Final report from Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission recommends stringent carbon pricing to reach 2030 GHG goals

bridging the gapOn November 27, the Ecofiscal Commission announced that their latest research report, Bridging the Gap: Real Options for Meeting Canada’s 2030 GHG Target  will be their last.  This final report brings to an end five years of research and publication which has centred largely on the cost effectiveness and optimal design of carbon pricing for Canada.   Bridging the Gap  recommends that “If governments wish to meet their climate goals at least cost, they should rely on increasingly stringent carbon pricing” – steadily increasing the carbon price by around $20/tonne every year from 2023 until 2030. The next best option is increasingly stringent, well-designed, flexible regulations, including for example, the Clean Fuel Standard. The report argues that “It’s tempting to think that alternatives to carbon pricing will cost us less. But their costs are hidden and actually cost us more. …. Our modelling shows that carbon pricing will grow Canadian incomes on average by $3,300 more in 2030 relative to a policy approach that relies on a mix of subsidies and industry-only regulations…No matter what policy tool—or combination of tools—we use to achieve Canada’s 2030 target, policies will have to be significantly more stringent than they are today. The regulatory approaches we model, for example, require halving the emissions intensity of industrial production by 2030.”

The report provides new forecast results using Navius Research’s GTECH General Equilibrium economic model, to cost and evaluate three options for climate policy which would allow Canada to meet its 2030 GHG target: #1: Carbon pricing with revenues recycled toward percapita dividends and output-based pricing for EITE sectors; #2: A range of regulations and subsidies applied across the entire economy; #3: A range of regulations and subsidies, excluding those that would result in direct costs for households.  Although the authors acknowledge that impacts will be felt on jobs, especially in emissions intensive industries, employment impacts are not estimated or discussed.

Canada’s Green Party and NDP prepare to fight the October election with newly-released Climate Change plans

With unprecedented importance of climate change in the upcoming October 2019 election, and the weakness of the governing Liberal party on the issue, the NDP and Green Party are keenly competing for votes, as described in Aaron Wherry’s analysis for the CBC, “With Singh’s environment plan, the left-centre climate change bidding war begins” (June 1) . On May 16, Canada’s Green Party released a five-page plan called Mission Possible: The Green Climate Action Plan , built on the foundation of the Green Party’s overall policy Vision .  On May 31, the leader of the New Democratic Party released  Power to change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs 

MayElizabeth_GPGreen Party Proposal:  The Green Party’s Mission Possible Plan (press release is here ), “incorporates all the requirements for economic justice, just transition, the guarantee of meaningful work, while also respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.”  It endorses the Pact for a Green New Deal, and promises to go beyond it, stating: “Canadian Greens applaud their commitment and enthusiasm and wholeheartedly endorse their demands for decisive action on the climate emergency, mainly because we have been describing and promoting this exact thing sometime past forever.”

Specifically, Mission Possible calls for  Step #1 to “Declare a Climate Emergency: Accept, at every level of government, that climate is not an environmental issue. It is the gravest security threat the world has ever seen.”  The 20 action items in Mission Possible include: double  the country’s 2030 emissions reduction target to 60%; maintain carbon pricing; abolish fracking; green and modernize the east-west electricity grid; complete a national building retrofit; ensure that all new vehicles are electric by 2030 and address emissions from international shipping, aviation and the military.  Without using the term “Just Transition”, the recommended actions reflect a recognition of the need for  jobs in the new greener economy, the role of re-skilling, and the need for a gradual transition for workers in the fossil fuel sector.  The controversial bit:  Although the Greens oppose new fossil fuel projects and fracking in Canada and propose to end all foreign oil imports, the plan supports new pipelines to transport Alberta’s oil. They call for a shift for all Canadian bitumen from fuel to feedstock for the petrochemical industry by 2050, and state that “ pipelines would be needed to transport refined product (gasoline, propane, diesel) instead of diluted bitumen.”

