The federal government’s Clean Air Agenda has received another blow with the release of the Interim Report of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy. This eminent multi-stakeholder group, one member of which has just been nominated for a Nobel Prize, was asked for “advice on targets and scenarios for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and air pollutants in Canada in the medium- and long-term.”
They concluded that significant reductions in GHGs will take much higher carbon prices than most Canadians realize. The Clean Air Agenda promised substantial emission reductions at a carbon price of $15/tonne in 2010, rising to $20/ tonne by 2017. Most commentators consider these prices too low to have any substantial impact on emissions. The NTREE agrees that the lower carbon prices are kept now, the higher and harder they will have to rise later, e.g. to $350/ tCO2e in 2050, and the more the economy of our children will suffer.
To even achieve the government’s existing targets, (which fall far short of Kyoto), there is no more time to waste:
- The analysis firmly concludes that a very strong price signal is required to stimulate deep GHG reductions by 2050. … this is a price that applies throughout the economy and begins immediately.
But the Conservatives’ targets are not stringent enough:
- ... Canada’s emission reductions in 2050 may need to be in the order of 75% to 95% below 2003 levels in 2050, well beyond the government’s announced target of 60% to 70%. [To achieve this] …a “fast” start is critical, and the medium-term (2020) target will have to be greater than stabilization at 2003 levels.
- … the immediate implementation of a clear, consistent, and long-term policy (such as an emissions price) by the government is critical. Such a policy needs to place a price on carbon… for example, through an emissions cap and permit trading scheme, and/or an emissions tax.
- Establishing and reaching medium-term targets is critical … Any delay in the implementation of the GHG price may put some long-term GHG targets beyond Canada’s reach and will mean that future emission prices will need to rise significantly.”
The bottom line? We can keep the economic pain to a minimum by getting serious about GHG emissions now. This will also help us improve local air quality and reduce smog. Minister Baird deserves credit for insisting that climate change and smog be addressed together, but inaction means stealing from our children.