Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Budget gets mixed reviews from green coalition

The federal government’s decision to invest in water is garnering praise from the Green Budget Coalition, an alliance of 21 environmental and conservation groups. However, coalition members say they are disappointed that last week’s budget contained no measures that would help transform the country to a green economy.

“We are encouraged to see new investments in Canada’s freshwater,” said Barry Turner, chair of the Green Budget Coalition, “including for cleaning up Areas of Concern and upgrading First Nations’ infrastructure, as well as for protection from invasive species in the face of the current Asian Carp threat. Federal leadership is crucial to protecting Canada’s limited freshwater resources and wetlands. We are also pleased to see funding to continue Canada’s valuable natural capital indicators for two more years.”

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty also announced that Ottawa would spend $100 million over four years to support clean energy technology in the forestry sector.

Still, there’s concern that the budget’s stated objectives of green jobs and growth were not accompanied by action.

“Amidst International Year of Biodiversity, in the lead-up to hosting the G8 and G20, we are disappointed that the budget contained no new funding to protect our biodiversity and to meet our commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity,” said Mara Kerry, Nature Canada’s Conservation Director.

“Furthermore, this budget was a critical missed opportunity to invest in clean energy jobs and to live up to the climate change commitment to developing countries reiterated in the Throne Speech,” said Tim Weis of the Pembina Institute. “Canada will be falling behind countries worldwide in supporting clean energy and thus missing out on the numerous economic advantages available to those leading the way to a greener economy.”

The coalition also expressed concern over reduced funding to Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, as well as the extension of the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit.

Ottawa’s proposed new Red Tape Reduction Commission is risky, the coalition says, as is the move to delegate responsibility for environmental assessments of energy projects to the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

In last year’s budget, the government said it would commit $1 billion to a Clean Energy Fund and $1 billion to a Green Infrastructure Fund, both over five years. To date, the feds have announced funding for three carbon capture and storage projects under the Clean Energy Fund, worth $466 million.

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