The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Mary Polak, was speaking at the B.C. Chamber of Commerce this morning.
Transportation infrastructure, for both the Chamber and the Minister, is about investments for growth: $22 billion has already been invested in this Province in the last decade or so; $25 billion more will be spent by 2020 – and much of it will be port-related, especially to move our resources to Asia.
For instance, coal exports are expected to grow by 150 percent by 2020.
For the Minister, there is a ‘value proposition’ related to transportation and resources:
they generate the wealth that pays for all the other services we want, including transit.
Ultimately: “Our value proposition is dreaming the future.”
While I was impressed with her spirit, it’s clear the Minister lives in a world in which climate change means little – certainly nothing of consequence that might deter the movement of carbon to the places that will burn it in order that they, and we, can prosper.
It’s a curious omission, given that Gordon Campbell as Liberal leader was one of the few politicians – anywhere – who took climate change seriously, read and consulted extensively, and had the courage to bring in a carbon tax, no doubt with some resistence from his own party colleagues. And he set a target: a legislated greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 33percent below 2007 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below by 2050.
But that doesn’t include the carbon that we export – notably coal – that makes us a carbon superpower.
We have a dilemma here, typified by Port Metro Vancouver’s position that the port only facilitates trade; the environmental footprint of coal, for instance, is not within its jurisdiction. It takes no responsibility.
As it becomes clearer that climate change is a civilizational threat, where will it leave British Columbia? Do we doubledown on denial? Do we spend the wealth we accumulate from the sale of carbon to protect ourselves, both from the ravages of nature and, if we’re successful, the intrusion of others who will want what we have? Would that create a psychological tension so great that it would constitute a mental sickness in our culture?
That is not a value proposition that anyone would wish to dream. And yet it seems to be the one we’re aggressively pursuing.