Friday, March 16, 2007

Okay, I'm impressed.

When the Conservatives first rolled out their laughable Clean Air Act -- with it's hallucinatory targets on CO2 -- I predicted that, Canadian politics being what it is, Harper had effectively raised the bar in Canadian politics: no party could dare propose something less stringent than the Conservative plan, so the Conservatives had effectively raised the basement of political expectations. Nevermind that Harper's proposals weren't too far removed from Liberal proposals not that long ago -- the Liberals had to up the ante.

Well, Dion has announced a Liberal white paper -- God knows if it will ever become policy or law -- that manages not only to impress, but actually shock me. It's not what I would have preferred in a perfect world, but for the real world it's a proposal that actually manages to be.. brave, in the Canadian context at least.

(Must.. restrain.. praise for Liberals...)

Dion wants, as of January 1 2008, to put in a cap-and-trade system that would cap Canadian emissions at our Kyoto target. Industry would pay $20/tonne for every tonne of CO2 emitted above the cap. The revenue thus raised would be deposited in a fund for CO2 reductions.

And, to disarm accusations that the Liberals are soaking Alberta, 80% of the monies raised by the fines must be spent within the province they came from.

The reductions required, by sector:

You can see that Alberta is going to scream bloody murder here. The two heaviest-hit sectors -- electricity generation and oil/gas -- are heavily concentrated in Alberta. But by the same token, most of the money will end up being spent in Alberta and Ontario (the two biggest emitters.)

The problem here is that the lightest burden falls on industrial emitters. Now, there's a good reason for that: industry actually does emit less CO2 than other sources. Still, politically it may come across as the west being forced to pay for Central Canada's industrial firms, a charge that has some history in this country.

The other problem should be evident by how impressed I am with it: business, much of the press, and the entire Conservative apparatus are going to scream bloody murder over this idea. (I am not a particularly good barometer for public opinion.) They'll call it unrealistic, a death knell for Canadian industry, etc etc. Frankly, just proposing this idea -- even if it never sees the light of day again -- is going to hurt the Liberals. As much as I like it, I figure it might be a bridge too far for the Canadian public, who've always liked the image of Canada as a green nation more than they've liked actions to justify that image.

(What will come first: the National Post editorial calling this "Stalinist", or Sunday morning?)

That said, the rhetoric of "balancing our carbon budget" is a PR masterstroke, reminding people who it was that balanced that other budget.

To the Liberals: More of this please.

To the NDP, Bloc: Up the ante. Keep pushing.


janfromthebruce said...

I am so glad that Dion is seeing the light now, because when Layton suggested a cap-and-trade system in 2004, Dion as minister of the environment said, "non."
So good to see he's changed his mind. Just think how much further ahead in reducing emissions today if he had said "quo" back then.

Green policy junkie said...

I totally agree. I wish the Conservatives hadn't painted themselves into such an economically-ignorant corner by loudly repudiating carbon taxes and absolute targets - otherwise maybe the two parties could have one-upped each other into uber-efficient climate utopia...