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Panelists discuss climate change

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — Conservative ideas based on a realistic knowledge of human nature and free markets provide the most efficient solutions to climate change and other environmental problems.

That was the conclusion of a panel entitled Market-based Environmental Conservation March 6 at the annual Manning Networking Conference here March 5-7, drawing hundreds of right-of-centre conservatives.

“There’s much the conservative movement needs to do on the environment,” said the panel moderator Tim Kennedy, who is vice-president of government and Aboriginal affairs for Spectra Energy, a pipeline company. “Conservatives can have the best, most efficient and effective” ways of improving the environment using “market-based principles.”

Former Conservative cabinet minister Monte Solberg spoke of the importance of nature conservation as a conservative principle. He described growing up in Saskatchewan and Alberta, enjoying the great outdoors. One of the most “withering” things one rancher might say about another is that he is “not a good steward of the land,” he said.

“Whether one accepts or rejects the so-called consensus on climate change,” conservation such as restoring wetlands has a positive impact on mitigating carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, he said.

Solberg said some sort of regime to control carbon is coming, though he acknowledged “there is little public support for any environmental policy that will jeopardize jobs.”

Instead, conservatives need to “harness goodwill” by encouraging conservation, because good stewardship of the land is a great conservative principle, he said. “Conservations also has the great political virtue of being popular with everyone.”

Krystin Annis, a founding director of Canadians for Clean Prosperity, said conservative principles can help build a strong economy, lower taxes and lower pollution.

There is an “island of plastic garbage in the North Atlantic the size of Saskatchewan,” Annis said. “Nobody is paying for the cost of that pollution.”

Annis advised putting a tax on pollution because at present the costs of pollution “are hidden, real and rising every day.”

“Clean air, clean water, a stable environment and clean land “are all necessary to grow our prosperity,” she said.

If pollution is not priced, then governments will seek a “command and control” regulatory approach, that creates expensive, non-productive bureaucracies in government, and the development of legal departments in companies advising how to comply with the regulations, she warned.

Instead, a price should be put on pollution and charged back to polluters, she said. The price of pollution would be incorporated into the product.

Pricing pollution would “unburden” Canadians from the hidden costs; it would create a “robust market” for technologies and other tools to reduce pollution; and it would lead to the production of less pollution, she said.

After the panel, Kennedy, a Catholic, told CCN he is anticipating Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on the environment.

“I look forward to the Holy Father talking more about ‘human ecology’ and further developing the church’s teachings on the centrality of the human person in the order of creation,” Kennedy said. “I hope that he emphasizes the great good of our call to responsibly and creatively develop the creation and the great good of work and the market system to develop our talents and gifts.”

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