Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Never-Ending Conservative Obstructionism Over Climate Change

Last week, the TD Bank and the Pembina Institute came out with their report on the cost of achieving Canada's climate change goals - both those that would meet the government's somewhat lax standards, as well as the more stringent ones that would bring us in line with our Kyoto commitments.

This is important information to have if we are going to know where we stand going into Copenhagen in December. And yet, our own government immediately condemned the report - apparently without having actually read it.

“The conclusions [the report] draws are irresponsible,” said Mr. Prentice in an interview with The Globe and Mail from Kingston, where he was meeting with provincial and territorial environment ministers. Specifically, he said Canadians will not accept the report's advocacy of emission targets for 2020 that would reduce Canada's gross domestic product by 3 per cent nationally and 12 per cent in Alberta from business-as-usual estimates.

That sure does sound like a very bad thing, aside from the fact that it is a complete misrepresentation of the report's conclusions. Despite the rather alarmist headline on the Globe & Mail story, the report itself is quite clear that the effect on the economy under either scenario would be to slow growth. Not reverse it. Not stall it. Slow it.

Canada’s GDP is projected to grow 23 per cent between 2010 and 2020, or an average of 2.1 per cent annually, while meeting the 2°C emissions target. By comparison, under business as usual conditions, Canada’s GDP is projected to grow 27 per cent between 2010 and 2020, or an average of 2.4 per cent annually, with GHG emissions in 2020 rising to 47 per cent above the 1990 level.

Got that? They're not talking about crashing the car or putting it in reverse - just slowing it down from 27 kph to 23 kph. And since Alberta is the worst "speeder" by virtue of having both the highest rate of projected growth and the highest percent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, under any scenario they are going to have their growth slowed the most.

And so the shrieking from the West begins.

“We would be extremely opposed to any kind of a carbon tax or some other kind of tax that would result in a significant wealth transfer from our province to any other province or area of the country,” said Saskatchewan Energy Minister Bill Boyd.

Listening to this sort of petty, obstructionist attitude from our poltical leaders is unbelievably frustrating, especially given the sort of forward thinking coming from other world leaders and economists. Almost every day, otherwise sane, buttoned-down publications like the Financial Post are taking about the economics of carbon reduction as a given - and a potentially profitable one to boot.

Even the Americans are starting to get it.

Several countries are plowing significant portions of their stimulus packages into "greening" their economies. In the United States, US$94-billion of the United States' $787-billion stimulus package qualifies as green spending, according to a UN study.

The U.S. is pouring stimulus cash into everything from helping states use more renewable energy, to modernizing the electric grid and developing batteries for electric vehicles.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama compared the development of clean technologies to the space race of the Cold War era: "From China to India, from Japan to Germany, nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to [produce] and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. . . . And I want America to be that nation," he said.

Canada is spending roughly 8% of its stimulus package on green measures, placing it 10th among the 13 countries reviewed by the UN. South Korea led with 79%, followed by China, with 34%, and Australia, at 21%.

Europe, of course, is leading the way. But while they're all about innovative economic incentives and cutting edge technologies and finding ways to prosper in a post-carbon world, the Canadian government is still putting all its eggs into two highly discredited baskets: carbon capture and storage, and corn ethanol.

This isn't sound economics. It isn't even cautious pragmatism. It's like watching your parents put off buying a DVD player long after everyone else starts switching to Blu-Ray, knowing you're going to be stuck with their collection of VHS tapes.

It's a complete denial of reality, and it will come at a devestating cost to not only the planet but our economy as well.


  1. I can't believe you condsider carbon capture to be as highly discredited as corn ethanol, which is worse than useless for reducing carbon emissions.

    Your link to the Canadian Press aricle on carbon capture ends with the almost flippant statement 'Groups such as Greenpeace say instead of sinking money into propping up emissions from coal-fired power plants and oilsands operations, government should pump the cash into renewable energy, like solar and wind projects.' Of course we'd all prefer solar and wind technology, but the world will continue to use coal, because it's there and it's cheap -- we need clean coal technology.

  2. Clean coal costs dearly to get it that would be cheaper to use natural gas.

  3. Harper's got his firewall for the Alberta oil and coal trade now and he's not giving up control of it without a fight. The firewall in question is, after all, the federal government.

  4. Perhaps this report will make those Liberals who sided with the Cons  to delay passage of Bill C-311 reconsider their position?

  5. Charlene - I never said that CCS was equally as discredited as corn ethanol.  And to be sure, the problems with these two technologies couldn't be more different.

    In the case of CCS, it isn't the technology itself that has been discredited so much as the Canadian government's claims for it.  CCS could - maybe, someday - provide a partial bridge to a post-carbon world.  But claiming that it could make 3/4 of our carbon emissions magically disappear - let alone in a reasonable timeframe or at a feasible cost - is yet another example of their complete divorce from reality.

  6. Excellent post Jennifer. What a cesspool of greed this country has become.Talk about a country going nowhere.
    This is also another aspect to this story that particularly interests me. If in fact the government did tax the oil pimps and slow down development in the oil sands, it would mitigate the effects of the so-called Dutch Disease, and help keep the dollar under control both of which are responsible for wrecking our manufacturing base.
    If the Progresive parties were smart they would use the following argument to gang up on Alberta.
    They are WRECKING the Ontario and Quebec economies, because the Cons won't do ANYTHING to Big Oil. They are taking the bread out out the mouths of our children because they aren't willing to grow even a little bit slower. Those greedy bastards of the Calgary Gang.
    The way I see it there are no progressive seats to lose in Alberta, and this could have the same effect on us as the NEP had for Alberta sometime in the last century. Unite us against a common enemy.
    Needless to say I'll be working on this one... :)