This is a guest post by Mark Jaccard, one of Canada's most distinguised sustainable energy economists, and was originally published on his blog, Sustainability Suspicions.
Why is Alberta’s policy a regulation and not a tax?
Alberta’s government officially says it doesn’t have a carbon tax, and I agree. But if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone claim it does, I could buy a lot of anti-oil sands ads, and maybe a politician along the way.
I hear about Alberta’s so-called carbon tax from business people, politicians, journalists, environmentalists, sometimes even economists (who should know better). But the policy in question is, in fact, a “performance regulation,” that sets a maximum “emissions-intensity” for industries, and fines them $15 for each tonne of CO2 emissions in excess of that maximum.
A new video from five of British Columbia’s leading environmental groups challenges candidates in the provincial election to do better on climate change initiatives.
“British Columbians already have a policy that is fighting climate change and helping to create secure and well-paying jobs: the carbon tax,” says a video from the group entitled Better Future BC. “With a few upgrades, it can be made even more effective, and it can also drive a potent investment engine that we’re calling the Better Future Fund.”
“It’s clear that BC is at a crossroads,” says David Suzuki Foundation science and policy manager Ian Bruce. “In the past, BC has shown leadership on climate change although that has waned over the last few years. There’s certainly a threat that the next government could prioritize boom and bust industries like the oil and gas industry.”
This is the second post in a three-part series. For Part 1, Parsing Redford's Little Black Lies, click here.
As Alberta Premier Alison Redford tries her best to hoodwink American politicians into believing Alberta is leading the way on climate change, it’s worth considering where the problems lie and how they might be addressed. The solutions, of course, have nothing to do with more and better public relations, just a commitment to environmental stewardship that Alberta has yet to embrace.
As I wrote in the first part of this column, Redford’s claims about “responsible oil sands development” in her recent USA Today column are patently false. This is because Alberta has failed to implement its own climate change strategy, allowing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the province to grow significantly over the last 20 years despite a commitment to steep reductions.
There are three reasons for this failure. The first is the rampant expansion of Alberta’s tar sands development, which is the fastest growing source of GHG emissions in Canada. GHG emissions from the tar sands more than doubled over the last 20 years, and planned growth under current provincial and federal policies indicates they will double yet again between 2009 and 2020, from 45 megatonnes in 2009 to 92 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2020. Environment Canada knows full well that tar sands production, which is expected to double between 2008 and 2015, "will put a strong upward pressure on emissions."
Hounded, hunted and harassed, Mann has suffered much of the public backlash against climate science over the last decade, being accused of everything from conspiracy and fraud to scientific dishonesty.
The global warming threat requires a rapid reduction in the carbon pollution emitted from every country in the world.
But just as each country is only a percentage of the planet’s population or GDP, each country emits only a percentage of total carbon pollution. This enables short-sighted or selfish people (perhaps profiting from carbon pollution) to argue that their country should continue with projects to expand carbon pollution (or at least not reduce it) because their individual effort will not solve the problem.
In the first part of this article, I described what specific challenges the climate movement faces when confronting its own limiting tendencies as well as industry funded public relations campaigns. In this second part I outline what I think are four essential ways the climate movement must evolve in order to overcome these obstacles.
FIRST, we must become a lot more political, in the sense that it’s fundamentally the laws, policies, and agreements that shape our greater society and economy. And it’s our society and economy which are the foundations of our personal lifestyles. What is available, affordable, practical, and possible in our lifestyles is largely a product of the society in which we live – what clean energy sources exist at what price relative to dirty energy, how available public transit is, how well or poorly our cities are designed for walking, cycling, and accessing our needs, how energy efficient our buildings are, and so on.
No individual is an island unto himself; the way we live is fundamentally shaped by the economy and society in which our lifestyles are nested.
By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington. This post originally appeared in the Science Matters blog on the DSF website.
When the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded in 2010, killing 11 people and spewing massive amounts of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, it cost more than $40 billion to mop up the mess. In Canada, an oil company would only be liable for only $30 million, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the rest.
That’s just one of a litany of flaws Canada’s environment commissioner identified with the government’s approach to environmental protection. According to environment and sustainable development commissioner Scott Vaughan, who released a final series of audits before stepping down, the federal government’s failure to protect the environment is putting Canadians’ health and economy at risk.
Vaughan says the government has no real plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is not even on track to meet its own modest targets (already watered down from the widely accepted emission-levels baseline of 1990 to 2005). It is unprepared for tanker accidents and oil spills in coastal waters. It lacks regulations governing toxic chemicals used by the oil industry.
He noted the federal government does not even require the oil and gas industry to disclose chemicals it uses in fracking, which means there is no way to assess the risks. And despite the fact that Canada has committed to protecting 20 per cent of its oceans by 2020, we have less than one per cent protected now and are not likely to meet our goal within this century.
After years of apathy and political inertia, North America’s climate sustainability movement has found itself in the midst of a timely resurgence, as is evident by the recent massive expansion of Bill Mckibben's 350.org movement against the Keystone XL pipeline.
With climate change regaining its footing as a central political issue, now is the time to pressure governments to enact the needed laws, policies, and agreements required to curtail runaway global warming. But unless the moment is seized right, climate action will be stymied again – and there is no time to wait for another opportunity.
During his State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, US President Barack Obama stated:
"For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change...We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late."
Recent studies project that the Earth’s average temperature is on course to rise over four degrees this century, far beyond the two degree rise when “runaway” global warming kicks-in due to positive feedbacks that make it extremely difficult to halt.