Will budget shortfalls trump action on global warming?
The upcoming announcements of the provincial and federal budgets will be litmus tests for whether our governments are more concerned about our long-term economic survival or scoring short-term political points.
The economic downturn means Victoria and Ottawa will be facing declining revenues and budget deficits. At the same time, scientists are urging dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. How Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper balance these two urgent choices will determine if our children face environmental and climate chaos, or a relatively stable world.
In BC, it appears efforts to ramp up oil and gas drilling and production are being counted on as the cash cow. But expanded oil and gas drilling, especially energy intensive shale gas and coalbed methane, ensures that polluting emissions will go up not down. It is estimated that by itself emissions from new shale gas drilling in Horn River area alone will increase BC’s emissions by 5%.
The key items to look out for next week is how much taxpayer money gordon campbell will be giving to the climate-unfriendly oil and gas and mining industires in the form of subsidies. Now of course they won’t call them subsiides (that would conflict with their free-market ideology) so instead they call them royalty reductions or infrastructure credits. Also look at how much of our hard-earned money the government is giving to the mining industry (in support of their Northest Transmission Line) or to oil companies (seeking to exploit shale ga) with the Northest Transmission Line
My guess is the budget numbers will prove that to maximize the short-term cash from fossil fuels Premier campbell will break his legislated promise to reduce heat-trapping gases by 33%. There is no way to achieve both.
In Ottawa, Mr. Harper is driven by his desire to grind the opposition parties. So expect a budget with cuts to programs revered by the Grits and the NDP. He has already announced there will be no extension of renovation grants, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for much needed incentives for energy efficiency.
The question is will he continue to pore taxpayer money into the tar sands? Probably Yes. But like all governments concerned more with power then policy, the Tories will try to hide it with some green banner.