Friday, February 13, 2004

Sustainability within a Generation

The David Suzuki Foundation has drawn up a plan for Canada to achieve "sustainability" within a generation and presented it to Prime Minister Paul Martin. Suzuki reports with pleasant surprise that "Martin seems genuinely concerned about Canada's environmental record."

The sustainability report notes that:

Despite our reputation, Canada is struggling environmentally. In an extensive OECD study (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Canada finished 28th out of 29 developed countries in categories such as air, water, waste and climate change. Canadians are known for their love of nature, but there is a large gap between our environmental values and our environmental record.

The report is wide ranging and comprehensive, but the heart of any policy of sustainability must be its energy policy. Ruefully, Suzuki notes the abysmal record in generating energy from renewable sources. Denmark generates 20% of its electricity from wind power while Canada generates 0.1%. Even the U.S. has 20 times as much installed capacity for wind power as Canada.

Suzuki recommends setting the goals of 30% of electric production coming from renewable resources by 2010 and 80% by 2020. In addition to wind power, the report calls for development of a hydrogen economy, and promoting alternative fuel vehicles such as hybrids and fuel cell vehicles.

It is vital to reframe the renewable energy debate to move it away from the "environment versus economy" argument so often used against it. Indeed, with the world approaching the limits of its ability to produce hyrocarbons, renewable energy is the only viable option for the future.


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