Happy Birthday Kate Dillon
In a somewhat surprising move, a coalition of opposition members of Parliament in Canada have passed a bill forcing the government to live up to the commitment that was made when we signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Specifically, Canada is to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 6% below their 1990 levels by 2012. This is quite a substantial reduction to achieve in the next five years, given that emissions are presently about 30% above their 1990 levels.
In many ways, this situation demonstrates how not to deal with the problem of climate change. What you need to do is create the certainty, within industry, that the costs of GHG emissions will increase predictably and progressively over time. Then, when decisions are being made about what equipment to buy and how to set up industrial processes, the extra constraints can be taken into account. By contrast, the present on-again-off-again approach doesn’t create clear incentives. Even worse, it is not clear to industry what will happen after 2012.
The most straightforward and effective approach would be a tax on every tonne of GHG emissions, weighted according to the contribution the particular gas makes to global warming. Since methane contributes more than CO2, it would be more highly taxed. That tax would then rise progressively over time, until Canada reached the point where GHG emissions stabilized and then began to drop towards pre-industrial levels. Whether such an approach would be politically possible (especially with Alberta eying a tar sands bonanza that could mean massive emissions) is another matter. Three plans for meeting the target are outlined in this article from The Globe and Mail.