Simon Donnor has an interesting proposal for how Canada can make progress on meeting emissions targets. Provinces, if they commit to a defined federal standard for emissions reductions – say, an optimistic 14% below 1990 by 2020 – would become eligible for participation in a federal climate change policy program. This gives them access to tax incentives, rebates for efficiency measures and feed in tarrifs for renewable energy. Provinces can also follow B.C.’s lead and switch income tax for carbon taxes, keeping the revenues in the province.
The opt-in climate policy he suggests offers a realistic way of dealing with the Alberta problem. There’s no way of getting around the fact that Alberta is increasingly dependent on the tar sands, and it is not willing to come close to making, or meeting, an effective emissions reduction target. However, other provinces, like Ontario and Quebec, are committed to making reductions and the Federal government could have a role to play in helping them meet the reductions targets.
A key change in Canada has been the shifting of population, political power and wealth to the west. The West got in, and don’t expect them to put in place federal policy that it would perceive as being against its own interests. Indeed, if politics is shaping up to mean a shift in power away from the federal government to the provincial, the sort of role the federal government can play in climate change will need to reflect and respect that shift. An opt-in program is a good compromise.
Unfortunately, should all the provinces except Alberta choose to opt in and meet targets, there could be little benefit for Canada on the international stage if Canada as a country fails to make overall emissions reductions. Nonetheless, as Prof. Donner points out, “it would be a vast improvement on the status quo” and “break the stalemate that has stalled progress on emissions reductions”. I’ll take it as a good start.