CPToo late for a carbon tax, says former Ontario Liberal environment minister

OTTAWA — A former Ontario Liberal environment minister says Canada has waited too long for carbon taxes to be a real solution to the country’s emissions woes.

Glen Murray was the minister of environment in Ontario in 2017 when that province introduced its short-lived cap-and-trade carbon pricing system, which was killed off by the new Tory government just over a year later.

Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission says in a new report released today that carbon pricing is the most cost-effective way for Canada to hit its target of cutting emissions by nearly one-third over the next decade.

It suggests that quadrupling the price, from the planned $50 a tonne in 2022 to $210 in 2030, would be enough to meet that goal.

Murray, who is now working as a clean tech entrepreneur, says carbon taxes will take too long to work, given how quickly the planet is warming.

He also says Canadian politicians do not have enough willpower to set the price high enough to be truly effective, and that massive government intervention is the only way for Canada to do its part. SOURCE


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In the age of Greta, Big Oil blew it by not becoming Big Energy

The failure of BP and other oil giants to green-up their acts already seems like an epic mistake. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

BP PLC, Britain’s national oil champion, used to be called British Petroleum. Around the turn of the century, before Greta Thunberg was born, it doused itself in green and invented a cheery new starburst logo adorned with “Beyond Petroleum.” How cool and progressive was that?

Imagine one of the world’s biggest and grubbiest oil players admitting, in effect, that the oil era was coming to an end and that sheer survival, and social and environmental responsibility, meant evolving into a broad-based energy supplier with an ever-larger portfolio of renewable energy projects.

Sadly, “Beyond Petroleum” proved to be far more a marketing ploy than an exercise in strategic enlightenment. Within a few years, the green logo faded away, as did many of the company’s renewable-energy projects, such as the U.S. wind farm. BP wasn’t alone in sticking almost entirely with oil. Shell’s annual report says the company invested US$25-billion in oil and natural gas in 2018. It provides no figure for its spending on low- or zero-carbon projects, suggesting they are minor.

BP decided it’s a driller first and foremost. It expects oil demand to keep growing for the next 10 years; by 2040, it sees fossil fuels meeting “at least” 50 per cent of the world’s energy needs, with renewables under its conservative “evolving transition” scenario providing only 15 per cent (BP does not consider nuclear and hydro power renewable). So much for the 2015 Paris climate accord goals. They appear doomed.

The failure of BP and other oil giants to green-up their acts already seems like an epic mistake, for three reasons.

The first is the realization that potentially catastrophic climate change is no longer just the plot line of Hollywood horror-thrillers.

Ms. Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist who had been widely tipped to win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday (she did not), has electrified millions of students around the world with her climate school-strike movement. The strikes, along with the Extinction Rebellion’s civil disobedience campaign, are aimed at compelling governments and big polluters to take action to prevent ecological collapse, and are doing a credible job in turning the oil companies into pariahs.

Investment funds around the world, from university endowments to church institutions, are responding by ramping up their fossil-fuel divestment policies. Suncor Energy Inc., the biggest operator in the Alberta oil sands, has trouble attracting investors from anywhere in Europe because of the project’s dirty image. At some point, the oil companies’ ability to fund themselves will suffer unless they can produce a credible black-to-green transformation strategy.

The second reason is that radical transformations are not just possible; they can be profitable too.

Take Denmark’s state-controlled Orsted A/S, the former Dong Energy. Dong’s fleet of coal-plants were among the dirtiest producers of electricity in Europe. The company alone was responsible for one-third of Denmark’s carbon dioxide emissions. About a decade ago, after Dong’s executives decided they could no longer tolerate running a company that was warming the planet and blackening lungs, the company launched an overhaul that would see it ditch the coal burners and embrace offshore wind power.

By last year, Dong, now rebranded as Orsted, was producing 75 per cent of its power from renewable sources and had become the world’s biggest operator of offshore wind farms. The transformation turned Orsted into a profitable stock market star, putting the lie to the theory that fossil fuel companies produce better returns. In the last year alone, the shares are up more than 50 per cent. BP is down 10 per cent, and Suncor down 20 per cent, over the same period. Would oil companies trade at higher values if they had thrown a heap of renewable energy into the mix? Probably.

The third reason is that if Big Oil refuses to change, change will be thrust upon it.

It’s already happening. Carbon taxes have arrived in North America and in Europe, and they are spreading. About 40 countries have already imposed some form of carbon price through taxation of fossil fuels or cap-and-trade programs (British Columbia’s carbon tax, at $30 a tonne, is considered a model). Canada is imposing a $20 a tonne carbon tax on provinces that don’t have their own version of the tax, among them Ontario and Manitoba. MORE


Tax Fairness one of many tools to combat climate change

Carbon taxes are an important part of the broader global solution, such as a transition to renewable energy, needed from all governments. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

At the rapid pace of climate change, rising sea levels will swallow cities whole.  Water sources will dry up, creating food shortages, while air pollution will cause irrevocable health problems. It sounds like apocalyptic fiction, but it’s the stark reality hundreds of scientists warn is coming. Canada’s own scientists agree — 96 percent believe climate change is a crisis that requires immediate action, according to a new poll from the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

The effects of climate change will be felt by everyone, a report from the UN expert panel on climate change confirmed this week. The warning comes on the heels of the UN climate summit, where advocates criticized world leaders for not doing enough to stop the climate emergency. A poll this week from Abacus Data found three in four Canadians support the climate strikes, a series of protests taking place across the globe as millions, many of them youth, protest inadequate response from government.

