Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press ‘Letters and Comments, Jan.22‘
Re: Ottawa could offer carbon rebates directly to residents in holdout provinces (Jan. 15)
There is much debate about how the federal government and the provinces will handle revenues from upcoming carbon taxes. In Manitoba, we have a golden opportunity to use a significant portion of the funds generated to contribute in a globally significant way to the war on climate change. We can do this by undertaking the engagement and consultations required to protect the forests, soils and wetlands that store high levels of carbon.
The concept is simple. Keep the carbon on the ground and away from the atmosphere. Doing this will far outweigh the measures we take to reduce fossil fuel emissions as Manitoba’s boreal region, which covers over 80 per cent of our province, is estimated to store a minimum of 19 billion tonnes of carbon. This is equivalent to nearly 1,000 years of Manitoba’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Manitoba’s Protected Areas Initiative has crawled at a snail’s pace since its inception in 1990. A primary reason is the government branch responsible for conserving our lands and waters has been chronically under-resourced.
Manitoba’s Parks and Protected Spaces branch has hard-working and talented staff but there simply aren’t enough of them. They also don’t have the funds to accelerate the efforts required with communities and stakeholders to identify and conserve the wild places that would secure wildlife populations, sustain local cultures and continue to store carbon.
The recently released Manitoba Climate and Green Plan commits to establishing a Conservation Trust “aimed at achieving the goals and objectives of our provincial climate strategy, particularly those related to conserving nature.”
It is my sincere hope that our provincial government uses a large slice of the carbon revenues that flow to the trust to greatly increase its capacity to work with all involved, to permanently protect large areas of high carbon value for the benefit of people and wildlife, which includes curbing global climate change.
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Manitoba chapter