Ecological Modernization and Canada's Energy Debate: Reconciling Economic, Environmental, and Political Agendas?
MetadataShow full item record
Like many modern industrialized nations, Canada is grappling with the need to maintain a stable, growing economy and to take meaningful action on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is particularly challenging in a resource-based economy and federalist state like Canada, where competing regional interests and a historical dependence on oil has made it difficult to legislate and implement long-term energy and climate change policies. Two visions for energy development in Canada have emerged within public discourse. The first advocates the continued and expanded development of Canada’s oil sands and new pipeline infrastructure to access overseas energy markets. The second proposes a re-conceptualization of the Canadian energy sector based on a phasing out of carbon-based fuels and expanded use of renewable alternatives to support a thriving green economy and meet international climate change obligations. Both visions promise an environment-economic win-win scenario where Canada’s growth imperative can co-exist harmoniously with sustainable environmental policy. Ecological Modernization (EM) theory is a school of thought which maintains that decoupling economic growth from its environmental impacts is possible through technological and institutional modernization processes. This thesis examines both visions of energy development through the lens of EM theory to determine the likelihood of each in achieving environmental, economic and political reconciliation. EM has been successful in helping to frame and understand how industrialized societies are changing their views of the environment and incorporating ecological considerations into policy decisions. However, this thesis finds that the current political climate in Canada remains unfavourable to the transformative institutional reforms necessary to implement a truly ecologically modern national energy strategy. From the Canadian perspective, EM’s promise of an environmental-economic “win-win” scenario appears to be outweighed by political challenges.