Mark Jaccard is a professor of Resource and Environmental Management with Simon Fraser University, and a leading Canadian expert in the field of sustainable energy policy. In his recent column in the Globe & Mail he stated that the Canadian Government knows it will not succeed in limiting greenhouse gas emissions as promised less than two years ago.
He reached this conclusion because the Federal Government approved the construction of a 500 Megawatt coal fired electricity plant in Alberta by Maxim Power. If constructed by July 15, 2015, this plant will not be subject to Regulations promulgated by the Minster of the Environment on May 26 last. Once constructed, the plant will continue to emit GHG for another 45 years, its expected life span.
This plant will supply Alberta residents with electric power for many years to come. As coal is presently the cheapest fuel for generation of electricity, Alberta businesses and consumers will share in the cost benefits of this construction, at the expense of the environment (climate change).
There is another negative feature to allowing Maxim Coal to proceed. Approval of this plant is a message for entrepreneurs who otherwise might invest in renewable energy sources that currently produce power at a higher cost. They will understand that neither the Albertan or Canadian Government wish to be held accountable by the electorate for higher electricity costs. So the Canadian Government, which recently suspended financial support for renewable energy projects, will not come forward with an effective policy on renewable energy in the near future.
Jaccard condemned the Canadian Government for its handlling of the Maxim project. He said:
” It puts the lie to claims of significant emissions reduction over the next decade – an extremely short time frame.”
Does this mean that we should distrust promises on limiting GHG emissions by politicians make during the next years ? Here is Jaccard’s reaction:
“All of this raises an interesting conundrum for Canadians. What do you do when your government knowingly permits investments that prevent it from meeting its promises? Do you simply stand by and watch the construction of a coal plant that contributes great harm to the planet? Or is the only remaining ethical option to use every legal avenue and perhaps even peaceful civil disobedience to try to stop the plant?”
Perhaps the Canadian Government will be careful to speak in generalities and avoid making concrete promises while focusing voter attention on jobs and
the economy. If past performance is any guide, this tactic could well succeed, at least to the point of getting the Government re-elected for a second term.
Apart from the lack of honesty towards electors, the accommodation shown Maxim Power demonstrates a weakness with democratic processes. Democratic countries currently do not have the resolve to make the necessary decisions to reduce climate change.