March 8, 2008
Canada’s 11 largest environmental groups have jointly issued a blueprint to solve the country’s environmental woes, calling for high carbon taxes and at least half of the country’s remaining wilderness to be off limits to development.
It is the first time since the late 1980s that the country’s brand-name conservation organizations, ranging from Greenpeace to the David Suzuki Foundation, have issued such a document. It was unveiled yesterday in Ottawa and presented to the four major federal parties for incorporation into their election platforms.
Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, called the proposals “the most ambitious and comprehensive” that the “environmental movement has ever put together.”
The groups are calling for Canada to adopt carbon taxes of $30 per tonne of releases, starting next year, with the amount rising to $75 a tonne by 2020. The initial figure is twice what the federal Tories have said they will impose on large industrial greenhouse-gas polluters, but the groups said “realistic pricing” of greenhouse-gas emissions “is the most efficient way to send a signal … about the seriousness of the threat we face” from global warming. 
They also want the federal government to begin lowering taxes on income, saving and investment, and shift the tax burden onto environmentally harmful activities, such as oil and gas or mining projects.
Although many environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, almost reflexively call for an end to nuclear power, the organizations didn’t propose this, but instead recommended stopping all direct and indirect subsidies to the nuclear industry.
“To be honest with you, I’m pretty happy with how far people were willing to go on things,” said Bruce Cox, executive director of Greenpeace.
To protect the oceans, the groups want an immediate ban on bottom trawling and other harmful forms of fishing. They also say that there should be no offshore oil and gas development on the B.C. coast.
As a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from the agricultural sector, they called on the government to encourage Canadians to eat locally produced food, particularly organically cultivated crops, that do not require energy-intensive fertilizers or pesticides.
They also recommended the federal government immediately ban several chemicals, including flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, used in electronics, and bisphenol A, used to make polycarbonate plastic, based on concerns the compounds may be harming human health.
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