By Paul Lansbergen, Acting President and CEO, FPAC
So just how is Canada going to reach its ambitious goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions?
Well, a group of about 20 organizations has come up with a suggestion. They have formed a Carbon First Alliance to encourage governments, be they federal, provincial or municipal, to choose the least carbon intensive option when it comes to infrastructure spending and procurement. The Carbon First Alliance includes environmental, forest industry, renewable fuels, sustainable chemistry groups, FPInnovations, the Railway Association of Canada, the Canadian Climate Forum and others.
Let’s consider what that diverse group has in mind. Governments of all levels in Canada annually purchase about $100 billion in goods and services and we are on the verge of major investments in infrastructure – the federal government alone has pledged to spend $60 billion on infrastructure over the next decade. In its most simple form, Carbon First means switching from fossil fuels and products made from oil and gas to non GHG-emitting renewables.
For example governments could invest in more climate friendly construction. The noted Vancouver architect, Michael Green, says that a single 100,000 square foot building made of wood instead of competing materials such as concrete would have a total carbon benefit equal to 7,380 metric tons of CO2. And that’s the equivalent of taking 1,410 cars off the road for a year for a single building.
There are many other examples of making climate-friendly decisions. It could mean increased investment in public transit or shipping more goods by rail to lower transportation-related GHG emissions. It could mean switching from fossil fuels to green renewable energy. It could mean policies that would encourage new manufacturing processes and other innovations that would limit carbon emissions. Carbon First would be a principle supported by science-based carbon accounting tools such as life cycle assessments and green building programs.
The challenge of climate change means that it can no longer be business as usual. Canadian pulp and paper mills have already cut greenhouse gas emissions by 66% since 1990, but the forest sector still needs to look for further improvements—in fact everyone has to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. And that includes using the power of government spending to embrace Carbon First.
Read the open letter to premiers and environment ministers: http://www.fpac.ca/open-letter-to-premiers-and-environment-ministers/
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