Climate Action Policy Prescriptions for Canada

Two sets of recommendations were recently released: on March 18, by a new academic collaboration, Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD); and on March 19, in the Alternative Budget published annually by the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis. The Sustainable Canada Dialogues document, Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, and a french-language version,  Agir sur les changements climatiques, are characterized  as “a scholarly consensus on science-based, viable solutions for greenhouse gas reduction”.

Sixty academics from across Canada combined to urge policymakers to adopt a long-term target of at least an 80% reduction in emissions by mid-century. “In the short-term, we believe that Canada, in keeping with its historical position of aligning with US targets, could adopt a 2025 target of a 26-28% reduction in GHG emissions relative to our 2005 levels”. Policy recommendations include, most immediately: Either a national carbon tax or a national economy-wide cap and trade program; elimination of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry; and integration of sustainability and climate change into landscape planning at the regional and city levels so that maintenance and new infrastructure investments contribute to decarbonizing.

The paper also advocates establishment of East-West smart grid connections to allow hydro-producing provinces to  sell electricity to their neighbours; energy efficiency programs, and a “transportation revolution”. The Acting on Climate Change document will be followed by a special issue of Alternatives Journal magazine, to be released on March 27, to include more detailed articles by 20 of the SCD participant authors. Sustainable Canada Dialogues, launched in September 2014, is partnered with three institutions in Panama, and “proposes to advance sustainability education, research and social dialogues in Panama and in Canada”.

The second statement of recommended climate policies appears in the CCPA Alternative Budget for 2015, Delivering the Good. The Alternative Budget, like the government budget statement that it shadows, covers the full range of economic and social issues facing Canada. It also includes a section on the Environment and Climate Change, which states: “The best current budget opportunities include implementing a price on greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon tax; not subsidizing liquefied natural gas (LNG) or hydraulic fracturing (fracking); protecting Canada’s public lands and species at risk; and supporting power storage through accelerated expense write-offs, electric vehicles through fast-charging recharging stations in high-demand areas, and public transit and energy efficiency home retrofits”. A National Harmonized Carbon Tax should be implemented immediately, at $30 a tonne (the current level in British Columbia), increasing to $200 a tonne by 2020. More than half of the HCT revenues should be used to provide a Green Tax benefit for individuals and the remainder transferred to the provinces to fund “climate change abatement measures”. It is estimated that the carbon tax would generate annual revenue of $16 billion, with the Green Tax Refund incurring a net annual cost of $8.8 billion (p. 28).   Is the time finally right for serious consideration of Canada’s climate change policies? As Environmental Defense reported on March 9, NDP, Liberals and Greens agree on an Approach to Assess Carbon Pollution Reduction. Calling it “a step in the right direction”, the blog describes the February 19 debate in the House of Commons around Bill C-619, the Climate Change Accountability Act, a private members bill introduced by NDP Matt Kellway in June 2014. NDP, Liberals and Greens are now on record as supporting the Bill’s accountability measures and the target of  domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions to at least 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

Getting Back on the Climate Track with “Made in Canada” Policies

A new report from the David Suzuki Foundation overviews Canadian provincial and municipal policies that have effectively reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and calls upon the federal government to implement national policies that would coordinate and expand the ingenuity and skills of the existing green workforce. Building on the Best: Keeping Canada’s Climate Promise, also suggests that Canada would now be on track to meeting its 2020 targets if the best policies had been implemented in 2009, when Canada committed to action in Copenhagen.

The report focuses on policies that eliminated coal power, boosted renewable energy, and put a price on carbon, along with low-carbon transportation, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage, and landfill and biogas. Ontario’s staged coal phase-out, together with the introduction of the Green Energy and Economy Act, is lauded as evidence that major changes can be made rapidly and that green economics can be fruitful; the burgeoning Ontario renewable energy industry has created more than 20,000 jobs so far. B.C.’s carbon tax is commended for its rigor and broad application, while Québec’s cap-and-trade system is favoured for its ability to link to international markets.

The report considers the application of successful policies to other jurisdictions in Canada, with each province given policy recommendations, and then rated according to their emissions reduction potential if the best policies were implemented. Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the Atlantic provinces have the most potential for improvement. Building on the Best is based on a technical report, Progress on Canadian Climate Policy, commissioned by DSF and prepared by Navius Research.

Corporate Leaders Sign on to an Open Letter for More Climate Change Leadership, Carbon Pricing in Canada

In an open letter to Canada’s federal and provincial political leaders, including Prime Minister Harper, the Clean 50 states that Canada needs to put a higher priority on climate change action, and specifically, “We believe that one solution is to develop a well thought out framework that includes setting a price on carbon at some specific date in the future, that would reduce other taxes, and provide an incentive for businesses and individuals to take steps to reduce their use of carbon.” The Clean 50 is a group founded and managed by Delta Management, a corporate search firm specializing in green jobs; it includes sustainability professionals from corporate Canada, as well as academics and individuals. See the website and their Open Letter

Labour Should Lead with a Worker-Friendly Climate Plan

Drawing on American economic and labour policy during World War II, authors Jeremy Brecher, Ron Blackwell and Joe Uehlein envision what climate policy could look like with labour in the lead, in an article in the September 2014 issue of New Labor Forum.

The authors acknowledge that unions are caught between the immediate interests of their members, many of whom work in industries vulnerable to new climate regulations, and long-term social, economic, and ecological wellbeing. As a result, labour has at times remained “aloof” to the climate movement, but the authors advocate that the labour movement should take the initiative to develop its own government-led climate plan – one that bridges the divide between work and environment, reverses austerity, raises wages, and offers full employment, job security, and transition training.

As during wartime, the authors contend, climate change demands ramped up production and expansion in innovative sectors. The government should take the lead in financing the low-carbon transition during its initial, more expensive stages, thereby encouraging private investment by creating stable green markets. Citizens should be supported during the transformation through the establishment of a welfare state that diverts carbon tax revenues to workers and the unemployed, provides education and training, and recruits and distributes workers to where they are most needed.

LINKS:

“If Not Now, When? A Labor Movement Plan to Address Climate Change” in New Labor Forum (v.23, #3) is at: http://nlf.sagepub.com/content/23/3/40.full.pdf+html

…From the World Bank

Released in June, a World Bank report presents “simulated case studies” of Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the United States and the European Union. It examines the benefits of implementing three sets of policies on clean transportation, energy efficiency in industry, and energy efficiency in buildings. The report introduces a new macroeconomic modeling framework that can incorporate socioeconomic benefits such as public health and environmental externalities. See Climate-Smart Development: Adding Up the Benefits of Actions that Help Build Prosperity, End Poverty and Combat Climate Change at: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/06/23/study-adds-up-benefits-climate-smart-development-lives-jobs-gdp. The World Bank has also praised British Columbia, along with Sweden, California, and even China for their carbon pricing initiatives in “What does Carbon Pricing Success Look Like? (September 18) at: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/09/18/what-does-carbon-pricing-success-look-like-ask-the-leaders, along with a June 3 2014 Statement, Putting a Price on Carbon, at: http://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/pricing-carbon