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The National Round Table on Environment and Economy today issued an refreshingly hardheaded report: Getting to 2050: Canada’s Transition to a Low-emission Future. The report is a rebuke and a challenge to the absence of federal leadership on climate change, and to our failure to take concrete action.

Man Walking to Dead End

The report correctly insists that Canada’s climate change strategy must be based on five “enabling conditions”:

  1. Canada must work in concert with the rest of the world. (The NTREE is too diplomatic to point out the contradiction between this and flouting our Kyoto commitments.)
  2. Policy certainty – beyond the short term.
  3. An economy-wide emission price signal, implemented with complementary measures. This means an emissions tax and/or a cap-and-trade system.
  4. Rapid deployment of all possible low-emission technologies.
  5. An integrated approach to climate change and other forms of air pollution.

Plus an “absolute requirement”: The mere development of a policy framework for climate change should not be confused with its implementation by government, industry, capital markets, and at the consumer level.

The NTREE also repeats its earlier warning: A quick, controlled transition to a low emissions economy will have both costs and benefits, but delays in taking meaningful action will have huge economic and environmental risks.

The NTREE knows what it is talking about. And yet it is difficult to imagine any of our current political leaders actually proposing to make these changes, and to make them now. Ten years after the great Quebec ice storm, we wonder: What further catastrophes will it take before we do what we already know we have to do?

Admittedly, Jeffrey Simpson is right that the NTREE could usefully have gone farther, recommending a specific carbon price, with details on how it could be implemented while fairly spreading the pain. Perhaps that will be their next report.

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