Dear future Prime Minister

Here's how to solve our most urgent environmental problems

The Issue
Alternative Energy

Our Advice
"Go to the (Green) Source"

What Government Should Do
Tackling global warming, of course, means coming up with new ways to produce and use energy. Yet our power comes from pretty much the same places we’ve been getting it for the last generation: hydro, coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear. So you might take a cue from, say, Spain, whose massive wind farms should enable the country to get 30 percent of its electricity from renewables by next year. On issues of sustainable power, you could look to the provinces, as Weis of Pembina suggests. Ontario’s Green Energy Act is similar to Germany’s, setting an above-market price for green power as a way to encourage its generation. Canada could take another page from Germany by making it easier to get green start-ups off the ground, providing tax incentives and funding, as well as a national fund for scholarships and education for green-collar workers. But someone needs to make sure the provinces work together and create a cohesive national energy strategy. It’s in interprovincial co-operation that the feds can really shine, encouraging neighbouring provinces to join forces to cut greenhouse gases, and reduce reliance on dirty power sources.

But helping the planet isn’t just solar panels and wind turbines—it also means the less sexy, but equally important, step of cutting consumption. Canadian buildings are energy sieves, leaking heat in the winter and soaking up the sun’s rays in the summer. Ottawa could help by providing tax credits for new green buildings, funding for commercial retrofits and incentives for residential and commercial solar water heaters, and by funding for infrastructure that uses energy wisely (for example, retrofits of low-income housing). Weis also points to increased funding for EcoEnergy, Ottawa’s incentive program for energy-efficient home retrofits, as well as developing hard targets (i.e., 20 percent of homes in the country retrofitted by 2012), and extending federal incentives for solar thermal water heaters for homes and businesses. Because one quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, a comprehensive public transportation strategy that emphasizes green urban transit and greener intra-city travel could also reduce our use of fossil fuels. 

What Voters Can Do
If your province offers the option to buy renewable power, do it. Bullfrog, a green power company, is available to people living in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. Pollution Probe runs a guide to green power across Canada.