A FRIEND OF MINE in Calgary just bought a home. The neighbourhood isn’t fancy – most houses are 50-year-old utilitarian bungalows – but it’s close to the university and not far from downtown. Although my friend’s purchase is one of the more dilapidated specimens on her street, she paid a cool $800,000 for it. Such is the situation in this heated-up town where I lived for 16 years.

Like people suffering from bipolar disease who love the manic phase of their ailment, Albertans are hesitant to give up the current high of their boom and bust economy. This helps explain why Premier Ed Stelmach is having to convince taxpayers that it’s a good idea for oil companies to pay higher royalties. Albertans don’t want to do anything that may disrupt the hands that feed them. Given this mindset, implementing a carbon tax seems out of the question. But the mention of a levy on the emissions that cause climate change no longer causes serious players to cry foul. They don’t liken a carbon tax to the National Energy Policy II. In fact, as Lawson Hunter points out in his article on a green tax shift, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, which includes CEOs from several major oil companies, is pushing the government to use “environmental taxation.”

I was in Calgary attending a Pembina Institute conference on carbon pricing. Modelling hot off the press indicates that a carbon emission price large enough to result in the emission reductions the federal government is recommending (minus 20 per cent by 2020 and minus 60 to 70 per cent by 2050), would put about the same amount of money into government coffers as the GST does. In absolute terms, a carbon emission price that rose from about $25/tonne to $300/tonne between 2010 and 2050 would raise almost $30-billion per year on average.

Should whatever government happens to be in Ottawa be environmentally and ethically responsible enough to put us on a path that might avoid ecological disaster, it will be playing with big money. While some support the idea of using the revenue to encourage good behaviour by reducing taxes on the things we like (profits, employment), others prefer investments in green technology to further reduce emissions. Either way, there was consensus that it should not flow into general revenues and increase the overall tax burden.

With thoughts of how you would spend $30-billion in an environmentally responsible manner, I invite you to crack open this Out of the Box issue of Alternatives. It’s jam-packed with articles that explore ideas ranging from rethinking our relationship with invasive species to borrowing from marketers to change environmental behaviour, from eating nutrient-rich insects to recognizing the problems with tall buildings, and from hip-hopping our way to clean water to meditating our way to sustainability.

We’re gambling that several of the articles in this thought-provoking issue will give you at least a few “aha, I never thought about it that way” moments. So push up your sleeves, grab a cuppa holiday cheer and crack open Alternatives.

Greetings from us all at AJ. 

Nicola Ross is the former Editor of Alternatives Journal, and is a member of the editorial board.

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