THE BIG GRAB Part 7: Silence of the Plans
The Harper government has pledged to cut climate pollution. But its plan only covers 13 per cent of the required cuts -- and oil sands pollution will more than wipe out even that gain.
On Jan. 29, 2010 Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally committed Canada to cutting our climate pollution by 17 per cent from 2005 levels … and doing so by 2020. This Copenhagen Accord pledge is explicitly linked to the targets and actions of the U.S.
Harper has also been in power for all of the five years so far covered by his pledge. Environment Canada says that all of the Harper government plans announced over these five years will prepare our economy to meet just 13 per cent of Canada’s 2020 commitment.
And for the fastest growing source of Canadian CO2 pollution, the Alberta oil sands, he has announced no plan at all. The corporations in the industry with the fastest growing climate pollution have been given a free ride by our prime minister.
We have a plan...
Stephen Harper just named Peter Kent as his fourth environment minister in five years. On Jan. 28, 2011 Kent gave his first major speech laying out Canada’s climate change plans to date. Here are a few excerpts:
“Climate change is one of the most serious environmental issues facing the world today … Canada has a credible plan for addressing our environmental challenges. And we are well advanced in executing that plan … a comprehensive plan to achieve real emission reductions in the short, medium, and long terms … [we have an] unwavering commitment to succeed … What many people don't realize is that Environment Canada already has the legal tools it needs to execute our plan. It requires no new legislation”
...but it only covers 13% of the problem...
While Kent gave a rousing defence of the Harper government’s “unwavering” commitment and “comprehensive” plan, his own Environment Canada ministry released a backgrounder that showed:
Federal plans = 13 per cent
All announced federal plans, including unpublished regulations on coal-fired electricity, will yield 13 per cent of needed cuts: 32 million tonnes (Mt).1
Provincial plans = 14 per cent
All announced provincial plans, including Ontario’s plans to close their coal-fired power plants, will yield 14 per cent of needed cuts: 33Mt.
No plan yet = 73 per cent
178Mt of required 2020 CO2 cuts (73 per cent) have no plans or actions proposed for them yet.
…and oil sands erase all gains
Environment Canada and others estimate that oil sands corporations plan to increase CO2 pollution by 78 Mt above their 2005 level. This is 82 Mt above their equal share of 17 per cent below 2005.
These climate pollution increases are so huge they will overwhelm all savings from all proposed federal and provincial actions to date. The 65 Mt in nationwide CO2 cuts will be more than erased by 78 Mt in CO2 increases from the oil sands.
Put another way, the planned rise of oil sands pollution nearly doubles the size of the remaining actions Canadians need to come up with by 2020.2 The oil sands 82 Mt increase is nearly half of the 178 Mt of cuts still needing action.
Several studies, including the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) “Parallel Paths” report, show that the cost to cut each additional tonne of CO2 (tCO2) is higher than the one before it, for a given timeframe. Doubling the tCO2 needed to be cut in a given timeframe more than doubles the cost to do this. For example the NRTEE modelling shows that a four per cent cut by 2020 would require ~$30/tCO2 while an eight per cent cut would require $50/tCO2. The cost triples to cut double the tCO2.
By refusing to cut their climate pollution along the lines our Prime Minister pledged our economy to do -- or to pay others to do it for them -- the oil sands corporations are forcing all other businesses and families to double their remaining efforts and to suffer much higher costs3.
Level playing field?
”Preparing ourselves for the transition to economic success in a low-carbon-emissions economy is critical to help maintain our standard of living and ensure jobs for today’s and tomorrow’s generations.”
-- NRTEE Climate Prosperity report
A “national, economy-wide” price on carbon is the least costly way to achieve our GHG targets.
That is the blunt assessment of NRTEE. NRTEE points out that because Canada has more work left to do to by 2020 than the U.S., further delay by Canada “leads to rising carbon emissions each year, and a higher financial and economic cost in ultimately acting.”
When asked if Harper, a trained economist, is considering an economy-wide price on CO2 pollution so the marketplace can find the least expensive way to cut CO2 in Canada – and bring certainty to those he will otherwise pick to close that 73% gap -- Kent responded: “We have no plan to do that.”
Instead, the Harper government is doing a command-and-control hand-picking of individual economic sectors and selecting separate cut levels and policies for each.