The National Observer summary of the plan is here , and CBC summarizes it in “Greens call for a doubling of Canada’s carbon emissions reduction target”. CBC also discusses the most controversial elements  in “ Elizabeth May wants to only use Canadian oil — a plan Quebec’s Green Party leader can’t support” .

singh facebook photoNew Democratic Party: Power to change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs   was released by the NDP on May 31 – a plan which aims to reduce Canada’s emissions to 38 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, achieve net carbon-free electricity by 2030, and create at least 300,000 good jobs.  Proposals to reach the targets include: Immediate elimination of fossil fuel subsidies ( valued at  $3.3 billion, which would be reinvested in clean strategies); a Low Carbon Industrial Strategy which would, for example, use Buy Canadian procurement;  establishment of a new Canadian Climate Bank,  capitalized with $3 billion from  the federal government to invest in clean technologies; a Clean Communities Fund to support investments in innovative community-owned and operated clean energy projects; make all new buildings in Canada “net-zero ready” by 2030 and retrofit existing buildings by 2050;  continuation of the federal electric vehicle purchase subsidies with  $5,000 federal purchase incentive (rising  in time to $15,000 for made-in-Canada vehicles), plus exemption on the federal sales tax for working families; electrification of Canada’s transit fleets by 2030, and a commitment to  work with municipalities towards establishing fare-free transit.   Other important proposals:  enact  an Environmental Bill of Rights guaranteeing clean air, land, and water for Canadians, and tackle pollution with a ban on single-use plastics by 2022, and develop extended producer responsibility legislation to hold companies responsible for the entire lifecycle of their plastics products and packaging.   The platform is summarized in the Toronto Star and in the National Observer in  “NDP climate plan hinges on electrification, helping workers impacted by climate change”.

The NDP tries to differentiate itself from the Green Party chiefly by its emphasis on jobs and workers, promising to create at least 300,000 good jobs in energy efficiency retrofits, affordable housing, renewable energy, infrastructure, and transit.  Specifically, it pledges to make the Employment Insurance system more responsive to the realities of transition by making  easier to qualify for EI, and giving workers the option of taking EI-based training before being laid off , and to receive EI if they leave a job to go back to school.  The plan further promises to address injustice for Indigenous communities in training opportunities and education, as well as injustice for women, racialized Canadians, Indigenous peoples, and other under-represented groups for apprenticeships. The plan also pledges to create a framework for enshrining Community Benefits Agreements in federally-funded infrastructure projects. The controversial position for the NDP  occurred before the release of Power to Change, and is described by The Energy Mix in  “Singh discovers new interest in climate, declares against oil and gas fracking in wake of B.C. byelection loss” (May 14) .  As a result of the NDP’s position opposing the LNG terminal in Kitimat and the Coastal Gas pipeline project, some union leaders in B.C. are “not happy with Jagmeet Singh, according to The Toronto Star (May 15). 

NDP Reveals ‘Ambitious’ Climate Change Plan” in Vice (May 31) quotes positive reaction from spokespersons from Environmental Defence and 350.org , but includes the criticism of the Liberal Minister of Environment and Climate Change: “The NDP would do almost as much harm to the economy as the Conservatives want to do to the planet,” … “The NDP want to do some of the things we are already doing to fight climate change, but their approach would threaten jobs and hurt workers.” Similarly, the Toronto Star published “ NDP’s $15-billion climate plan greeted with mixed reviews” , which gives voice to the criticisms of the Green Party and Liberal political leaders , as well as Chris Ragan of the Ecofiscal Commission. From the Globe and Mail, ” NDP Climate Policy is serious but not radical“.

In contrast, the United Steelworkers issued a press release  calling the NDP plan  “the most comprehensive environmental platform of any of the parties”… “This climate plan is worker-oriented and jobs-centred. … this plan specifically mentions working with labour and refers to the recommendations of the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities.”

Political will and urgent action required to save our planet, IPCC Report warns

IPCC 2018reportThe world’s climate science experts have spoken in the landmark report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on October 8.  The full title is: Global Warming of 1.5 °C: an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty . That dry title doesn’t reflect the importance and impact of this report –  the first time that the UN body has modeled the difference between the impacts of the Paris agreement goals of 2°C and 1.5 °C, and an urgent, unanimous challenge by 91 scientists to the policy makers and politicians of the world to act on the solutions outlined in their models .  An IPCC official  quoted in a CBC report strikes the hopeful tone the report tries to achieve: “We have a monumental task in front of us, but it is not impossible… This is our chance to decide what the world is going to look like.”

The official report, commonly called  Global Warming 1.5  runs over 700 pages. The official press release  states:  “The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air….Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes”.  A 34-page Summary for Policymakers and a 3-page Headline Statements provide official summaries. Climate Home News offers  “37 Things you need to know about 1.5 global warming”  and  The Guardian offers summary and context in  “We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero or face more floods”  by Nicholas Stern and “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN”  (also republished in The National Observer) .

