Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Winners & Losers - Climate Change Election Platforms

Election fever is upon us. Is it global warming or Stephen Harper’s warming personality that’s heating things up?

Mother of all Elections
In a feat of daring-do, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has undermined his own policy of fixed election dates and called a Canadian election against the mother of all American elections.

Well, our election is the mother of all Canadian elections. Much is at stake. Forgive the dramatics. Here’s why….

Important issues such as health care, the economy, the arts and environment require strong and specific policies from political parties (let’s not forget follow-through). Chief among these important issues is climate change. The decision we make now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could dramatically affect future generations. Our generation will either stabilize temperatures at an increase of two degrees Celsius or give future generations runaway global warming.

The Climate Change Target
A ‘pesky’ group of climatologists and biologists (making up about ninety percent of all such scientists) are telling us, urging us, emphatically trying to let us know that we need to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases to 450 parts per million to avoid runaway climate change. Runaway and rapid climate change is really bad. Among other things, it kills off countless species which destabilizes our biosphere.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), where these scientists convene, is very specific about what we must do to avoid the unthinkable. To avoid the tipping point of runaway warming, developed countries (yes, that means the US and Canada) must reduce their emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050. There is no room for negotiation. We either meet the target or we fail. Failure is not an option.

Who’s on Target. Who’s Not
All parties have a plan to tackle climate change. Some meet the IPCC recommendations. Others fall short. The Sierra Club of Canada grades and reviews these plans. For the full report, click here. Don’t have time to read it? Read on for a short synopsis, followed by a quick review of Republican and Democrat policies.

Quick note: The Sierra Club endorses a hybrid approach to tacking climate change – combining a carbon tax and cap-and-trade system. Think a carbon tax will harm the economy? Think it’s too risky? Ask a Swede. Sweden has taxed pollution since the 1990s. Its economy is thriving, it will meet its Kyoto targets and its green-tech sector is well underway. Even Sir Nicholas Stern, former World Bank chief economist, supports the carbon tax as an effective way to curb carbon emissions and correct “the biggest market failure the world has ever seen.”

According to the Sierra Club of Canada: “…Canadian exports may lose competitiveness if we fail to act, as the European Union is considering whether or not to impose ‘carbon tariffs’ on Canadian goods. Putting a price on carbon will spur innovation and investment, ensuring that Canada is better poised to thrive in the low-carbon economy of tomorrow.”

Green Party: A-
Emissions Target - 30% below 1990 levels by 2020. Meets IPCC target.
Approach - Carbon tax and Cap-and-Trade hybrid. Carbon tax begins at $50/tonne rising to $100/tonne by 2020 if required. Income tax reduced. Cap-and-Trade to get started immediately.
Tax Revenue Directed to - Those most vulnerable during transition to greener economy.
Areas for Improvement – Direct some of that money to achieve more greenhouse gas reductions.
Note – The Green Party platform does include investment in low carbon technologies. Be sure to watch the leaders’ debates on Oct 2nd now with Elizabeth May on the docket. She’s gonna spice things up!

Liberal Party: B+
Emissions Target – 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 (25% if other countries match this target). Currently falls short of IPCC target.
Approach – Carbon tax and cap-and-trade hybrid. Carbon tax begins at $10/tonne rising $10/tonne each year until it reaches $40/tonne. Will not apply to diesel and aviation fuel during first year. Income tax reduced and monitored by Auditor General. Cap-and-trade implemented after a few years.
Revenue Directed to – Tax cuts/credits, those most vulnerable in society, stimulate innovation and investment in the green sector.
Areas for Improvement – Increase target to at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.
Note – Despite the need to increase the target, the Liberal’s plan is comprehensive and credible to achieve significant emissions reductions. When Stephan Dion was Minister of the Environment during the last two years of Liberal rule he realized the critical need to address climate change. As Chair of the Montreal COP in 2006, which review progress of the Kyoto accord, Dion was viewed by the international community as a credible leader on climate change action. To associate his two years as Environment Minister with over a decade of Liberal inaction on climate change is unfair and unhelpful. Dion may not be the most charismatic leader (neither was Lester B. Pearson) but he is quite sincere about shifting Canada to the new green economy.

New Democratic Party: B
Emissions Target – 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. Meets IPCC target.
Approach – Cap and Trade only. Projected that the auctioning of permits will generate at least $2.5 billion.
Revenue Directed to – Increased investment in green technologies, training to workers to assist in transition to green economy, and help middle to lower income families retrofit their homes and purchase low consumption appliances and vehicles.
Areas for Improvement – Sierra Club feels that it will be difficult to meet 25% target without including a carbon tax as well. Greater detail required to show how current plan will meet target.
Note – Kudos to Jack and his team for their work on climate change legislation.

Bloc Quebecois: B
Emissions Target – 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. Meets IPCC target.
Approach – Cap and Trade only. Provincial based system that plans to meet or exceed national target. Does not set price for carbon emissions.
Revenue Directed to – Up to each province.
Areas for Improvement – Provide details and specify price for carbon emissions. Again, consider a carbon tax.

The Conservatives: F+
Emissions Target – 3% below 1990 levels by 1990 (20% below 2006 levels by 2020) – Well below IPCC targets.
Approach – Emission Intensity Targets. Regulation of old facilities.
Financial Rewards – Will give financial incentives to folks wanting to buy energy efficient vehicles and retrofit their homes and businesses.
Areas for Improvement - Increase target to at least 25%. Drop the idea of intensity targets, which do not guarantee that industrial emissions will decrease. Find market-based solutions to the climate crisis such as a carbon tax and cap-and-trade hybrid. AND, acknowledge that the climate crisis is a serious threat, stop obstructing progress at international meetings and keep to the 1990 baseline.
Note – What ever happen to the ‘conserve’ in Conservative?

The Big Fat Juicy American Election

Amidst the hoopla over Sarah and her children and guns and patriotism and her proximity to Russia, and the current economic meltdown in the States, what do the two prospective leaders of the world’s largest carbon emitter plan to do about the greatest threat facing humankind and fellow species? Hmm?

Barack Obama
Emissions Target – 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Meets IPCC target, but what about the 2020 target?
Approach – Cap and Trade.
Revenue Directed to - Clean energy future, habitat protections, and rebates and other transition relief for families.
Areas for Improvement – Details details details. We need more details.

John McCain
Emissions Target – 1990 levels by 2020 and 60% below 1990 levels by 2050. Falls below IPCC targets.
Approach – Cap and Trade.
Revenue Directed to - Development of Advanced Technologies
Areas for Improvement – Need to raise the target to meet IPCC targets.
Note – McCain was also one of two Republican presidential nominees who actually acknowledged that humans are causing climate change. Now he just has to convince his running mate. Drill baby Drill? Aside from the obvious Freudian analysis, is this anyway to end America’s dependence on a non-renewable resource and get it on target to prevent runaway climate change?

In the News

City eyes coffee cup ban
Hey, good timing! This will help with my no-garbage campaign…if it passes. If you live in Toronto please write to your councillor to support this ban. Click here for contact information.

Saint John looks at geothermal energy for city buildings

New health risks linked with plastic in bottles

No comments: