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Wednesday, 22 April 2015 14:44

Climate change policies needed

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While Earth Hour gains momentum in other countries, in Canada the event, which took place the end of March, was really much ado about nothing. The question is what does this say about the willingness of Canadians to make the tough decisions — or at least ask elected officials to do so — when it comes to reducing the impacts of climate change?

The ninth annual event took place around the world on March 28. At 8:30 p.m. individuals are asked to turn off lights and reduce power usage for one hour. Even the main attractions around the world went dark including the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
This year, many groups of people, including those from Scotland, Switzerland and Colombia, signed digital petitions asking for stronger climate action. According to the Earth Hour website, people in Australia, the United Kingdom and Finland hosted sustainable candle-lit dinners to  highlight the impact of climate change on agriculture, while participants in India, the Philippines and China promoted access to renewable energy.
What happened in Canada? Not much according to media reports the next day. While Edmonton claims power consumption dropped approximately 6.3 per cent from the same period a week before, it comes with a caveat. On March 21, power consumption was 947.61 MWh and on March 28 for the same hour it was 887.48 MWh. The caveat is that it is normal to see a variation of plus or minus 10 per cent when comparing any given hour’s power consumption to the previous week’s figure. The main impacts on power consumption are weather and hours of daylight. When one does the math, a plus 10 per cent variance would equal power usage of 982.24 MWh for March 28.
The Calgary Herald reported March 29, that Calgarians “celebrated Earth Hour with indifference.” According to that story, there was an “imperceptible change” in power use for the 60 minutes when Earth Hour was to be observed. Even the year prior, power usage only dropped by 0.05 per cent.
The whimper that Earth Hour arrived and left with in Alberta this year could be due to the fact climate change isn’t on the radar with other all-consuming topics on the table including a provincial election.
It could also be that Albertans don’t believe it is an important topic because our elected officials don’t think it is.
In mid-April, Premier Jim Prentice declined to attend a meeting with his counterparts across the country to discuss climate change. He instead chose to hit the campaign trail, but did say the provincial government is working on its own plan to address climate concerns.
According to a Calgary Herald article, Alberta missed its targets to lower greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. More recently, the auditor general has also criticized the government in failing to report publicly on its climate change program.
In that same story Prentice said, “he will meet the province’s 2020 climate change targets and hopes to unveil a new climate change plan in June.”
Only time will tell if this is the case. Political figures do need to play a lead role in showing climate policies are necessary, but that needs to be done with actions and not just words. The only way individuals will care more about the environment, is if they see strong leadership doing their part. Some kind of realistic and do-able climate change strategy in Alberta is needed.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor