Comment 2033

By steve leach (registered) | Posted November 11, 2006 at 17:13:48

The question of the appropriate role of the City of Hamilton in combating climate change is an interesting one.

Raise The Hammer believes reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be an explicit policy goal of the City of Hamilton.

I disagree and believe that this is a matter for superior levels of government and the United Nations.

My reasoning is simple: government responsibility for problems should be assumed by the government body best able to deal with them.

Focused action by the City of Hamilton to blindly pursue a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions per se may well result in a decreased standard of living for its citizens. For example, if the City banned oil furnaces in the City limits (which I assume would be within its jurisdiction) and demanded that higher-cost electricity be used for heating, it could add a cost to local businesses that might not be borne by Burlington businesses with which they compete, leading to Hamilton business closures.

In contrast, if the Federal government were to implement the same law nationwide, Hamilton and Burlington businesses would compete on an equal footing, and the Federal government (ignoring possible impacts on NAFTA and WTO involvement) could ensure that local businesses were not subject to unfair foreign competition, at least domestically, by banning imports of products from environmental “rogue” nations.

Yes, the City of Hamilton could act on its own, damn the consequences, and do its part for the world. However, if climate change is happening (as I believe), it likely still will, irrespective of any action on the part of the City of Hamilton, and if increased poverty to Hamiltonians has resulted, the City’s actions in this event will not only have proven futile but will also have prejudiced the ability of its citizens to adapt to the new challenges associated with climate change.

I am not at all certain that the majority of Hamiltonians wish to risk this outcome. Indeed, many Hamiltonians who care for their families and friends would likely prefer that we increase emissions, damn the world, if it provides more present wealth, so as to enable them to better adapt their families to the problems that will flow from climate change that is beyond their control. I do not agree with this particular kind of thinking, but I am not prepared to hold my morals superior on this particular issue.

A sensible compromise between the “save the world, damn my family” and “save my family, damn the world” camps is for the City of Hamilton to simply do its best to promote and increase energy efficiency when and wherever it can. With better planning, we can facilitate better public transit, more pedestrian and bicycle routes and the potential for district heating, community geothermal projects and lake water cooling, all of which could vastly decrease our greenhouse gas emissions.

By doing this, we can both make the world a better place and better prepare ourselves and our families for what lies ahead, since energy efficiency means savings.

If it turned out that, in the process of turning Hamilton into a pedestrian-friendly, transit-friendly, energy-efficient community, we were so successful that we doubled the population of Hamilton and quadrupled its economic output but increased greenhouse gas emissions by 10%, I for one would be thrilled, not disappointed, notwithstanding that our emissions have increased, because I would know that, but for our actions as a community, that growth would likely have occurred elsewhere, in a much less responsible manner.

In short, I maintain my position that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a goal for Canada and the world, not a goal for Hamilton, and I would encourage Hamiltonians to push for this goal in the appropriate forum: in the next Federal election, let’s elect a government that cares about greenhouse gas emissions, that is prepared to lay out a sensible national plan for reductions and that will lobby for international trade sanctions against rogue greenhouse-gas emitting nations.

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