“Efficiency is doing better what is already being done.” – Peter F. Drucker
Is there a green lining in the inevitable mountains of cash being channelled into economic stimulus?
The sequence of September’s ho hum election followed by the almost incongruous state of denial about both environmental issues and the state of our economy by Canada’s Stephen Harper Government, renders the proroguing of Parliament and his rapid policy about face almost exciting to watch. As a result, Tuesday’s budget should prove a lot more interesting than the six months that preceded it.
My post from last year, Finding Negawatts Right on your Doorstep, gave background to show how the EcoEnergy program could significantly reduce our collective residential Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, while simultaneously improving our housing stock and lowering operating costs. As noted, even with the current modest levels of uptake, this is an area where relatively small investments by our Federal and Provincial governments are starting to pay off.
In the context of Canada’s 2009 Federal Budget, there will certainly be significant funds allocated to economic stimulus, almost certainly with the traditional focus on infrastructure projects. As I discussed in my recent post, Playing the Lottery after the Meltdown, I generally favour a laissez faire approach to government. But, considering our current economic situation, signficant stimulus will be essential.
I strongly urge the government to consider channelling some of these fund to two areas:
- bright green investments such as reducing the collective carbon footprint of our homes, as I discuss below.
- in addition, some package of stimulus focused on our future competitiveness by jump starting the knowledge economy, especially startups.
In the Negawatts posting, I didn’t elaborate enough on the relative merits of different approaches to offsetting our carbon consumption (or indeed all Greenhouse Gases). I would draw a parallel to the 3 Green R’s of Reduce, Reuse & Recycle which form a hierarchy in dealing with the solid waste issue, with Reduce (ie. not creating the waste in the first place) being much preferred to Recycle (reducing the impact of waste already consumed). Similarly to this, there are also choices around offsetting our carbon footprint.
Most carbon offsets involve tree planting in some distant, usually tropical, country. While this gives maximum impact, it does nothing for our local output of carbon (GHGs). While planting trees locally is useful, typically the ROI is lower than in warmer climes, if only because trees grow more slowly in Canada. The best approaches would involve a direct reduction of our local carbon use, instead of a mere offset. And that is exactly what residential programs like EcoEnergy home labelling and retrofit achieve.
Therefore, the timing is right to channel the relatively small amount, as compared to the enormous size of the entire stimulus package, needed to transform our residential housing stock. And, the resulting Negawatts we will generate in return, will be a lasting efficiency we can enjoys for decades to come.