June 2, 2009

Inaction will cost $7 trillion

Jim Harris

By: Jordana Levine

If the issues of climate change are not addressed, it could cost every person on earth $1000 a year, or $7 trillion worldwide, says Nicholas Stern, former World Bank chief economist.  In the report, Climate Change and Green Jobs: Labour’s Challenges and Opportunities, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) stresses that taking action will cost a lot less than doing nothing.

If the federal government invested $30 billion over ten years to transition to an economy that is consciously aware of climate change, 330,000 jobs would be created and Canada’s GDP would increase by $140 billion.  There would be $95 billion added to personal income and $28 billion in energy savings.

Just under half of Canada’s CO2 emissions come from heavy industry, mainly using coal, gas and oil.  The report gives the example of the tarsands, which the CLC says are the single most destructive project anywhere in the world, consuming one gallon of oil for every two gallons it produces.  The tarsands have already made a hole the size of Vancouver Island, and it is predicted to grow by 400-500% in the next ten years if no changes are made, which would make the area the size of Florida.  The CLC urges Canada to stop racing to provide the US with oil and focus on slowing down the use of non-renewable energy in its own country.

The CLC believes that good jobs and a strong economy will only happen if we take into account every area that contributes to a high-quality life, including the economy, jobs, equality an the environment.  Both the global economy and the environment will be in major trouble if temperatures rise more than two degrees Celsius, leading to destruction of ecosystems, hugely diminished biodiversity, dangerously high sea levels and extreme weather.

The CLC especially supports four major areas:
•    Promoting energy efficiency
•    Investing in rail and mass transit infrastructure
•    Creating proper fuel efficiency standards
•    Developing renewable energy sources

The report stresses the importance of ensuring that policies, such as carbon taxes, do not increase inequality between classes.  The biggest polluters should be paying the most and household carbon taxes should only be imposed if 100% of the revenue goes towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A Just Transition Fund is a vital aspect that would compensate communities and individuals for wage cuts, displacement and job losses; it would fund the retraining of these workers and encourage them to work in a greener economy without diminishing the quality of life or contributing to inequality.  

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