The number one most exciting thing about installing a new coalition government in Ottawa is the chance to begin seriously addressing the environmental crisis as part of the solution to our current economic disaster.
This is the area where the combo of Stéphane Dion and Jack Layton in particular looks like a real dream team. (Gilles Duceppe has other strengths.) But will they come through?
I have been combing through reports to find out just how much we need to see in the stimulus package they will soon unveil to set us on the way to the greenhouse gas reductions we so desperately need.
There is no easy-to-pin-down number in Canada yet. But just last year (how things have changed), a highly technical and business-minded report (Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much At What Cost?) prepared by noted management firm McKinsey and Company for the U.S. Conference Board pegged the American number in a fast track scenario at $50 billion a year for the next 10 or 12 years. That suggests Canada needs to spend something less than $5 billion a year.
Before you gulp too hard, there is something really important to know about environmental investment. We know it stimulates the economy, creates local jobs, new business opportunities and reduces our carbon footprint at the same time.
But perhaps the most important thing we haven't fully wrapped our heads around is the fact that even the most business-minded identify investing in the environment as revenue-neutral if not revenue-positive. That means an increasing portion of the investment dollars needed a few years out can actually be generated by energy savings. This is a mechanism that can turn today's deficits into tomorrow's surplus.