The Energy Transition Provides an Alternative to Current Economic Policy

By David Coon

Young people get it. In the face of a rapidly deteriorating climate, and ocean waters that are acidifying, we have to get off oil, gas, and coal. That means we need to actively pursue an energy transition, from a society dependent on fossil fuels, to one that depends on green renewable energy sources. This is an integral part of the Green Party’s vision for shared and lasting prosperity in New Brunswick.

In the past two months, I have met young entrepreneurs from new companies who are gearing up to establish solar farms. A cooperative enterprise in south-eastern New Brunswick is looking to do the same. Another young group of entrepreneurs is developing energy storage systems to complement renewable energy use. Farmers are looking to solar farms as an additional source of revenue from their farming operations. Municipalities are also exploring renewable energy developments as new sources of revenue.

Yet the 30-year long discussion about climate action in New Brunswick, and across Canada, has always been framed as an effort to cut carbon pollution to meet one emissions reduction target or another. As is apparent in the report on climate action from auditors general from across Canada that was tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday, this leaves many governments to trade off emissions reductions for other priorities, as they see them, so Canada has missed every international emissions reduction target by a country mile since 2000.

Re-tooling our society and economy to run on renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels is a societal project that will take decades. However, it would set New Brunswick on a new course of economic development – one that would involve everyone. Local businesses, cooperative, social enterprises, community groups, local government, and households would all have a role to play in the transition of our society and our economy.
The transition from coal to oil took between 50 and 70 years. Given the consequences of a rapidly deteriorating climate and acidifying ocean waters, this energy transition will have to happen more quickly, on the order of 30 years.

Given our small size, our ingenuity, and our abundance of renewable energy resources, New Brunswick is well suited to making the energy transition rapidly. What a sense of purpose, and hope this would bring New Brunswick’s youth. If we made the intentional decision to embark on the transition to renewable energy, I predict that, not only would young New Brunswickers return home to join the effort, but young people from all over would be drawn to the Province.

I recall how inspired I was by PEI Premier Alex Campbell’s vision to achieve this in PEI in the 1970’s, but like many true visionaries, he was a person before his time. Everything has its time, and that time has now come to New Brunswick.

Standing in the way of launching New Brunswick’s energy transition are old ideas about the economy, society and the environment. These are not separate realities, but like the Russian stacking dolls, one is nested in the other. Society is nested in the natural world which sustains us. The economy is nested in society to meet its needs, not the other way around. This is the world view that Greens bring to politics.

The other parties continue to operate as if the economy exists in a social and ecological vacuum. As a result, their economic policies have unintended consequences on people, communities, and the environment, while their environmental policies leave them looking for band-aids to put over the resulting harm. Climate change is an example of this disconnect. It’s why we need an energy transition. And it should start here, at home.

David Coon is the Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and the MLA for Fredericton-South