Good Sunday Morning
We find comfort in being surrounded by people who believe what we believe. We are attracted to our friends, join service clubs, and participate in most group activities because we seek to connect with people who believe what we believe. The excitement of sitting in the stands to watch a sporting event stems not from the notion that we can see the action better or the seats are more comfortable, but from the fact that we are surrounded by many others who pay good money to cheer the same team that we have put our faith in. It even extends to our relatives. To the extent that we are sometimes disappointed with our biological family, it is often because they fail to fulfill a natural expectation: They were raised in the same environment and come from the same background, why don’t they believe what we believe?
Surrounding ourselves with people who share our world view gives us strength and courage and hope. This year’s Global Greens Congress in Liverpool was no exception. Just having wrapped up, it was an incredible meeting of minds from around the world who addressed themselves to the challenges of building a bright, new future. Elizabeth was in England, accompanied by her Executive Assistant Elysia Glover, our GPC President Ken Melamed, our Vice President (French) Jean Rousseau and two delegates representing Canada’s Young Greens; Cherie Wong and Ian Soutar.
We expect full video coverage to be available some time in the future but in the meantime, here is a glimpse into one of the discussions which revolved around Global Trade. It explores the challenges and opportunities as we seek to replace the outdated trade practices of exploitation and corporate rule with a new commitment to fair trade and democratic solutions. Especially in the face of the protectionist rhetoric of the populist movement hijacked by the ultra right.
Coming to grips with the complexities of trade is a key ingredient to building a sustainable society. The Canadian sustainable energy sector is looking to other parts of the world for growth opportunities. Some claim that this is because Canada’s needs have largely been met but I would argue that our domestic potential continues to be seriously suppressed by a clinging to outdated business models that include carbon subsidies. BC Greens Leader Andrew Weaver offered a wonderful example of this in a recent interview siting the economic insanity of BC's Site-C dam.
Matthias Buck leads the EU energy policy work of Agora Energiewende, a European think-tank dedicated to charting the energy shift to renewables. During a panel discussion in Liverpool he pointed out that someone has to lead. Jurisdictions that have dedicated themselves to feed-in tariffs have driven the reduction in the cost of solar by creating a marketplace that offered economies of scale.
In 2015 renewables contributed 30% of the electric power mix in Europe. By 2030 the target is 50%. Once this happens, the traditional business model for utilities is gone. Current systems can already handle 50% to 70% sustainables but over 50% the base-load infrastructure becomes obsolete, leaving huge amount of stranded assets. That means there are those who will be left behind. They are well funded and well organized to mount their resistance. After all, myopia plagues all of us in our decision processes.
That’s why a sustainable future is not a self-fulfilling prophecy just because prices have come down. We need policies that continue to build on our progress. The transition needs a champion. The future needs a voice too. And that voice has to be prepared to embrace the pending disruption sparked by the technological convergence of cheap solar, large scale battery storage, smart-phones, autonomous electric vehicles and a global recognition that it’s time to move beyond fossil fuels.
“The true tipping point will only become apparent in the rear-view mirror, and it won’t be defined by a single moment or breakthrough. It will be crossed at different times, in different countries, driven by different forces,” writes Merran Smith, Executive Director of Clean Energy Canada. “But the clean energy transition now appears irreversible.”
China is opening labs in the US to develop AI and self-driving cars. Ford is investing billions in electric vehicles, AI companies, bike sharing operations and plans to have a fully driverless car without a gas pedal or a steering wheel on the market by 2021. If you are counting that’s half way through the next Federal Government mandate. According to Ford Canada president Mark Buzzell, “There's a lot of new disruptors or new players trying to get into this space.” One of them is of course Tesla without whom, some would argue, Ford would never be taking these aggressive steps forward. Last week, Chinese internet giant Tencent bought a 5% stake in Tesla making it one of that company's largest shareholders and giving Tesla a firm foothold in the huge Chinese marketplace.
However as Matthias pointed out, we can’t take this progress for granted. Although a success for the environment, the disruption demands a bold approach to rethinking our economic framework. From taxing automation to reevaluating the role of bicycles in our lives. From mass transit infrastructure to a carbon fee and dividend. From incentivizing innovation to universal pharmacare. Right now the people championing this new thinking are still a relative whisper in the din of unlimited growth and industrial expansion. But our voices are growing in numbers and the writing is on the wall.
The insurance industry was the first to recognize that climate change is real. Now the so-called “Davos class” is also focusing squarely on the environment and another top risk factor; social instability, especially as it relates to wealth disparity and how it will impact the job market. Their 2017 Global Risk Report highlighted how income disparity has caused a growing distrust in elected officials around the world. “A disempowered citizen may go for something very different because he or she is tired of the status quo,” says Erwann Michael-Kerjan of the University of Pennsylvania. “If we keep pushing for globalization as the only model, and fail to be inclusive enough and to be responsive enough, we’re going to fail millions of people, if not billions.”
The similarities between this narrative and the discussion at this weekend's Global Greens Congress are striking. But there seems to be an underlying distinction. Where the World Economic Forum speaks of the affected as “they” the delegates in Liverpool were firmly planted in the “we” paradigm. We believe in a new future that isn’t ruled by plutocratic forces. We believe in a future of fairness, opportunity, and love for one another and the planet. We believe in a future where innovation is driven by the excitement that it will benefit everyone.
It is that feeling of inclusiveness that inspired me again last week as I attended one of our volunteer potlucks here in Saanich-Gulf Islands. The food was fantastic and the buzz of excitement was in the air as we explored ways to support this global shift during the provincial election. Much like those attending the Global Greens Congress I'm sure, our inspiration came from being with people who share a common vision and a common hope. We are empowered by our very diverse Green family, united in our commitment to building a better world.
Have a great Sunday,