Citizen Action Monitor

Trudeau’s carbon reduction plan does not stand up to critical scrutiny

Ottawa’s plan is window dressing to give an “appearance of action”, says Dimitri Lascaris

No 1963 Posted by fw, May 23, 2017

“So even if the emission and reduction targets, including Canada’s, are achieved, we’re going to experience catastrophic warming. The bad news, that’s the bad news. The really bad news is that this pricing scheme won’t even get us close to achieving Canada’s emission reduction target…. this is not a done deal. People need to understand that. The devil will be in the details. The Canadian government is inviting comment from stakeholders…. As weak as it is, there are going to be corporate interests that are going to try to weaken it further… and it’s going to be very important that the government hear not just from corporate stakeholders, but from citizens who are deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and who are going to demand real action on climate change. So I really encourage people to take the opportunity to make their voices heard to the government.”Dimitri Lascaris, The Real News Network

Dimitri Lascaris, lawyer, journalist, activist, rips into the Liberal’s carbon reduction plan. Interestingly, the title of this Real News video interview of Lascaris, as it originally appeared, was Trudeau’s Gutless Carbon Reduction Plan Inadequate

Here is a copy of the rather long comment that I posted in the Real News’ comments section for the Lascaris interview–

Dimitri writes: “…citizens who are deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and who are going to demand real action on climate change.”

1/ What “real action on climate change” do Canadians really want — especially on carbon pricing? My impression is that many Canadians are angry about having any price on carbon. Perhaps it’s time for a pollster to take a reading of opinion on this controversial topic.

2/ Highly respected climate scientist Keven Anderson notes that time is not on our side. He advocates rapid and deep cuts to energy consumption as the only way to cut our CO2 emissions. This solution will also slow our economic growth. For this proposed solution to work, we big spending high emitters, concentrated in the northern hemisphere, will have to make significant lifestyle changes. And there’s the rub, notes Anderson — people like us, living in a capitalist society, are going to resist making significant lifestyle changes. We’re not going to change our ways just to stop climate impacts on people who live far away: we can simply turn off our TVs if we don’t like what’s happening in their parts of the world.

3/ Politician that he is, Trudeau has his eye on the 2019 election. He’s not going to demand anything from Canadians that might slow economic growth and cut into their dispensable incomes. Perhaps that is why his carbon reduction plan is, in Dimitri’s word, “inadequate”. Inadequate will sell. But it won’t save the planet.

4/ It’s easy to be critical. I urge the Real News to do a story on what a “real” Canadian solution to climate change would look like. Now that’s a formidable challenge. (Or has it been done and I missed it?)

Below is a repost of my abridged transcript of the interview, along with my subheadings, and highlighted text to facilitate selective reading, and added hyperlinks. Unfortunately, there in no embedded copy of the video on my repost because one has not been yet been published on You Tube.

To watch the 14:11-minute interview and read the full transcript, click on the following linked title.

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Trudeau’s Carbon Reduction Plan Inadequate by The Real News Network, May 22, 2017

Dimitri Lascaris, says Trudeau’s pricing schemes is defective and not even close to what is necessary to enforce reductions

ABRIDGED TRANSCRIPT

Liberals release framework plan on clean growth and climate change

Sharmini Peries — It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. The Canadian liberal government of Justin Trudeau released a technical paper for pricing carbon pollution on Thursday. The paper entitled The Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is made available for public comment until June 30th. It outlines a levy system on fossil fuels for the next five years for provinces that currently are without a plan. All provinces across Canada, except for Saskatchewan are complying. Here’s the minister of the environment Catherine McKenna in Ottawa on Thursday.

Purpose of the plan according to environment minister Catherine McKenna

Catherine McKenna — We need a price on pollution across the country. If a province does not have a plan by 2018 then a federal option will be implemented. First, there will be a levy on fossil fuels that will be charged to the producers or distributors of the fuel. Second, there will be a price on pollution from industry. Companies that are performing well with respect to other companies will not have to pay. Importantly, should the federal plan apply, every penny collected from the price on pollution will be returned into the province where it was collected.

Peries — With us to discuss the liberal’s new carbon plan, and if it will in fact lead to reduction in greenhouse gases, we are joined by Dimitri Lascaris. Dimitri is a lawyer, journalist, and former justice critic for the green party of Canada. So Dimitri, let’s assess the plan. What is the plan that Minister McKenna is proposing here?

[About the plan]

Ottawa will impose a carbon pricing plan on provinces that do not have a plan in place by 2018

Dimitri Lascaris — So it’s basically a default carbon pricing plan. It ensures that provinces that do not already have their own carbon pricing plan will have one effectively imposed on them by the Canadian federal government no later than next year, and no earlier than next year.

Three carbon pricing options – direct pricing, indirect pricing, cap and trade

Provinces can implement a carbon pricing scheme either by imposing a direct price on carbon, such as a carbon tax, or an indirect pricing scheme, such as cap and trade. BC, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec representing more than 80% of Canada’s population already have carbon pricing systems, albeit weak ones.

Ottawa’s plan — $10 per ton in 2018 — $20, $30, $40 the following years — peaking at $50 per ton in 2022

The Trudeau government announced last year, as we reported on The Real News, a federal plan to impose a carbon price of $10 per ton in 2018, increasing by $10 per ton per year until 2022, at which point it will apparently cap out at about $50 per ton.

