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Jim Prentice on Earth Day:

“As in any day where we symbolize a matter of significance, Earth Day highlights the cause, it highlights the importance of all of us making individual efforts, and so yes, it’s important,” he said.

“I would like Canadians to think about our responsibility as stewards as one of the most remarkable landmasses on the earth and the obligation we have to leave Canada, cleaner and better than we found it,” he said.

To make that a reality, he said, Canadians should think about whether they should reduce the size of their car, recycle more, leave their phone chargers plugged in or if they need to keep that flat-screen TV on all the time.

“It’s a question of the individual choices we make,” he added. “How many televisions are you going to have in your house? Are you going to shop and try to get the most efficient appliances in your home? It’s about choices.”

If Canadians should think about changing anything it is their laws and politicians, not their behaviour. We have tried Prentice’s approach before, after all. The One Tonne Challenge was an abject failure of a policy for reducing carbon emissions, and would not have made much of a dent considering the sources of most of this country’s emissions (see chart).

figure10_e

Note: The grey portion of the chart represents GHG emissions from the energy sector. The activity sectors reflect the UNFCCC methodology. Source: Environment Canada, 2007a. National Inventory Report: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada, 1990–2005. Greenhouse Gas Division, Ottawa, Ontario.

And besides, if Prentice really wants to change Canadians’ behaviour, he should do more than exhort them to just think about doing so for one day a year. A price on carbon, as economists will agree, would do more to change behaviour than would simply thinking a little on Earth Day.

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