Laser Talk #8: Canada Should Take the Lead on Climate Change

In his inaugural speech and in his State of the Union address President Obama said “we will respond to the threat of climate change”.  Lacking a legislative solution from Congress, President Obama will turn to regulation to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

Given Canada’s consistent alignment with US climate and energy policies, the Harper Government would probably follow the US lead. However regulation of pollutants is a method most small “c” conservatives hate because it makes for bigger government and it is expensive.

The regulatory approach would become unnecessary, however, with the passage of a steadily rising price on the CO2 content of fossil fuels. A clear and predictable price on carbon pollution would use the power of the market to speed the transition to clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Returning revenue from the fee to households would shield consumers from the economic impact of rising energy costs associated with a price on carbon.

Coupled with a tariff on goods from nations that lack similar carbon pricing, a carbon fee would also achieve something unattainable through regulation – motivation for other nations, such as our neighbours to the south, to initiate policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In a well-researched Reuters article in early January, former US Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader reported that 33 countries in 2013 will have some form of a price on carbon in place.  This list includes Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Finland, the Netherlands, France, Slovenia, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Costa Rica, Brazil and South Africa. As well, China is experimenting with seven different pilot carbon-pricing programs with a view to rolling out the best model nationally by 2015.

Prince Charles, in response to the environmental crises facing humanity, has officially stated on his website: “to continue with ‘business as usual’ is an act of suicide on a gargantuan scale.”

Canada should take the lead on the climate crisis in North America rather than waiting for the United States.  We need to implement a price on carbon.


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