CAN CANADIANS EXPECT URGENT ACTION? :  A thorough CBC summary of the report appears in “UN Report on global warming carries life- or- death warning” , and the Globe and Mail published “UN Report on Climate Change calls for urgent action to avert catastrophic climate change”    (Oct 8) – yet no official reaction has been released by the federal government of Canada. “Trudeau’s Big Oil-friendly decisions mean climate chaos”  from Rabble.ca contrasts the IPCC report with a brief summary of Canada’s recent policy failures. “No change to Canada’s climate plans as UN report warns of losing battle” appeared in the National Observer (Oct. 8).  The National Observer also posted “We challenge every Federal and provincial leader to read the IPCC report and tell us what you plan to do” on October 9, characterizing Canada’s current divisions over a national carbon tax as representative of the world’s dilemma – the failure of political will to act on known scientific facts.  350.org Canada also addresses the issue of political will with  an online petition   calling for an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Canada’s plan to limit climate change, in light of the IPCC report.

Opinion Pieces are still being written, including:  “To avoid catastrophic climate change, we need carbon pricing” by Dale Beugin and Chris Ragan of the Ecofiscal Commission in the Globe and Mail  (Oct. 9) which argues that  “The best that economics has to offer is telling us we have a key solution right under our noses. Carbon pricing is now a Nobel Prize-winning idea. ”

On Climate, Our Choice Is Now Catastrophe or Mere Disaster ” by Crawford Kilian in The Tyee  . ….” modern governments and most of their voters are sleepwalking into catastrophe. If anyone or anything can wake them up, we might have a chance. And if we don’t work hard to turn that catastrophe into a mere disaster, we won’t be able to say nobody warned us. ”

“Canada’s carbon-tax plan is collapsing just as the planet runs out of time” in the Washington Post (Oct. 9)…. ” Today, Canadians should take a minute to write to their elected officials provincially and federally and demand that we get the carbon tax done. Every elected official should take a moment to decide how they would like to be remembered. That is, assuming there will be anyone around to remember.”

WELL-INFORMED GLOBAL SUMMARIES :IPCC: Radical Energy Transformation Needed to Avoid 1.5 Degrees Global Warming”   and “Not Just CO2: These Climate Pollutants Also Must Be Cut to Keep Global Warming to 1.5 Degrees”appeared  in Inside Climate News. The World Resources Institute published “8 Things You Need to Know About the IPCC 1.5˚C Report” , accompanied by a  blog and infographic which  explains the consequential difference between 1.5 and 2.0 global warming levels. Climate Action International monitored the discussions leading up to the release of the report: here is their summary and a compilation of global reactions . A compilation of reactions from the academics at Imperial College and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (LSE) is here.

A brief Comment was already issued by the policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, which calls the report a “conservative assessment” because it omits discussion of some of the largest risks and their impacts – notably  population displacements, migration and possibly conflict, as well as  potential climate  ‘tipping points’, such as disruption to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic and shifts in the monsoon in Africa and Asia.

Another key issue: the controversial role of geoengineering, such as carbon capture and storage or “carbon dioxide removal technologies”(CDR) .  “Negative Emissions technologies in the new report on limiting global warming” was posted at Legal Planet (Oct. 8) , pointing out how important geoengineering is in the report’s models. The author argues that ”  …. The text of the relevant chapter is honest about large-scale negative emissions, when it states:  “Most CDR  technologies remain largely unproven to date and raise substantial concerns about adverse side-effects on environmental and social sustainability. ” But the author argues that the message was deliberately watered down  in the executive summaries and in the Summary for Policymakers.

On October 4, just before the release of Global Warming 1.5, 110 organizations and social movements, led by Friends of the Earth International, released their Hands Off Mother Earth! Manifesto, which opposes any geoengineering solutions, including carbon capture and storage.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this report, and it will draw more and more discussion as the UNFCCC meetings in Katowice, Poland approach in December 2018.

Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco includes labour meetings

The Global Climate Action Summit  in San Francisco will gather 4,500 delegates from around the world on September 12 – 14.  According to the Summit website, “At GCAS governors and mayors, business, investor and civil society leaders will make bold new announcements that will act as a launch-pad to Take Ambition on climate action to the Next Level while calling on national governments to do the same. ” Discussion and statements will be organized around  five themes: Healthy Energy Systems, Inclusive Economic Growth, Sustainable Communities, Land and Ocean Stewardship and Transformative Climate Investments.

