By Alastair Moore, Doctoral Candidate, University of Manchester, Doctoral student, MC3 2.0: Meeting the Climate Change Challenge
The latest online discussion in the Climate Imperative e-Dialogues series, "Canadian Voices", provided me with a moment of optimism and clarity. The insightful and geographically situated comments made by the panel of Sustainable Canada scholars about climate initiatives across the country suggest that where decarbonisation of society is concerned, transformative change may be closer than we think.
What I see are shining examples of political courage to lead and innovate: a recognition that our future prosperity lies not in one single silver bullet but rather on the multiple arrows in our quiver; the value of supporting actors in achieving regime change; the reality that carbon pricing is here to stay; and the importance of being as upbeat and positive as possible when speaking about the transition toward a low-carbon economy.
From my own experience, my reading of the literature, and from the panelists I followed during the e-dialogue, I can see that many incremental and reasonably aligned green initiatives, especially in government policy and programmes at multiple levels, play an absolutely critical role in framing a vision of the future. A great example of this can be seen in Vancouver where the plan to be the greenest city by 2020 translate into a veritable tsunami of related and co-constituting policies and actions that leave no doubt about the direction, and perhaps most importantly, the benefits of change. What is also clear is that cities will never realize their full (and potentially profound) transition without greater autonomy and jurisdiction over building codes and revenue generation.
There are also truly inspiring examples of courageous political leaders, betting their political futures on energy innovations, and ultimately winning the hearts and minds of those near and far based on the unexpected surprises, or co-benefits, that going green yield. Willing but hesitant politicians need evidence like this (from among their peers in similar positions) that energy innovations are more about new upbeat opportunities and potentialities than new challenges and disturbances. Framing change positively is important! A 'crazy' new idea championed by one person is just that until someone with legitimacy sees its genius and jumps onboard.
The next energy transition meme is carbon pricing. Ontario, Quebec and BC are moving forward with carbon cap and trade or tax regimes, and Alberta seems poised to join their ranks. Momentum is shifting so that if you're not putting a price on carbon, you're not being fair or smart.
The e-dialogue also reinforced an idea that has been consuming my attention in recent years. That is, decarbonising the heating, cooling and lighting of the existing building stock. This is a critical part of any climate strategy, and doing so will necessarily generate green jobs, jobs and more green jobs for a generation of millennials hungry for a bright green future!