This week the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy basically recommended Canadian taxpayers should fall on their swords for the sake of winning a Pyrrhic victory over global warming.
The government advisory panel called for Ottawa to impose a carbon tax on Canadians and/or establish a “cap and trade” carbon emissions trading scheme for industry (which has been something of a fiasco in Europe) to achieve “deep” greenhouse gas (GHG) emission cuts.
In reality, the NRTEE is telling us to do two contradictory things: Act in concert with the rest of the world to combat global warming and, regardless of what the world does, act unilaterally now.
The NRTEE acknowledges that: “With respect to environmental risk, Canada’s share of global emissions and hence its contribution to the stock of atmospheric carbon is low, and if action is not taken globally, Canada’s efforts alone could do little to stabilize atmospheric concentrations.”
Plus: “We believe that the most critical assumption that the NRTEE has made in its work, particularly in our modelling, is that whatever policy framework Canada puts into place, it is comparable to its competitors and trade partners, predominantly the United States … If our major trading partners, particularly the United States, do not implement comparable policies within a reasonable time frame, the economic risk of the deep domestic reductions investigated in this report rises.”
Indeed, the NRTEE paper, Getting to 2050: Canada’s Transition to a Low-emission Future warns 10 times that its proposals won’t damage our economy only if the U.S. and our other major trading partners are simultaneously implementing similar measures. Its optimistic economic modelling is based on that.
And yet bizarrely, it also concludes, without qualification, that: “It is not the NRTEE’s view that any of this should be justification for not taking action now to either reduce emissions now, or put in place the most effective policy framework for deep, long-term reductions in the future.” Excuse us?
Canada, which like many countries will miss its Kyoto targets, accounts for 2.1% of global GHG emissions.
The U.S., our largest trading partner, responsible for 20.6% of emissions, has refused to ratify Kyoto since the Clinton administration. What would the NRTEE have us do? Arm-wrestle the U.S. into submission?
Speculation the next American president will ratify Kyoto is merely that, speculation.
In 1997, when GHG guru Al Gore was Bill Clinton’s vice-president, Democratic and Republican members of the Senate, which must ratify Kyoto, voted 95-0 against, arguing it was detrimental to American interests because developing nations weren’t required to cut emissions. Today the developing world, led by China, is balking at accepting cuts even after Kyoto expires in 2012.
As things now stand, the NRTEE is effectively recommending Canadians pay significantly more for carbon (meaning for virtually everything) for decades to come, at the risk of severely damaging our economy, especially in Alberta and Ontario, for what would be a futile gesture to combat global warming even if successful, and even if countries responsible for up to 10 times our emissions do nothing.
But if everyone else suddenly reverses course inspired by our example, we should be okay.
That’s not a policy. It’s insanity.
The Harper government requested this report. It should thank the NRTEE — and shelve it.
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