As Canada’s statement at the UNFCCC conference in Durban demonstrates, Canada’s political system is currently working for those groups that want Canadian greenhouse gas pollution to remain unlimited, ignoring the costs it imposes on other people around the world. Contrary to the slogan of market-based liberal environmentalism, the slogan of the current approach could be interpreted as: “Keep externalities external”.
Dealing with climate change requires a more productive attitude.
How, then, can Canada’s position be changed so as to be compatible with avoiding dangerous or catastrophic climate change? Right now, the political debate is being dominated by groups that see reducing greenhouse gas pollution as harmful to their business interests – particularly the oil and gas industry. If the rest of the world wants to put pressure on Canada to stop being such an environmental laggard, they may need to convince the rest of Canadian business that it doesn’t pay to be an environmental pariah.
What sort of boycott, I wonder, might be able to achieve that outcome? Something that would catch the attention of the majority of Canadian businesses that do not depend fundamentally on increasing pollution for their continued growth. General economic sanctions might be reasonable: increased tariffs on all Canadian exports, along with a reduced willingness to do trade deals, for as long as Canada refuses to do its fair share in dealing with climate change. After all, the flaws in Kyoto are not a license for inaction.
It would be very reasonable for states with domestic carbon pricing schemes to impose carbon tariffs on states like Canada that do not. As long as the tariff level for emissions embedded in imports is set at the same level as the domestic carbon price, such a policy would be compatible with World Trade Organization rules.
What do other people think?