The University of California Berkeley Labor Center is holding an official “affiliate event” at the Summit,  called Labor in the Climate Transition:  Charting the Roadmap for 2019 and Beyond .  The sold-out event will showcase the best practices in worker-friendly climate policy for 2019  and highlight “the importance of labor unions for building sustainable broad-based coalitions that can support strong climate policies at the state, national and international level.” Co-sponsors of the event are the California Labor Federation, California Building and Construction Trades Council, Service Employees International Union, IBEW 1245, the International Trades Union Council, and BlueGreen Alliance.

Rise for climateThe global  Rise for Climate action ,  led by 350.org, was timed for September 8, to capitalize on the publicity and high profile attendees of the San Francisco Summit.  According to The Guardian’s report , San Francisco alone attracted 30,000 demonstrators, led by Indigenous leaders.    The San Francisco Chronicle also reported that demonstrations will continue throughout the week, in “Angry activists plan to crash Jerry Brown’s SF climate summit”  (Sept. 9), and there is an online petition at the “Brown’s Last Chance”  protest website , calling for the elimination of fossil fuels in the state.

Among  the reports/announcements released so far at the Global Climate Summit:  Climate Opportunity: More Jobs; Better Health; Liveable Cities , which estimates that “by 2030, a boost in urban climate action can prevent approximately 1.3 million premature deaths per year, net generate 13.7 million jobs in cities, and save 40 billion hours of commuters’ time plus billions of dollars in reduced household expenses each year.” The report was published by C40 Cities, The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy and the New Climate Institute; a press release summarizing the report is here (Sept. 9).

Global Commission proposals for clean growth forecasts 65 million new low-carbon jobs in 2030

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate released its 2018 flagship report at the G20 meetings in Argentina  on September 5 . Under the title, Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century: Accelerating Climate Action in Urgent Times , the report acknowledges that all models are imperfect, but its extensive research and modelling predicts that its “bold climate action” prescription could deliver at least US$26 trillion in economic benefits through to 2030, and over 65 million new low-carbon jobs in 2030, as well as avoid over 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution.  As the final point in its action road map, it calls for Just Transition measures and a role for civil society and trade unions in their creation.

The report is structured around a sectoral approach, focused on energy, cities, food and land use, water, and industry. Across those economic sectors, every chapter hammers the theme of urgency, calling this the world’s “use it or lose it moment”. “The decisions we take over the next 2-3 years are crucial because of the urgency of a changing climate and the unique window of unprecedented structural changes already underway. The world is expected to invest about US$90 trillion on infrastructure in the period up to 2030, more than the entire current stock today. …. Investing it wisely will help drive innovation, deliver public health benefits, create a host of new jobs and go a long way to tackling the risks of runaway climate change. Getting it wrong, on the other hand, will lock us into a high-polluting, low productivity, and deeply unequal future. “

Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century  calls for the following urgent actions:

  1. “governments should put a price on carbon and move toward mandatory climate risk disclosure for major investors and companies.”  (Specifically, the carbon price for the G20 economies should be at least US$40-80 by 2020, with a predictable pricing pathway to around US$50-100 by 2030, accompanied by a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies and harmful agricultural subsidies and tax-breaks by 2025);
  2. all economies should place much greater emphasis on investing in sustainable infrastructure as a central driver of the new growth approach;
  3. “ the full power of the private sector and innovation needs to be harnessed.” (Specifically, “ By 2020, all Fortune 500 companies should have science-based targets that align with the Paris Agreement.”  Governments need to change regulations, incentives and tax mechanisms that are a major barrier to implementing a low-carbon and more circular economy, and public-private partnerships should be encouraged.
  4. “a people-centred approach is needed to ensure lasting, equitable growth and a just transition. It is good economics and good politics.”….“All governments should establish clear Energy Transition Plans to reach net-zero energy systems, and work with energy companies, trade unions, and civil society to ensure a just transition for workers and communities. Successfully diversifying local economies as we shift away from coal and eventually other fossil fuels will require multi-stakeholder dialogue, strategic assistance, re-training, and targeted social protection.”

The Global Commission  is comprised of government leaders, academics, and business leaders, including Sharan Burrow of the ITUC, and Lord Nicholas Stern. Established in 2013, the Commission published its first, landmark report in the New Climate Economy initiative in 2014:  Better Growth, Better Climate , which established its position that there is no trade-off between growth and strong climate action. In addition to the annual policy document, international climate issues are published  in a Working Paper series, available here .