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NEWS: Think-tank promotes ‘market systems to protect Canada’s natural capital’

The Globe and Mail reports that Sustainable Prosperity – a think tank “whose steering committee includes former Reform Party leader Preston Manning”, Daniel Gagnier, the chair of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (which reportedly will take over the Experimental Lakes Area), and Michael Cleland, the ‘Nexen Executive in Residence’ at the Canada West Foundation – says Canada should use “market systems to protect its natural capital”.

“The organization defines an environmental market as a situation in which money is paid by one entity – whether a government, a private corporation or an individual – to someone else for providing a service that is beneficial to the environment. The report looks at markets for improving the quality of air and climate, water and biodiversity. …In some environmental markets, governments establish the maximum amounts that companies are allowed to pollute. Firms that exceed those limits must pay while those that are fall short are compensated. In other cases, governments pay people directly for environmental improvements. Farmers are paid to prevent run-off from their lands, conservation authorities are paid to restore wetlands, and property owners are paid to address threats to drinking water.”

“Alex Wood, one the the authors of the report, (says), ‘In a trading system for water, for air pollutants you are going to have the option of looking at your operation and saying ‘Okay, I can limit this (pollution) at a certain cost,’ and then decide whether, in fact, buying a credit from someone who can do it more cheaply is a better alternative for you.'”

“Sustainable Prosperity estimated that the amount paid by Canadians and Canadian companies for this type of positive environmental action runs between $462-million and $753-milion a year. That is a broad range, but most of the gap is attributed to the difficulty in assessing how much is spent to compensate for damages caused to fish habitats. ‘For a lot of people, just the fact that these markets exist is news,’ Mr. Wood said. …Mr. Wood’s group wants governments to track these markets in a more systematic way to generate and channel investment into environmental protection.”

The Council of Canadians opposes market-based systems like water markets, pollution trading, and other schemes in which corporations can both profit from – and keep polluting – the scarcity of clean water and the global water crisis. Maude Barlow and Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter have commented that, “Water is a human right, not a corporate commodity. The idea that it can or should be bought, sold or traded away to the highest bidder must be stopped.”