Plan translates into “modest” gas price increases at the pump and for natural gas heating at home

Now according to the Canadian government’s technical paper released yesterday, a $10 per ton carbon price adds about two cents to each cubic meter of natural gas, and 2.3 cents to each liter of gas. That would mean that by 2022, a 50-liter tank of gas would cost about $5.82 more, that’s the whole tank, and that the natural gas heating bill for the average single detached home would rise by $264 a year. In Ontario, where I live, gas currently costs about, at the pump, about $1.10 per liter. So an increase of 2.3 cents per year is very modest, and frankly unlikely to have a major effect on overall consumption patterns. You know back when the price of oil was much higher, the price at the pump was obviously much higher as well, well above $1.10, and that didn’t seem to be having a dramatic impact on consumption patterns of Canadian consumers of gas. There’s little reason to think that that’s going to change now. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

Fed’s plan is similar to Alberta’s plan which puts a price on industry carbon emissions

The other thing I want to mention about the plan is that it’s similar to a scheme recently adopted in the province of Alberta, which is the home of the tar sands industry. That is essentially a hybrid scheme to reducing carbon emissions, which as the minister mentioned in that clip that you showed, imposes a direct levy on fossil fuels and puts a price on carbon emissions from industry. And with respect to industry emissions, the federal plan will set limits on industrial pollution, and will ensure that the more an industrial facility pollutes above its limit, the more it pays. If it’s under its limit, it can then earn credits, which it can sell. So, much will depend on the details here — you know, where are those limits going to be set — it’s going to be absolutely crucial. And are there any industries that are going to be exempted to some degree or entirely from the carbon price. So that’s the overview of the plan.

Why does Ottawa think its plan will reduce emissions and grow a clean economy?

Peries — Would you give us some context as to why, actually political context, as to why the government thinks this will help Canada reduce emissions and grow a clean economy?

Ottawa’s plan is window dressing to give an “appearance of action”

Lascaris — Well I think the government has come to understand, as has frankly the fossil fuels industry in Canada, that inaction is no longer politically sellable. There has to be at least an appearance of action.

The Liberals adopted Harper’s inadequate target of 30% emission reductions below 2005

The purported purpose of this plan is to enable Canada to achieve its emission reduction target under the Paris Climate Accord, and that was a reduction of 30% in carbon emissions below 2005 levels, which amounts to about 523 megatons of carbon. That goal — let’s just put this in context — this is the goal that was formulated by the predecessor government of Steven Harper. It was roundly criticized by the opposition parties, including the liberals before they came to power, but after they came to power, they suddenly adopted this as an adequate target.

Canada won’t get anywhere close to a goal of keeping global warming below the 2°C limit

If that target and the other targets that have been put forward in the Paris Climate Accord negotiations are actually fulfilled, and that’s of course a big question mark including with respect to Canada, we won’t get anywhere close to the 2°C limit. Certainly not the 1.5 degree Celsius limit. We’re going to see warming in the range of 3°C.

Moreover, Trudeau’s weak carbon pricing scheme won’t help us to meet our emission reduction target

So even if the emission and reduction targets, including Canada’s, are achieved, we’re going to experience catastrophic warming. The bad news, that’s the bad news. The really bad news is that this pricing scheme won’t even get us close to achieving Canada’s emission reduction target.

“It’s not even close,” a York University environment professor reportedly said

As York University environment professor Mark Winfield has said, it’s not even close if Canada is going to meet its promise to emission reduction targets through carbon prices, it would have to impose a price of $30 a ton now, not sometime in 2018, but now, rising to $200 a ton by 2030. Here we’re talking about $10 a ton next year rising to an apparent cap of $50 a ton.

The fed’s plan does not make the most effective use of carbon pricing dollars collected

The other thing that I think we have to bear in mind about this plan is that — and the minister was almost boasting about this in her presentation that you showed earlier – that, oh, the money is going to stay in the province, and the provinces are going to be free to give that money back to taxpayers. Well as a prominent Canadian environmental organization, Environmental Defense, stated yesterday, although it’s important for the government to provide assistance to low income households who are disproportionately impacted by carbon pricing, the majority of revenue from carbon pricing should be used to invest in further reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building a clean economy in Canada, and as Environmental Defense noted, holding shows that this is the most effective use of carbon pricing dollars and the approach that finds the most support among Canadians. So it actually enjoys popular support.

“What we have here is a plan that is highly defective” and it won’t sell

So, what we have here is a plan that is highly defective. One could plausibly argue that this is really window dressing to deal with the political reality that complete inaction and obstructionism, the kind of attitude we saw from the prior government, is no longer politically sellable.

This is not a done deal – Canadians must make their voices heard

The one thing I want to conclude with is that the Canadian government, this is not a done deal. People need to understand that. The devil will be in the details. The Canadian government is inviting comment from stakeholders — that’s a term that I personally dislike intensely because usually that’s meant to be an invitation to industry to come in and dominate the discussion — and you can be sure that that’s what’s going to happen here. As weak as it is, there are going to be corporate interests that are going to try to weaken it further, that are going to try to make the implementation of it, — a substantial weakening of the inadequate plan that we already have in place – and it’s going to be very important that the government hear not just from corporate stakeholders, but from citizens who are deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and who are going to demand real action on climate change. So I really encourage people to take the opportunity to make their voices heard to the government.

END OF ABRIDGED TRANSCRIPT

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