Climate change, law, and predictability


in Law, Politics, The environment

Spiral staircase in Worcester College

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.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan February 16, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Totally unrelated: The Economist has a story about Afghanistan that includes a reference to the Tim Hortons in Kandahar.

Tristan February 16, 2007 at 5:47 pm

In Northern Alberta, there are mills where a massive sawdust and waste wood burner roars away only a hundred meters from a dry kiln, which burns huge amounts of natural gas.

A tax on C02 emmisions would not be enough to fix this. What would be needed would be strategic intervention of funds, capital loans to finance the building of a wood fired power plant which could generate energy to the run the dry kiln and the town.

There are not even tax credit incentives in place now to encourage such a project.

Tristan February 17, 2007 at 9:18 am

Tim Hortons is Satan

Milan February 17, 2007 at 1:37 pm

Their ‘Iced Cap’ may have nothing to do with cappuccino, but it is still a pretty tasty aid to report writing at 3:00am.

Milan February 17, 2007 at 2:04 pm

The New Climate Almanac 2007
Globe and Mail Update

The implications of climate change can be overwhelming. They touch every field, from science to economics to culture. Our New Climate Almanac 2007 breaks down the complexity with a concise miscellany of the latest ideas, facts and predictions.

Page 1 of 15

Milan February 18, 2007 at 7:06 pm

RAF Brize Norton: probably the source of the sonic booms we sometimes hear in North Oxford,

. February 11, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Energy sector braces for carbon costs
The biggest producers of emissions are tallying the financial impact of tougher environmental legislation


February 11, 2008

CALGARY and TORONTO — Signalling a major shift, Canada’s biggest carbon-dioxide emitters are calculating the costs of climate change as they brace for new environmental legislation and tougher disclosure standards.

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