All federal political parties and many Canadians agree – climate change is real. As responsible stewards of our environment, we must do our part to minimize the negative impacts of human activity on our planet. Where we differ is in what that should look like. To truly be a comprehensive “environmental plan”, a Canadian plan must address more than the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and also include policies to increase energy efficiency, conserve clean water, reduce and manage waste including prohibiting the dumping of raw sewage, and restore and maintain parks, wildlife and natural habitats.
We must also be pragmatic. Canada contributes less than 1.6% of the world’s GHG emissions and if Canada’s economy were shut down completely for one year it would take only 21 days for China to replace our emissions. Additionally, Canada is a trading nation with over 80% of our GDP derived from trade. The global competitiveness of our products is critical to the success of our economy. Yet, our products compete with countries like China and the US, who have less stringent environmental laws than we do. Canada must be careful not to implement regulations that price us out of the global market. Our approach to safeguarding our environment for the future and mitigating climate change must be realistic and achievable, and must find the appropriate balance between preserving the environment and protecting our economy.
Environmental Regulations, Standards & Reporting
Canada sets a gold-standard when it comes to environmental regulations, but we can do better. Canada needs to develop new GHG emissions regulations that will set standards for all major emitters to lower GHGs while also driving Canadian businesses towards implementing advanced green technology.
A proposed Canadian Clean brand would give Canadian and global consumers the confidence that Canadian products were manufactured with minimal environmental impact. Canadian Clean standards would withstand international scrutiny, and would initially apply to Canada’s oil, gas, and aluminum exports.
Regulations and standards to be effective must be actively enforced and accompanied by regular reporting. The UN stated Canada would fall significantly short of our 2018 reduction target. The Federal Government must have robust mechanisms to measure, audit and frequently report progress to Canadians to ensure programs deliver intended results and that we meet our Paris Accord commitments.
Drawbacks with the current “Carbon Tax”
The premise of a carbon tax is that by making driving and energy use more expensive, we will change our behaviour resulting in lower overall consumption and therefore, lower GHG emission levels. The challenge is that for many of us, we drive out of necessity, with no practical alternative to reduce our driving habits. Public transit is rarely an option and where it is, even with significant traffic congestion it takes hours longer than driving. We also don’t heat our homes more than we need and as individuals it is unlikely we have the ability to completely change the “R value” of our home to make it more energy efficient to heat. We simply can’t change our behaviour but we must pay a tax. The response is that we get the money back in taxes, but again this falls short, as the rebate is not proportional to the driving we do or the energy we consume. Additionally, the current carbon tax doesn’t apply to large polluters while they produce significantly more emissions than individual cars and households.
Innovation, investment & leading globally
When we put our collective minds to a problem, Canada has repeatedly shown that we are leading global innovators. By incentivizing and investing in green technology, Canada will become a global centre of environmental excellence, increase our competitive edge and expand our economy. Examples include:
• The Green Patent Credit, where Canada will incentivize the green-technology sector entrepreneurs and small-businesses to create innovative advancements with a reduced business tax from 15% to 5% on income from a green patent.
• Green Expansion Accelerator would invest in targeted accelerated capital cost allowances to businesses in industries that reduce emissions in other countries, and to producers who are among the least carbon-intensive global contributor in their industry.
• Green Investment Standards will require polluters whose emissions exceed strict limits to invest in emissions-reduced technology specific to their industry.
Ensuring Conservation and Stewardship
Canada is awe inspiring, and one of the most beautiful places in the world. Canada’s plan to combat climate change must be comprehensive. Not only should it reduce our greenhouse emissions and protect our diverse ecosystems, it should also boost our economy and incentivize green technology industries to become global leaders and expand our export opportunities. Our grandparents and parents left us a country that was better off than when they inherited it from their parents. Today we must do the same for future generations.
This article was originally published in The Auroran.