Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The opt-in climate policy for Canada: Some details

Since people are asking, here's a little bit of background on my climate policy proposal in the Mark.

I trust that to many an "optional" climate policy smells fishy, like setting voluntary targets that companies or jurisdictions will then volunteer to ignore. There are three critical distinctions.

First, this policy is designed to mobilize willing participants.

The graph at right shows the provincial greenhouse gas targets that I discuss in the article. The majority of Canada has stated a willingness to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; several provinces, including Ontario, Quebec and Ontario, are seriously pursuing those goals.

Second, the provinces in the program will each have set binding, not voluntary, targets. The participation is voluntary, but once a province opts in, it is bound to the target.

Third, a point echoed nicely by Barry Saxifrage, the provincially revenue-neutral carbon tax means that participating provinces, though bound to the federal system, would otherwise have some freedom (financially) in achieving the target.

The current government is quietly awaiting a decision from the U.S. Negotiations are ongoing in the US Senate. There is no guarantee that any of the Senate bills will a) pass given current disagreements, b) be any more acceptable to the provinces with carbon-intensive industries like Alberta than any previous federal or international proposals, or c) gel with current plans in the more active provinces. And many of the programs in the existing Senate bills would not take effect for several years. Why not set a Canadian policy, one that mobilizes the very real and current enthusiasm for action in much of the country, now? If the US does eventually pass a Bill that is in the best interests of Canada and the climate, we can adapt our program to be compatible with that of the US.

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