So far, they have proposed regulations for coal-fired electricity generation, and fuel efficiency standards and renewable fuel standards for the transportation sector. Combined, these two sectors account for 39 per cent of our CO2 total, yet are being tasked with only around 13 per cent of needed CO2 cuts. Not enough to meet the target but a start.
However, on the oil sands -- which are at six per cent and heading to 18 per cent of our CO2 -- they have announced no plan and no actions that would require any CO2 cuts or require the oil sands to pay others to make the cuts they are imposing on others.
Is it fair to let the biggest source of Canada’s CO2 pollution growth continue increasing pollution with no federal plan to do anything about it? Why pick most other Canadians to make cuts but ignore the very tiny percentage of Canadians who are causing the biggest source of the problem?
”A fair cap and trade system in Canada is one where each economic sector and region is responsible for its fair share of emissions cuts.”
– “Divided We Fail” report
Ensuring prosperity for all Canadians
The Harper government insists they have a plan to meet their own Copenhagen Accord pledge. They insist they need no new legislation to carry out their plan. They say they have no plans to enact economy-wide carbon pricing. Instead, they will pick parts of the economy to regulate separately using rules they aren’t making public so far, except for 13 per cent of the problem.
At the same time, they are openly allowing the oil sands to appropriate more of our economy’s shared CO2 allotment -- from four per cent in 2005 to 18 per cent in 2020 – without requiring them to pay for this Big Grab.
To meet their own pledge, the Harper government must therefore be planning to pick some group of Canadian businesses and families to squeeze all that extra oil sands CO2 from. They just are saying who yet. The economics are clear that the longer they wait, the more it will cost those folks.4
So far our prime minister has refused to level with Canadians about who he is going to pick, how much extra they will need to cut and what it will cost them to shoulder this huge extra burden. So Canadians are left to sit and wait for Stephen Harper to pick losers. Delay is expensive.
Are you worried yet? Will you, your family and your business be one of the losers our prime minister is going to target for extra costs? Is this the “comprehensive” plan Canadians deserve?
To ensure all Canadians get a fair shot at thriving in the emerging lower-carbon economy, Canada needs and deserves the protection of a comprehensive national climate pollution strategy that explains just who needs to cut CO2, who doesn’tand who will pay for it.
We have several made-in-Canada solutions all ready to expand to cover our entire nation and to solve this problem. So far, our federal government has balked at this task, leaving a lawless void in which one group of Canadians is grabbing more than their fair share away from other Canadians.
Until a comprehensive national climate pollution plan is in place, Alberta and its oil sands need to stop grabbing what isn’t theirs and start paying their own way.
“Scoring Own Goals” burrows into pages of stats from part 3 of Canada National GHG Inventory Report 1990-2008 for some game analysis on which members of Team Canada are filling the opposition nets and which members keep scoring own goals against our home team. Carbon Night in Canada poses the question: Is our prime minister the coach for all of Team Canada? If so, where is the game plan?
NOTES AND LINKS
note 1: The breakdown between federal and provincial actions is from Figure 6 in NRTEE’s “Parallel Paths” report and was provided to them by Environment Canada: http://www.climateprosperity.ca/eng/studies/canada-us/report/canada-us-report-eng.php
note 2: Government of Canada forecasts oil sands 108 MtCO2 by 2020 (see detailed description above in text). That is 77 MtCO2 above their 30.7MtCO2 level in 2005. This is also 82 MtCO2 above the oil sands' four per cent share of 2020 (based on 2005 levels). Either value more than erases the 65 MtCO2 in cuts by 2020 from all actions as defined by Environment Canada backgrounder. The EC backgrounder also says that 178 MtCO2 cuts by 2020 still need new plans and actions. The oil sands projected growth (77 or 82 MtCO2) equal 42 per cent to 46per cent of remaining actions still to be created – nearly doubling the amount still to do.
note 3: Several studies, including NTREE’s “Parallel Paths” report (see figure 14 in http://www.climateprosperity.ca/eng/studies/canada-us/report/canada-us-report-eng.php ), show that the cost to cut each additional tCO2 is higher than the one before it, for a given timeframe. Doubling the tCO2 needed to be cut in a given timeframe more than doubles the cost to do this. For example, the NTREE modelling shows that a four per cent cut by 2020 would require ~$30/tCO2 while an eight per cent cut would require $50/tCO2. The cost triples to cut double the tCO2.
note 4: NRTEE’s “Parallel Paths” report, figure 7, http://www.climateprosperity.ca/eng/studies/canada-us/report/canada-us-report-eng.php