle of statistics. It means soggy, smelly houses, apartment and office towers without working elevators, and shuttered restaurants.
The costs are also quite tangible. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi estimates that restoring city infrastructure and facilities will cost between $250 million and $500 million. Estimates of the total damage in Calgary run between $3 billion and $5 billion. Premier Alison Redford has pledged $1 billion for immediate aid, cleanup and reconstruction throughout the province.
“It’s appropriate that Premier Redford tax the source of the problem — carbon pollution — in order to help pay for the cleanup and reconstruction,” says Hawkesworth, who was a Calgary city councillor for 23 years.
Bob Hawkesworth has an answer that seems obvious, especially in Alberta.
“It’s appropriate that Premier Redford tax the source of the problem — carbon pollution — in order to help pay for the cleanup and reconstruction,” says Hawkesworth, who was a Calgary city councillor for 23 years, ran for mayor in 2010, and most recently headed up Alberta’s เกมที่กำลังฮิตตอนนี้Municipal Climate Change Action Centre, a collaborative effort of the provincial and municipal governments.
“We need to deal with the causes of these disasters as well as the symptoms,” Hawkesworth said during an interview.
Of course, this is not a popular idea in Alberta, where the oil and gas industry is crucial to the province’s economy. But oilsands development has surged ahead so rapidly in the past decade it is now Canada’s largest single emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the main culprit when it comes to global warming and climate change.
Carbon taxes are a reality in British Columbia and the economy hasn’t cratered. Alberta already imposes a tax of sorts on industrial carbon but it is minimal and doesn’t really prod polluters into cleaning up their act.
Now that we are faced with massive cleanup and reconstruction costs from floods it seems entirely appropriate, as Hawkesworth suggests, that revenue from a tax on carbon emissions be used to help pay for those costs and the cost of adapting municipal infrastructure so it can mitigate the impacts of frequent flooding.
Late last October when Hurricane Sandy struck New York and surrounding area killing 110 people and destroying thousands of homes and businesses, it took New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg only a few days to publicly name climate change as the culprit and to call on all elected leaders, especially President Barack Obama, to take immediate action.
Obama has since stepped up by moving the climate change file to the top of his agenda. In a speech at the end of June, he promised tougher regulations for carbon emissions from power plants, many of which are fuelled by coal.
Obama also said approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from the tarsands to Texas refineries, would be granted only if “the project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
So far, we have not seen that kind of political leadership on the climate change file in Canada. Perhaps Nenshi will be the one to lead the charge. Perhaps Redford will realize we simply cannot afford to do almost nothing. Perhaps Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after witnessing the devastation in his hometown, now realizes that climate change is going to cost governments a lot of money if they don’t take action to do something about it.
“One way or another we are going to pay for this . . . through increased municipal taxes and insurance rates,” says Hawkesworth. “And eventually, the cost of inaction is going to be greater than the cost of action.”© Copyright 2013 Gillian Steward, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca