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China, Climate Change, and Us

Often when discussing climate change, I encounter the same objection, “The problem is China. They are the biggest carbon emitters in the world and until they decide to do something about their emissions there is no point in us doing anything. It will only make us less competitive.”

There is no denying that China is the world’s largest carbon emitter, but on a per capita basis they are far down the list – emitting about half of what Canada does on an annual per capita basis. But why would we want the Chinese government to set the bar for emissions at all? This is not exactly a regime with a stellar reputation by any measure, be it unfair trade practices, decades of election interference, Uyghur genocide, or hostage diplomacy. How aggressively we manage the climate crisis cannot be dictated by how China, or any other country for that matter, chooses to confront the issue.

Further, decades ago, we decided we wanted cheap goods at any cost, so much of the western world off-loaded manufacturing (including all the associated CO2 emissions) to China, a country with few, if any, environmental protections. Though we still fill our store shelves and homes with cheap goods from China, we are paying a heavy price by every other calculus to do so.

The European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) will impose import tariffs on countries that fail to tackle carbon emissions to EU standards. America is exploring a Carbon Boarder Tariff to counter China and protect US industries as early as 2024. Carbon import tariffs may eventually be placed on many Chinese goods, and goods from other countries including Canada, who fail to reduce emissions. Consider the hundreds of billions the US is directing towards green technology with the Inflation Reduction Act. Green technology and carbon reduction will be at the forefront of trade and competition in the coming years – a carbon trade war of sorts. Do we want Canada to be left behind? Or worse, become a target?

The entire planet has an enormous problem when it comes to global heating and climate change and it falls on communities, like ours, to make the changes necessary to ensure a decent future. Instead of thinking up one novel way followed by another to do nothing about the climate crisis we all face, let’s acknowledge it and make a difference where we can. Do something. Do anything to lower your own carbon footprint. Walk, ride, or use transit when you are able. Consume less, buy locally, and purchase wisely. Choose used items when it makes sense. When your air conditioner or gas furnace gives out, consider investing in a heat pump – there are many rebates being offered. Small actions on a personal level add up to tremendous changes across an entire community.

Recently a Kelowna councillor shared that climate change, and the environment wasn’t important to Kelowna’s citizens and that council only hears from the same six people when it comes to environmental issues (hyperbole - I hope). Another councillor told me that most meeting requests come from developers. Our city is growing quickly, and the rapid growth rate is anticipated to continue. Most people can accept that fact, but it doesn’t mean we cannot grow sustainably and look at policy and growth decisions through a climate lens.

Municipal policy impacts nearly fifty percent of a community’s carbon emissions. If you care about climate change and the future of your community, take two minutes out of your day to email and let our elected officials know you support climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. Remaining silent now will make our community less livable in the future.

Dave Crawford

Kelowna Climate Coalition

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