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Rethinking the Kyoto Accord

Calgary group urges further examination

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>"We're Albertans... of course we care about the environment." Or so goes Alberta's Kyoto advertising campaign. So what is it all about? Are economics and ecology forever doomed to be at loggerheads?

This PIRG column aims to "percolate" ideas about social justice and the environment into the campus community. While some might think that makes us Kyoto extremists, I study economics--and do not ignore the reality of "tradeoffs."

The choice between economics and ecology seems a frustrating one, but it is more fruitful to look through the lens of ecological economics. Ecology and economics have the Greek root word "oikos," meaning management of the household. Our house is the planet and we must manage our impact on jobs and pollution with equal priority.

One of the first diagrams of first-year macroeconomics is a simple model of the economy. Households provide labour to firms in exchange for wages, firms supply products to consumers and receive investments from households. Under such a view of the economy, Kyoto does appear to be a threat as prices and taxes could rise, and employment could fall.

However, through the glasses of ecological economics, one should draw a box around the economy that represents the finite limits of ecology. Kyoto is an attempt to place a box around the economy. We must manage the affairs of the economy as best we can within the limits of this metaphorical environmental box.

Some may say that Kyoto will not stop global warming, but as last week's lecturer, Dr. Page of Transalta pointed out, Kyoto is a means, not an end. We are heading for a carbon-constrained future, and Kyoto is a multilateral approach to humanity's common future.

Alberta has some valid concerns but it is not the fear mongering that Klein makes it out to be. Alberta's "Made in Canada" approach was analyzed by the Pembina Institute (www.pembina.org), which investigates issues in an unbiased manner. The report finds that the Alberta plan will in fact significantly increase emissions and that few of its actions have a chance of directly decreasing pollution.

By making Kyoto an all or nothing game, a competition between Klein and Chretien, our ecological-economics glasses become obscured. The devil is in the details of implementation, and the interests of all are best served through negotiation and open discussion, not PR campaigns. The federal government should be more open about its plan, but Alberta's "Made in Canada" solution is not the way forward.

Send a message to Klein and Chretien. Canadians need to speak up:

pm@pm.gc.ca,

premier@gov.ab.ca

Murray Birt is a member of the Calgary Public Interest Research Group.

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Comments

The Kyoto Accord is going to kill our economy; it ought to be ignored or abolished!
With all the money we make, we can just BUY fresh air and ozone later, if this so called "pollution" actually does any harm (it's unproven you know).
Besides, we are all going to die anyway but Alberta's economy could be immortal.
It's just like taking skin cancer for the team.

"Think of the children,
Stick it to Chretien,
Rethink Kyoto"

Spy 006

Let us not forget that only Albertans see Chretien vs. Klein as a battle of the Titans going head to head to defend the honour of their independant constituents. To the rest of Canada, Klein looks similar to a whiny little 8 year old telling daddy-dearest why he shouldn't have to clean his room, only instead of throwing a tantrum he's launching an "independant study"; the "independant study of why it is economically unviable for me to clean my room". Klein should realize that we've already signed the accord, there is no "what ifs" anymore, it's a matter of Canadian responsibility to stick to it's word. We should be at the forefront of the world here, I cannot believe we are still dabbling.

I am researching the Kyoto Accord for a High School Economics assignment, and have read varying points. Canada has signed the Accord, and we should not go back on our word. Economically, it would seem as if Canada's economy will maybe suffer for a few years, but will end up saving money and the world in the long run. People who don't believe that we should implement the Accord are either uneducated on the subject, ignorant to the plights of the world, or just plain selfish. We only have one planet to live on right now. It has supported us since the beginning of time. I think we owe it to our life support system that has treated us fairly well to eliminate what we caused in the first place. We accelerated our own and Earth's death. Let's slow it down again. Let's fix it.