In a July letter, Premier Pasloski highlighted his government’s approach to climate change. Several of his government initiatives are commendable, such as the assistance to the Kluane First Nation for wind turbines and the extension of the hydroelectric grid to take Pelly Crossing off diesel. However, most initiatives outlined tend to focus on areas within the sphere of government, e.g. vehicle fleet efficiency and retrofitting the Legislative Assembly building.
This approach is too narrow. It omits the majority of citizens and businesses who wish to uphold our responsibilities as global citizens to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Our government is not preventing us from taking action on our own, but they are doing little to encourage us.
Scientists warn of dire consequences of climate change: increased flooding, forest fires,and permafrost changes to roads and buildings. These impacts will worsen in the future. This brings us to the issue of intergenerational equity and responsibility. Our children and grandchildren will rightly ask us: What was your generation doing about climate change?
Will we simply answer that we could not afford a carbon tax and other measures? As we wean ourselves off fossil fuel dependency, we must keep greener alternatives foremost in our minds. There are many concrete ways that we can move to cleaner alternatives — such as more use of clean-burning wood stoves to heat homes, more use of solar and wind power to use less electricity, better insulation of our homes and increased use of public transit and hybrid vehicles.
To encourage this transition to cleaner energy, we need favourable government incentives. When consumers are faced with increased prices for commodities including fossil fuels, we tend to think more clearly about conservation and make better choices. When the cost of gasoline goes up, we often choose more fuel-efficient vehicles and we make better choices for the trips we do make. Carbon pricing provides us with an incentive to conserve. This has been the experience of B.C. in the early period of their carbon tax. Moreover, B.C. implemented other tax changes that put money back in the hands of consumers, especially those least able to handle increased costs of fossil fuels.
Carbon pricing is, however, just one of the policy tools available. Others include: better grants to citizens, communities and businesses to assist the transition to a more sustainable future, extending transmission lines so all Yukon communities are taken off diesel generation, and more educational initiatives in our schools and communities about climate change. Implementing new policies and mitigating climate change will likely have high costs. Is it not better for us to be part of a national carbon pricing effort now and gain better access to adequate resources to make this transition?
Let us develop “made in the Yukon” climate change policies and ask the political leaders of all parties for their climate chnage plans in the next election.
Richard T. Price,