In order to deal with the climate change crisis we will need significant projects. Those will likely include power projects such as huge solar power grids, tidal power, wind power, and more. But it will also include things which may not be profitable or power-generating, such as carbon sequestration, massive-scale tree planting, seeding the oceans, or who-knows-what-else.
To date little has happened on the scale required. Although it really hasn’t been a big part of public discourse, the underlying assumption which has led to a lack of discussion seems to be that it’s “not possible” for governments to invest in “things that business should do,” like power projects, etc.
A neo-liberal worldview has gotten in our way, at a very inconvenient time. In its simpler form is a presumption that government cannot spend 4.5 billion dollars on something as fanciful as a wind farm. And another 4.5 billion on solar panels all over southern Alberta (built and maintained by former oil-patch workers), and another 4.5 billion on planting trees (trees which are wind firm, as fire and drought resistant as possible, and supply some food).
But that is all a lie. The Canadian federal government have graciously shown us, by spending 4.5 billion in taxpayer dollars to buy an outdated pipeline and a project which may never be built, that in fact they could do all of those things, and more.
The feds have shown us that government money can be used to buy businesses, or for major projects, which are in the public interest. What could be more in the public interest than the survival of our children? It could fit under a number of federal heads of Constitutional power, including “peace, order and good government.”
The fact is, we could easily use government money to transition to a low-carbon economy. There is no legal barrier to doing so.
A recent article in the Guardian posited, “What if Canada had spent $200bn on wind energy instead of oil?” The answer is, of course, that we would be much further along in addressing our climate change commitments and protecting our future. And that is just on those numbers alone, and not the spin-off industries which would inevitably result from the government spending 200 billion on wind energy.
The 200 billion figure on which the article is based is the amount of government money that has been invested in the Alberta oil sands since 1999. But instead of looking at the past, we should look at the future and ask,” what if we stopped oil and gas subsidies today, as the Trudeau liberals pledged, and put that money into renewable and natural carbon sequestration?”