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One Senator’s Call to Arms

July 29, 2008

Senator Elaine McCoy wrote an op-ed in ‘The Hill Times’ today that is well worth a read. In it, she calls for political unity and an end to partisan bickering in the face of the tremendous challenge of tackling climate change and (as she calls it) “decarbonizing our economy”.

Specifically, she is calling for the establishment of a ‘climate cabinet’ to coordinate the efforts of multiple ministries as they pertain to climate change and sustainable energy issues.

Once established, this climate cabinet could establish an all-party Joint Parliamentary Committee of MPs and Senators to oversee the transition from a carbon-based energy sector to a diversified energy sector that includes a significant proportion of renewables.

She draws examples from Europe, citing Germany’s decades-long investment in renewable energy and Sweden’s green electricity certificate system, and insists that it’s not too late for Canada to catch up and even take the lead in moving the developed world away from fossil fuels.  But it won’t be easy.

Successful policies that address climate change, particularly promoting renewables, necessarily cross departments, sectors and jurisdictions. No single department or ministry can effectively tackle all their complexities.

Hence the need to elevate federal policy coordination from one department to a higher-level body that will ensure integration throughout the federal and provincial governments. Indeed, the changes necessary to decarbonise our economy will require a complete reorganization and mobilization of the machinery of government.

Senator McCoy is in a unique position to be making these somewhat radical suggestions.  She has been one of the more active and attentive members of the Senate’s Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee for some time now, sharing her experiences and insights from time to time through her blog – which as far as I know is the only Senator-authored blog in Canada.

More significantly, Elaine McCoy is a Progressive Conservative Senator representing the province of Alberta.  So if she of all people – with no political points to score and no corporate donors to answer to – believes that the time has come for us to put aside our differences and start immediate nation-wide action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, then perhaps we should all be listening.

Sober second thought indeed.

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