New Report Begs for More Taxation

CBC reports that Ottawa, provinces and territories not on track to meet new climate targets. The solution: lower emission targets. The only implementation suggestion: more carbon taxation.

The federal, provincial and territorial governments have failed to plan emissions cuts sufficient to achieve Canada’s net-zero targets, says a new climate report. The report by the Pembina Institute, an energy and climate think-tank, concludes that Canada isn’t going to achieve its recently announced 2030 or 2050 net-zero goals.

Why is anyone surprised when politicians break their promises?

“Unfortunately, we are not on track to meeting Canada’s new target of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030, based on 2005 levels,” said Isabelle Turcotte, Pembina’s director of federal policy. “The most optimistic projections show that we are on track to reduce emissions by 36 per cent. So there’s a big gap here.”

10% doesn’t seem like that big a gap.

Although Ottawa has established new targets, the report finds that provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario haven’t committed to meeting them yet. Other jurisdictions like British Columbia have made ambitious commitments, says the report, but it’s not at all clear how they intend to achieve them.

Energy is a provincial responsibility. The feds can give guidance, but the provinces are the ones who have to do the work. When a product manager comes and asks for a feature, you don’t promise to do it until you know it can be done.

“The approach to climate action in Canada is piecemeal,” the report says. “It also lacks accountability for governments who promise climate action but don’t have timelines or policies to match the urgency of the situation.” 

Of course provinces will do things differently from each other; they are different from each other. Who is surprised when politicians fail to set timelines or take accountability for anything?

Pembina’s report says that while progress has been made — nationwide carbon pricing and the phase-out of coal-fired electricity — it’s been offset by emissions increases elsewhere.

Carbon taxation is not progress. It is a tactic. Has it led to progress? I agree that phasing out coal fired electrical plants is progress. According to Statistics Canada, in 2019, 65% of our electricity was generated by renewables, 15% was clean nuclear power, 10% came from gas, 8% from coal, and the remaining 2% from oil and biofuels.

The federal government recently boosted its target for greenhouse gas emissions to a reduction of 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and to net-zero emissions by 2050. The report says the federal government can only do so much, since provinces and territories have jurisdiction over the energy sector.

Provincial jurisdiction is as it should be. The national energy program has been a disaster. Taxpayers have spent at least $23B on pipeline subsidies and supports since 2018. If the feds boosted their targets without getting agreements from the provinces, they are even bigger idiots than I thought.

Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said “The findings are particularly challenging for some of the provinces that have been less robust in their work on the climate file, most particularly some of the Conservative premiers and provinces in the in the Prairies.”

Typical federal Liberal: Blames the opposition and western Canada.

“Instead of working with Saskatchewan, the federal government is actively working against us,” said Saskatchewan Environment Minister Warren Kaeding in a media statement. “There is no better example of this than the federal government’s arbitrary decision to reject Saskatchewan’s proposal to transfer control of the carbon tax, despite having accepted similar proposals from other regions of the country.”

The feds have no right to impose as carbon tax in the first place. It is an energy policy, and the provinces are responsible for energy.

“Net-zero targets do not mean much without a realistic plan to achieve them. The proposed new federal target is a national emissions target that will require action across all parts of the economy,” said Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon.

Having a plan doesn’t ensure you’ll meet your goals, but if you don’t have a plan, you certainly won’t.

Alberta accounts for most of Canada’s absolute emissions. The province has implemented a cap on oilsands emissions, committed to phasing out coal and introduced new methane regulations and its Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) program.

How much CO2 is emitted to produce the imported oil and gas consumed by eastern Canada? Shouldn’t they be taxed just as much for those emissions as Alberta is for its oil industry emissions?

The report offers several recommendations to reverse the trend. All governments, it says, should commit to more ambitious emissions targets to achieve Canada’s goals, and independent accountability agencies that report to Parliament and regional legislatures should be established.

Adding more bureaucracy is not the answer.

Governments and businesses must also set carbon budgets that place limits on emissions, says the report. It says that all governments should prepare for the decline of the oil and gas industry, draft net-zero transition plans for the energy sector and push for the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.

Businesses won’t do this unless the government gets out its tax cudgel. One would hope that before resorting to still more taxation, they stop foolishly wasting billions on propping up the fossil fuel industry. Also, to be fair, if Canadian companies are going to have to do this, goods imported from countries that don’t had better be tariffed appropriately. Instead of wasting our taxes subsidizing the rich’s purchases of fancy electric cars, why not build some rapid transit? Sadly, given their track record, I don’t expect anything sensible from our government.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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