Let's all negotiate a price on carbon - Macleans.ca

Let’s all negotiate a price on carbon

Featuring Alberta, Ontario, the oil industry and the NDP


While Alberta Premier Alison Redford says her province won’t increase its price on carbon unless there is a quid pro quo from the United States, the oil industry has, according to documents obtained by Greenpeace, privately told the Alberta and federal governments that a 40% reduction on emissions per barrel and $40 levy per tonne are too much to bear. Peter Kent, it was previously reported, had proposed a 30/30 plan. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers apparently pushed for a 20/20 plan.

Now the Mowat Centre releases a report on how Ontario should handle the expansion of pipelines eastward, concluding that a federal price on carbon would account for the environmental problems involved in developing the oil sands.

Ontario’s position on new pipeline projects should be grounded in reality. Canadians use oil and gas in every province in the country. It flows into and across our provinces by pipeline, by tanker, and by rail. The widespread use of fossil fuels in Canada–as well as their transport across provincial and international borders–is not going to stop any time soon. Any Ontario position must recognize that, right now, oil and gas flow through pipelines across our province and that the overwhelming majority of Ontarians accept this. In fact, a recent poll confirmed that a majority of Ontarians support Alberta’s oil sector and proposed pipeline projects.

On the other hand, new oil pipeline infrastructure is only needed if expansion of production in the oil sands is envisioned. Such expansion would significantly increase emissions that contribute to climate change. Some provinces and sectors are doing their share to help Canada achieve its GHG reduction targets, but this progress is being negated by the growth of the oil sands (see Figures 1 and 2). The most realistic and reasonable way for many Canadians to support pipelines and the expansion of oil sands production that would go with them is for this expansion to take place within the context of a federal price on carbon.

A price on carbon would allow for the expansion of the oil sands and pipelines within a context where the damage done to the environment and the climate is priced-in and mitigated. In the end, the expansion of pipelines within the context of a real federal price on carbon is in the interests of Ontario and Canada–and the hydrocarbon-producing provinces as well. Proceeds from a price on carbon could be used to support the transformation of the Canadian energy sector through investments in new research, development and clean technology.

Meanwhile, Christopher Ragan argues that the NDP should implement cap-and-trade in tandem with corporate tax cuts.

Implementing such a cap-and-trade system will obviously increase the costs of using coal, oil and natural gas. Indeed, this is the policy’s central objective – by increasing the costs of “dirty” fuels, the policy provides an incentive to switch toward “cleaner” fuels. But in a modern, energy-intensive economy like ours, increasing the cost of energy will almost certainly reduce the rate of economic growth, which means slowing the ascent of Canadians’ living standards.

If the New Democrats genuinely care about reducing greenhouse gas emissions but equally care about protecting Canadians’ living standards, they should advocate a two-part policy package. The first part is their favoured cap-and-trade system, but one that raises revenue by selling the permits to the highest bidders. The second part would give back this revenue by reducing the most growth-retarding tax in Ottawa’s cupboard – the corporate income tax. The combination would offer Canadians a way to protect the environment and their living standards at the same time.


Let’s all negotiate a price on carbon

  1. “A price on carbon would allow for the expansion of the oil sands and pipelines within a context where the damage done to the environment and the climate is priced-in and mitigated.”

    john tetzel – as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.

    Q: What is an indulgence?

    A: An indulgence is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment for sins after the sinner confesses and receives absolution. Under Catholic teaching, every sin must be purified either here on earth or after death in a state called purgatory.


  2. I thought Mulcair is supposed to be dragging the ndp toward the centre in order to make redundant and thus supplant the Liberals. It appears their current environmental and economic policies look like they’re sucking and blowing concurrently.
    It’s a lot tougher getting to the middle when your roots are still essentially radical and ideological, isn’t it Mr M? Just ask Mr H, he knows a thing or two about sucking up to the base while trying to blow his party into safe harbour in the middle.

    • Yeah, still that large crowd of purists in the NDP who see themselves as ‘conscience’ rather than govt.

      The ‘roots’ have made a mess of both Dips and Cons.

      • More like the Dips and the Fiberals………….missed your meds again?

        • Um….Cons are the folks who are always saying Libs have no ideology and they do. Methinks it’s your meds that are missing.

          • Bubba only needs his ideeologee to keep him sedated and comatose.

          • Yeah, he just keeps reciting his talking points and never notices that no one is discussing anything with him anymore….

          • WTF are you smoking this time?

          • Q! You’re back!

            Busy weekend?

          • Florida

          • Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. But at least you’re safely back.

        • You are such a wordsmith.

  3. Sounds like the Green Shift all over again. Canadian voters already rejected that once.

    • Shift happens.

    • BC voters strongly support it.

      Also, now that Canadian voters soundly rejected Conservative pet policies in the past, can we tell them to STFU as well?

  4. Glo-Bull Warming is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated in human history.

    • Ya know that a couple of major media outlets in
      the USA ( LA Times .. at least until a Koch decides
      to buy it) and Australia ( The Australian ?) have a
      new policy that they will no longer publish drivel from
      climate change deniers. So, I guess there is hope.

      • So I presume they will continue to publish stories that confirm no rise in global temps? And no rise is sea levels? And increases in Antarctic and Arctic ice? Tell us again about that magic 400 number? I love hearing a good story!

        • I dunno. Maybe they have occasional fiction
          supplements ??

          • That’s the best you can do? Yeah, I guess when everything you so fervently believe in is crumbling down around you, that would be the best you can do.

            Luckily I believed David Suzuki the FIRST time around when he was preparing us for global cooling, so I have lots of nice warm clothing to wear outdoors today while I experience a bit of that AGW you are all wringing your hands over.

      • That would be nice….deniers seem to think if they post nonsense repeatedly that eventually people will come to believe it.

        Instead people got disgusted and just ignore them

        • “…deniers seem to think if they post nonsense repeatedly that eventually people will come to believe it.”

          Oh dear, Emily. You made a wee typo there. Let me fix it for you:

          “… BELIEVERS seem to think if they post nonsense repeatedly that eventually people will come to believe it.”

          There. All fixed.

          You’re welcome.

          • Barb dear….take the anti-climate people, the anti-vaccine people, the anti-wifi people, the anti-fluoride people…..the functionally illiterate and the anti-science people down the hall to where the flat earth society meets.

            Stay there. Thanks.

          • Emily, it’s so nice to speak with you again.

            You do realize, of course, that the Flat Earth Society believes in anthropogenic global warming, right?

          • As silly as you ever were, I see. Ciao.

          • You know I live to amuse you, Em.


  5. the title should of read “lets all negotiate quantity on carbon”, since, under a cap and trade program, that’s what is happens, with the market subsequently setting the price. An important nuance when you consider that all those protests against the oil sands are from people complaining about the quantity of emissions spewing out of Alberta; not their price.

    • Except that the larger part of the article is devoted to a group talking about carbon pricing, not cap and trade.

      And no, it’s not an important nuance unless you believe that price does not affect demand.