Monday, 2 June 2008

Economic Innovation for Sustainability

Building a green economy in Nova Scotia is an effort that will require contributions from across all sectors and geographical areas of our province. There is an incredible amount of work to do, and the Green Party has a crucial leadership role to play.

Establishing the building blocks of a dependable, sustainable provincial economy should be the primary focus of Green economic policy. Dependable and sustainable includes:

  • Local security. We are tightly linked to the global economy, and that brings great advantage as well as great vulnerability. We need to cultivate some essential sectors in our local economy, particularly energy and food production, which are the crucial base for a functioning economy. In times when these two strategic resources are in ever greater global demand, we need to be able to provide ourselves with a baseline of local economic security.

  • Efficient. In an energy constrained world, efficiency of economic output per unit of energy is a huge competitive advantage.

  • Long term. We have to plan for the lives of our grandchildren and beyond. A sustainable economy is one that can pass on reliable sources of wealth from generation to generation. Any short term policies such as the extraction of exhaustible natural resources should only be undertaken with a plan in place to invest the wealth that is generated into longer term sustainable economic development.

  • Recognize limits. The natural world offers incredibly bountiful resources, but these riches are not infinite, and can be exhausted and destroyed by pollution. We must find ways to maintain a vibrant economy within the limits set by nature.

  • Carbon constrained. A responsible economic policy simply must reduce carbon emissions. This places Nova Scotia in a role of strong moral leadership, and also positions us to take advantage of coming global climate change treaties, which will increase the cost of pollution.

A major role for government in this effort is to create a regulatory and tax environment that will encourage sustainable economic activity. Mainly, this means shifting taxes so that consumers can pay less for items and services that have been produced using sustainable practices, and quite likely more for those produced in unsustainable ways. Government also needs to play a leadership role in developing infrastructure projects such as rail transportation networks. Effective and visionary leadership from government in these areas would launch a green economic boom resulting in long term prosperity for Nova Scotia. Enabling this should be a primary focus for Green Party MLAs, perhaps the primary focus.

Barton Cutton, the other leadership candidate for the GPNS was recently quoted in the Truro Daily News saying:
Imagine having a sustainable enterprise corporate and small business tax rate so low that manufacturers of say solar panels, wind turbines and high efficiency technology would be falling over themselves wanting to set up facilities here in Nova Scotia.

Barton, I think you've hit on exactly the right approach for building a green economy. We need a lot of consideration (including full cost analysis etc) before offering specific policies such as this one, but the underlying approach of your comment is what I feel should be at the heart of Green economic policy. Well said.

It will take entrepreneurship and innovation to transition to a green economy. A favorable tax environment such as Barton references is a necessary element, and one of the most important contributions that government can make to this effort.

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