Editorial: No more excuses on climate change

Once again, the federal government dropped the ball on climate change in its budget last week.

While the spending document likely won’t become reality given the opposition’s reaction, it nevertheless gave further hints at whether the government intends to take aggressive action on climate change any time soon. As Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hinted, it probably won’t.

The government did allocate money for home retrofits to help Canadians become more efficient in their energy use. There was also money for regulations to tackle global warming, but we have yet to see concrete details.

As noted on page 10 this week, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy has called on the government to get the ball rolling on addressing climate change.

A recent report on the issue calls for a “transitional policy option” consisting of four components: contingent carbon pricing that would establish a Canadian limit at no more than $30 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent above the U.S. price; a national cap-and-trade system that includes auctioned permits and revenue recycling to cap emissions and deal with concerns from specific regions and industries; limited international permits and domestic offsets that would aim to keep carbon prices lower for Canadian companies; and a fund set up to spur investment in technologies designed to reduce emissions.

The issue is that the longer we wait to take action, the harder it will be to do so in the end and, of course, we really have no other option.

But while the federal government faces very real political obstacles to addressing the issue, Macleod Dixon LLP partner Lisa DeMarco makes the very reasonable suggestion that it might be more feasible for it to take on the role of co-ordinating the various provincial efforts underway.

That’s certainly a logical way of dealing with the impasse but it unfortunately could result in inequality unless there’s a way of setting a common national price for carbon despite a patchwork of provincial systems across the country.

Alberta, for example, would have an incentive to take less aggressive actions despite the early lead it has had in being one of the few provinces to enact regulations for greenhouse gas emissions.

In the end, then, we shouldn’t be giving governments any more excuses for inaction. The federal government needs to show a willingness to put national regulations in place soon.

In the meantime, Ontario and the other provinces that have joined the Western Climate Initiative need to show faster progress in getting the promised
cap-and-trade system up and running.
— Glenn Kauth

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