Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Truth About Carbon Pricing

The taxation levels for carbon set by the federal government will likely prove wholly inadequate in getting people to modify their behaviour to combat climate change. However, given the exit of Ontario from its cap-and-trade program by the incoming populist and reactionary Doug Ford, the truth is, it's better than nothing:

This Star letter-writer, I think, has the correct perspective, one that should give us all pause:
Think of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in terms of a leaky roof, with each country responsible for fixing its portion. Canada, with only 1/200th of the world’s population, has to fix only that little patch of roof.

However, the average Canadian emits about 20 tonnes of GHGs per year, compared to 6.9 tonnes in Europe on average, 7.7 tonnes in China, and 1.9 tonnes in India. That means Canada’s share of the roof is leaking three times as fast as Europe’s and 10 times faster than India’s!

Ford’s elimination of the price on carbon, the one tool proven effective in controlling emissions, is irresponsible.

We are all under the same roof, and we all have to do our part.

Alan Slavin, Otonabee, Ont.


  1. .. trying to envision the confusion & hullabaloo re setting a price on fugitive methane - a price and cap or tax.. its only about 40 times as problematic as escaping carbon & probably leaking from every drilled well in Norh America which is active, in progress or dead.. Hope that's not too dishearening..

    Neither of those two, Candace Bergen or Katherine McKenna could coherently explain the full process from tar sands to coastal supertanker or fracking from drill site to coastal export.. I mean the various stages of extraction, infrastructure build up, right of of way clearing for water pipelines & power sources, pumping stations, species or habitat trashing, amount of subsidies vs provincial or federal royalties payment, inland waters pollution and disposal & the portlands at the end of the pipeline etc.. but they sure can pump theit talking points points. Who exacty is the audience for these question period performances?

    1. I agree, Sal, that McKenna is decidedly disingenuous in her attempts to square the circle of more tar sands' production and pipeline construction and climate-change mitigation. While I am convinced that the tax is more political than practical, I think the final determinant of its utility is what the provinces decide to do with the revenues from the tax. In Ontario, at least the cap-and-trade was used to fund green infrastructure, retrofitting of homes, subsidizing electric vehicle purchases, etc. It the money is simply returned to people as a 'dividend,' I find it hard to understand how it will alter people's behaviour.

      In some ways, perhaps, a carbon tax is kind of a litmus test for people. If they care only about themselves and their own backyard, they are essentially declaring themselves not a all concerned about the long-term fate of the world. If they accept it, perhaps they are more likely to alter their fossil fuel use, which the tax is intended to do.

  2. Species go extinct because of two reasons:
    they fail to adapt to changes around them,
    the changes are so great that it is not possible to adapt enough for survival.
    This applies to everything from individuals to civilizations. Taxes are no exception and any change to adapt to a changing earth has to start there.
    The dumbest way is to follow our system of adding visible taxes like sales taxes, carbon taxes and anything easily attacked and defeated. In Europe and many other countries, sales taxes are added into the selling price of the product thus it is not visible to the buyer and is an easy way for governments to support local businesses by applying lower taxes than products produced elsewhere. If America had the same system Trump could have selectively targeted Chinese steel without pissing off the world. At home, simply increasing the federal tax on fossil fuels used for energy with the money used to reduce that same use would have been far less controversial.
    The second major change we need is to follow the Scandinavian model of taxes where income taxes are used only for social programs and sales and business taxes used for everything else. Under our present system our businesses are penalized by being forced to pay for social programs every time they hire a worker. This results in a race to the bottom with every country lowering the tax on business profits to eventually zero which benefits only the share holders. If Business had to pay for all the subsidies, infrastructure and clean up costs there would be a whole new message from that sector ad they would be more happy to share their increased profits from not having to pay benefits to their workers.

    Most of what we do today, introduce, raise or lower taxes, change laws to weaken or strengthen rules such as the environment are a result of a badly outdated tax system that doesn't fit the world today. Mound had a video yesterday that showed that flaring sour gas produced more pollution that a billion cars. maybe it is time to force oil companies to use that gas to produce electricity and then use proper filters to reduce emissions. If the true cost of $2:50 a litre fuel was the price in Canada it is better to let the oil companies explain why they have to charge that instead of political parties arguing over introducing a new tax which would be unpopular no matter what it is.

    1. Your suggestions offer much food for thought, Bill, and also help illustrate that when it comes to the formulation and implementation of public policy, what may be best for our long-term viability is often sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.