Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canada's plan on climate change: increase emissions

Back in February, the Canadian House of Commons gave the Conservatives a sharp reminder of the limits of minority government by passing a private member's bill requiring the government to table a detailed plan to meet Canada's Kyoto obligations. The bill is yet to pass the Senate, but today the government attempted to head it off by releasing a new Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions [PDF], including greenhouse gases. But rather than planning to meet their obligation for a 6% reduction from 1990 levels over 2008 - 2012, the government has instead shifted the goalposts, and is now promising to cut emissions by 20% from 2006 levels by 2020. As 2006 emissions are presently 30% higher than 1990, effectively they're promising to increase emissions by 4%.

The chief mechanism for doing this is a weak system of carbon taxes and emissions trading linked to emissions intensity. Major firms would be required to reduce their emissions per unit output by 18% over three years, and then by 2% per annum thereafter. Excess emissions could either be covered by trading and offsets, or by paying a $15 / ton carbon tax. However, there's no actual limit on emissions, so efficient polluters will be able to emit as much as they want.

The Canadian government is trying to sell this as an excellent policy for 1997 (when Canada signed Kyoto, and when their Liberal predecessors should have acted on it). That's a lie. It was an inadequate policy even back then, as New Zealand's experience with intensity-based Negotiated Greenhouse Agreements shows (short version: targets were met, but emissions rose. But the government got to pretend it was doing something for a few years, which was the primary goal). Ten years later, its not even a bad joke. Instead, its the last ditch attempt by a government committed to inaction to continue sticking its head in the sand. Unfortunately, it looks like they'll get what they want; the policy will be implemented solely through regulation, so the Canadian Parliament will not have a chance to scrutinise or strengthen it. Their only option would be to bring the government down - a risky plan which could simply result in another divided Parliament. OTOH, given the electoral pressures on the various minor parties propping up the government, they may be left with little choice.


the wider question is what is wrong with our system that means that that strategy works?

(ie "the government got to pretend it was doing something for a few years, which was the primary goal")


Posted by Anonymous : 4/29/2007 09:45:00 AM