Somewhere between the same-sex marriage debate and the sponsorship scandal, the Kyoto Accord on climate change formally came into effect on February 16. Two months later, Paul Martin’s government released its plan for honouring Canada’s Kyoto commitment.
The relationship between environmental goals and economic ones has been at the centre of the debate on Kyoto. It was the focus of a vigorous exchange on the Inroads listserv that was featured in the Summer/Fall 2003 issue of this journal, and Environment Minister Stéphane Dion’s announcement of the government plan indicated that it remains a major concern. Dion maintained that the plan would “allow Canadians to honour our Kyoto commitment while improving our competitiveness in a sustainable economy.” Whether all these objectives can be achieved simultaneously remains to be seen. The plan has prompted widespread scepticism, from both environmentalists and business leaders.
In the following pages, Jan Otto Andersson of Åbo Akademi University in Finland and Ottawa environmental consultant François Bregha look at the relationship between the environment and the economy. Andersson endorses the concept of “ecological footprint,” a measure of the pressure that human consumption is putting on the environment. He looks at international trade in terms of importing and exporting biocapacity. Trade that appears mutually advantageous in economic terms, he finds, may be inequitable or unsustainable in ecological terms.
In an interview with Arthur Milner, Bregha suggests that while climate change is the most pressing environmental problem, it is far from being the only one. There are many others – from air quality to endocrine disruptors to wildlife – that need our attention. He recommends greater use of economic instruments to promote environmental protection, and argues that environmental implications should guide all the economic decisions we make.
— Bob Chodos