Imagine a B.C. with reduced traffic gridlock because public transit service gets better and faster every day. Imagine a B.C. with incentives for new heating and cooling technologies to cut your hydro bills in half. Imagine a B.C. with hybrid or electric cars that are cheaper and more common than gas-guzzlers. Imagine a B.C. where environmental innovation, training and knowledge are at the core of our economy, and the status quo is no longer acceptable. Imagine a B.C. where communities are designed around people and not cars. Imagine a B.C. where green spaces are more common than parking lots.
The good news is that we can build a better B.C., and the way to make this a reality is within reach.
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This past fall the David Suzuki Foundation promoted the idea of a Better Future Fund to the B.C. government, which would improve the B.C. carbon tax by increasing the price on carbon pollution beyond 2012 and retooling it to fund critical green transportation and energy-efficiency solutions that would directly improve the quality of life for B.C. residents. Using a portion of revenues from B.C.'s surcharge on carbon emissions to invest in green solutions and infrastructure is a fiscally responsible way to build healthier communities and a strong and innovative economy.
The first goal of the Better Future Fund could be to invest in critical green infrastructure and job training to make our communities better places to live while achieving B.C.'s legislated emissions targets. (This is especially important in light of the need for more aggressive strategies to reduce emissions in the oil and gas and transportation sectors.) These investments would achieve many co-benefits, like improved public health and more transportation choices that improve quality of life. The second goal could be to shift taxes away from low-income households and perhaps employment income and onto environmentally harmful pollution and practices.
This solution would directly address the challenges B.C. faces on a number of fronts, including the critical need for long-term, stable funding for green infrastructure for our homes and communities, and the need to invest in our people and workforce for the economy of tomorrow.
Implementing the Better Future Fund is a feasible solution with a myriad of benefits. Communities will see new investment and jobs, a balanced transportation system, reduced vehicle traffic, cleaner air, more green spaces, energy savings, and, best of all, a better quality of life. By putting a strong price on carbon pollution, this solution can fight climate change while transforming B.C.'s industrial facilities into leaders in energy-efficiency and cutting-edge clean technologies.
Some critics might claim that enhancing B.C.'s carbon tax and transforming it into a Better Future Fund would damage the economy. That's simply not true. For example, Sweden (or Norway for that matter), a jurisdiction with a similar size population and economy has a carbon tax more than four times higher than B.C.'s for most sectors. Since Sweden's carbon tax was introduced in 1992, the country'seconomy has grown 44 per cent while greenhouse gas emissions have gone down by nearly 10 per cent. Last year, the World Economic Forum ranked Sweden second in the world on economic competitiveness.
It's not just Sweden jumping on the green bandwagon. Worldwide investment in clean-energy technologies totalled $243 billion in 2010, as many governments recognized the need to act on climate change, make the air cleaner and develop modern energy systems. B.C.'s abundant renewable energy resources, skilled workforce and strong engineering and knowledge sectors put the province in an ideal position to follow this global trend.
At last, we have a win-win situation for both the environment and the economy.
With more ideas and input from British Columbians on what a Better Future Fund could achieve, B.C. could make it a reality. Working with others, including Tides Canada and the Pembina Institute, we hope to have this conversation with British Columbians in the months leading up to the B.C. budget so that we can all build a better future.