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  • Should Canadians Feel Guilty About Our Carbon Footprint?

Alongside Americans, Australians, and Germans, Canadians report feeling the least prerogative to “Go Green” when it comes to our energy policy and our daily lives. In fact, it’s stunning to learn that we fall behind China and India in our feelings on our carbon footprint. Are we neglecting our duty to the world around us, or are other factors at play?

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Ontario is Leading the Way in Green Initiatives, The Rest of Canada Lags Behind

Ontario is both a star-child and a pariah in the industry, a success and a failure in green development in North America. It’s an interesting, if frustrating, title to hold amid a culture that has been more than obstinate about embracing the fight against climate change.

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While second only to Quebec in terms of greenhouse gas reductions since 1990 (see the below graphic), Ontario’s deep investment into green alternatives has a long history with somewhat mixed results. The lukewarm to caustic reaction to the Green Energy Act has largely fallen on deaf ears as the province urges forward greater renewable development.

And the results themselves are admirable, even if the methods may not be. Nonetheless, Ontario represents a dark horse in North America’s energy policy. In fact, we could say that Ontario represents a trend breaker, as the United States drags its feet on energy policy, and Harper has made it explicit that climate change is not a real issue for the Canadian government.

Does The Economy Outweigh the Planet?

And really, that’s the issue at stake – the economy. Climate change critics, no longer able to deny the scientific evidence available to them that climate change IS a reality, have instead fallen back on the rhetoric that climate change cannot be combatted without destroying the economy. And while we would never suggest that we must pursue green energy “at all costs” (namely: because that’s where we’ve gone wrong in Ontario), it still shows that old traditions are still dominating Canada’s consciousness.

We don’t need to go too much further than examining the role that Alberta’s tar sands have played in the Canadian economy. In fact, Alberta has seen the single highest job boost since development on oil sands have begun. There’s no question or debate here – gas and oil are profitable, very profitable, almost alarmingly so. And there’s too much many and politics in the way to get the answer to the question that lies at the heart of this – can we have a strong economy that is ALSO green?

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Not as strong no, and that’s why initiatives such as energy conservation have become a point of contention, even though they’ve been proven effective in reducing emissions and energy costs. The conclusion is: to achieve our green targets, we would have to tighten our belts both in consumption and in prosperity. And with a few provinces not withstanding –we haven’t done a very good job. Canada is leading the world in emissions per capita, and our federal philosophy is to continue that and even to increase our consumption and our waste.

Should we feel guilty that other countries are seeing changes in which way the winds blow? Does Canada have a duty to clean up our act and lessen the smog we put out? Or is our prosperity, our hedonism, and our crass consumption ultimately worth the cost in the end? We would like to hear from our readers what direction Canada needs to take.

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