Emis­sion im­pos­si­ble

Pols mak­ing a scene over car­bon spat

Ottawa Sun - - NEWS - LOR­RIE GOLD­STEIN twit­ter.com/sun­lor­rie lgo­ld­stein@post­media.com

The fight, pur­port­edly over cli­mate change, be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and fed­eral en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna, ver­sus On­tario Premier Doug Ford and en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Rod Phillips, isn’t re­ally about that.

Rather, it’s a moral­ity play about money — ours.

Any­one who un­der­stands the num­bers — and alarm­ingly few politi­cians, pun­dits and poll­sters do — knows that if the pre­dic­tions of cli­mate sci­en­tists are cor­rect, then the bat­tle against an­thro­pogenic (man-made) cli­mate change has al­ready been lost.

Glob­ally, in­dus­trial green­house gas emis­sions are still ris­ing in­stead of drop­ping dra­mat­i­cally, as they would have to in or­der to meet what have be­come the in­creas­ingly unattain­able and imag­i­nary tar­gets of the United Na­tions’ In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change.

To do Canada’s part, we’d have to shut down the equiv­a­lent of 100% of our oil and gas sec­tor and 75% of our transportation sec­tor in 12 years. That’s patently ab­surd.

It’s not Trudeau’s fault, or McKenna’s, or Ford’s or Phillips’s.

The real fail­ure started 30 years ago when Con­ser­va­tive and Lib­eral prime min­is­ters, first Brian Mul­roney, then Jean Chre­tien, then, Paul Martin, then Stephen Harper, talked a good game about re­duc­ing our emis­sions. And then did noth­ing be­cause they knew the fi­nan­cial costs were too high, while the re­ward, a po­ten­tially less volatile cli­mate per­haps 100 years from now, too lit­tle.

Un­like his pre­de­ces­sors, Trudeau didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk.

He im­posed a na­tional car­bon price, and a fed­er­al­ly­man­dated car­bon tax in prov­inces that re­fused to im­ple­ment it, which is the most ef­fec­tive way of re­duc­ing emis­sions be­cause if some­thing costs you more, you tend to use less of it.

Trudeau ran on do­ing this in the 2015 fed­eral elec­tion (al­though he was de­lib­er­ately vague about what a “car­bon price” would mean, which is a higher cost of liv­ing for many Cana­di­ans).

With that qual­i­fier, he’s do­ing what he said he would do.

But what’s po­lit­i­cally dis­hon­est about what he’s do­ing now is pre­tend­ing his na­tional car­bon price — $20 per tonne of emis­sions start­ing next year, ris­ing to $50 per tonne in 2022 — will meet Trudeau’s in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments which he agreed to when he signed the Paris cli­mate ac­cord three years ago. The gov­ern­ment’s own ex­perts have

told the Lib­er­als that to achieve Canada’s Paris tar­gets — much less the far more strin­gent ones re­cently out­lined by the IPCC — Canada’s car­bon price to­day would have to be in the $150 to $200 per tonne range, and con­tinue ris­ing, dra­mat­i­cally, af­ter 2022.

What Trudeau is do­ing, in­stead, is ask­ing Cana­di­ans to pay a premium for be­ing in­ter­na­tional boy scouts, with­out mean­ing­fully low­er­ing Canada’s emis­sions (which fell a mere 1.4% in 2016, the last year for which sta­tis­tics are avail­able) or global emis­sions (which rose 1.4% in 2017).

To be fair, Trudeau’s plan will lower emis­sions more than do­ing noth­ing, as his pre­de­ces­sors did, and more than any­thing his con­tem­po­rary Con­ser­va­tive op­po­nents in Par­lia­ment and Queen’s Park have pro­posed, which so far is noth­ing, even though they agree Canada must act.

That’s why Trudeau and McKenna have shifted their em­pha­sis about the pur­pose of car­bon pric­ing away from re­duc­ing emis­sions to por­tray­ing his car­bon tax as a per­pet­ual money-mak­ing ma­chine from which al­most ev­ery­one will ben­e­fit.

Back in the real world, what Trudeau is do­ing is noth­ing new.

It’s called rev­enue neu­tral car­bon fee and div­i­dend — in which, re­al­is­ti­cally, about two-thirds of house­holds get more in an­nual re­bates than they pay in car­bon taxes, fi­nanced by the one-third of house­holds who pay more.

For his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, the only gov­ern­ment in Canada to ever adopt a rev­enue neu­tral car­bon tax, Bri­tish Columbia, has now aban­doned its rev­enue neu­tral­ity, mak­ing it just an­other tax.

Which brings us to On­tario, where Ford and Phillips have a clear man­date from vot­ers (clearer than Trudeau’s) on car­bon pric­ing.

They ran on scrap­ping the now-de­feated On­tario Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s cap-and-trade scheme (a car­bon tax by an­other name) and fight­ing Trudeau’s im­posed car­bon tax on On­tario in court.

Both the On­tario Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives and An­drew Scheer’s fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives say they will soon un­veil their cli­mate change plans, that will not in­clude a car­bon tax.

Which means they won’t re­duce emis­sions as much as Trudeau’s plan, which will, in turn, fail to meet Canada’s tar­gets and have an in­signif­i­cant im­pact on global emis­sions.

The ques­tion now is, will On­tar­i­ans sup­port a car­bon tax im­posed on them that won’t ef­fec­tively lower emis­sions, or al­ter­na­tive plans by Con­ser­va­tives, ab­sent a car­bon tax, that will lower them less?

That is, how much are we pre­pared to pay for a moral­ity play?



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