Canada’s new Ecofiscal Commission, chaired by McGill University macroeconomics professor Chris Ragan, has a mandate to propose reforms to the fiscal system that reduce pollution and environmental damage while also increasing economic efficiency.
The core idea is to move towards a polluter-pay approach, whereby environmental costs are reflected in the market prices of economic activities. By taxing polluting activities, eco-fiscal policies incentivize actions that reduce harm to the environment and generate new revenues that could be used to reduce other taxes.
Tuesday’s U.S.-China climate deal has been hailed widely as an “historic deal” that dramatically changes the dynamics of international climate politics as countries search for a new global agreement by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Climate Convention in Paris in 2015.
Clearly it is a welcome development in a number of senses: it involves a very public commitment from the world’s largest emitters that will be hard to renege on; it puts pressure on other countries that have not already made pledges (many already have) to reduce emissions, or to up the ambition of their pledges in some cases; and it can act to create further trust amongst countries that the major emitters are negotiating in good faith building momentum towards Paris.
Editor's note: In advance of the National Forum on Clean Energy and Industry taking place on October 3rd in Ottawa, the Broadbent Institute will be featuring a series of blog posts exploring policy options for transitioning to a green economy.
Nobody likes to pay energy bills and they seem to rise every year. Heating and cooling our homes is also one of Canada’s largest sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It might not be the sexiest policy, but retrofitting our homes with better insulation, windows and efficient heating and air conditioning solves both of these problems.
Premiers have been working on collaborative energy strategies in one form or another since 2007, and their energy conversation now looks like it’s poised to continue for another year. But despite its frequent appearance on the Council of the Federation’s agenda, it’s fair to ask why Canada needs a national strategy for energy at all.
Any kind of Canada-wide “strategy” risks sounding like more talk than action. And with Canada often described as an energy powerhouse — boasting not just the world’s third largest oil reserves but the world’s third largest hydropower generation capacity — what would a strategy add that we’re not already doing?
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any slower, Ottawa has yet another rationale for delaying greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations for oil and gas companies. Worryingly, this one comes straight from the top.
In a year-end interview with Global News, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that he hasn’t introduced regulations to curb GHG emissions from oil and gas production because he wants to move at the same pace as the United States.
In the prime minister’s words, oil and gas “is an integrated sector continentally …our government is certainly prepared to work with the United States on a regulatory regime that will bring our emissions down. But I think this would be best done if we could do this in concert with our major trading partner, given as I say it is a seamless industry in North America. So that’s what I’m hoping we’ll be able to do over the next couple of years.”
For Canadians who care deeply about acting to stave off dangerous climate change, President Obama’s landmark speech today outlining his administration’s climate action plan likely induced mixed feelings: delight to see the President speak so clearly and resolutely about the moral obligation to take action and to back those sentiments up with some concrete action. And distress at the clear contrast in both tone and substance we get from our Federal government here in Canada.