C4TF adds its voice to these calls, demanding Canada’s government use every policy tool available to scale up efforts against climate change. Continuing our countdown of the top five priority election issues as voted on by our supporters, this week we highlight how taxes play a critical role in combating climate change. Please share our fact sheet, which lists the fiscal steps our next government should take to tackle the crisis. You can also ask your local candidates if they support these measures, write letters to the editor, and sign petitions calling for climate action. SOURCE

Canada’s wisest policy: stealing policies from other countries

Canada has a rich tradition of thievery – and it’s a good thing we do. Much of our success comes from adopting sound policies that have already proven successful elsewhere.

Image result for cartoon reinventing the wheel

We implemented employment insurance in 1935, a full 15 years after it was introduced in Britain. We achieved universal health care in the early 1970s, a decade after many European countries. We adopted the GST 25 years ago, following a global trend toward “value-added taxes” that was already mature by the time we came on the scene.

The same is true of carbon pricing. It may be a contentious policy in Canada today, but there is nothing Canadian about carbon pricing; we introduced it here precisely because it works so well in other countries.

It should not be surprising that some Canadian provinces adopted carbon pricing 15 years after the first systems appeared overseas. Not only is putting a price on pollution – any kind of pollution – the most efficient way to clean up the environment, it’s an old, proven idea that prioritizes the power of markets over the power of government.

Compelling evidence comes from two of the planet’s oldest pollution-pricing systems.

Sweden has the world’s highest carbon tax, and introduced it in 1991. It took some tinkering, but the Swedes ultimately got it right. Economists estimate that just five years in, the carbon tax had reduced Sweden’s emissions by 15 per cent relative to business as usual. Since 1995, Sweden’s total emissions are down by 25 per cent, emissions per unit of GDP are down by 65 per cent, and its economy has expanded 12 per cent faster than the EU average. So much for the idea that carbon taxes kill economic growth.

How exactly did Sweden’s carbon tax work to reduce emissions? One significant shift came from how its buildings are heated. Sweden uses district heating, where central units provide heat to entire blocks and neighbourhoods. Carbon taxes made biomass cost competitive with fossil fuels, and its use in heating quadrupled in just five years.

Another successful example of pollution pricing comes from the United States. Prices don’t just work for greenhouse gases; a price on any type of pollution can work, as long as it’s well-designed. Remember acid rain? It didn’t disappear on its own. The United States set up the world’s first cap-and-trade system in the 1990s and eliminated the problem in less than a generation.

Once 3,200 American power plants had to pay for their sulfur-dioxide emissions, they quickly came up with creative ways to reduce their emissions and avoid those costs. They rerouted rail cars to gain access to different types of coal and then experimented with them to produce fewer emissions. They also invested heavily in “scrubbers” that pull sulphur dioxide directly from the exhaust stream.

The U.S. policy was a success by any measure. After 10 years, sulfur-dioxide emissions had declined by 36 per cent, even though coal production had risen by 25 per cent. The program more than paid for itself and saved billions of dollars compared to less flexible and more intrusive regulatory approaches.

Now back to Canada. As we enter the federal election season, Canadians should ask themselves: how best should we reduce GHG emissions to fight climate change? MORE

Conservatives embrace populism, rage at Trudeau, talk separation at annual gathering

Danielle Smith, a former Alberta MLA for the Wildrose Party and Progressive Conservative Party and now a Global News Radio host, shakes hands with Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 23 in Ottawa. Photo by Kamara Morozuk

Two or three decades ago, Preston Manning’s Reform Party was seen as embodying a right-wing populist movement in Western Canada that advocated for shrinking government by cutting social welfare and culture programming.

Lately, however, right-wing populism has been associated with the nationalist, anti-immigrant and authoritarian tendencies of leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Concern about keeping climate change in check less vocal than concern about maintaining a prosperous oil industry, @ottawacarl reports from the Manning Networking Conference, an annual conservative meetup.

Conservative leaders Jason Kenney of the Alberta United Conservative Party and Andrew Scheer of the federal Conservative Party have also been accused lately of being too tolerant of white nationalism.

None of that, however, stopped the conservative leader of Canada’s most populous province from grasping the mantle of populism during an appearance on stage Saturday at the Manning Networking Conference, an annual right-of-centre gathering in Ottawa.

“If you want to call me a populist, sure. But I call it listening. Listening to the people. Not the full-time protesters, not the activists,” said Ford, who received a standing ovation. MORE