Peter Kent tries to explain the farce

by Aaron Wherry

The Environment Minister talks to Canadian Press.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Kent said the NDP’s cap-and-trade proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions amounts to a carbon tax by definition, simply because it would see the government generating revenue. The opposition party’s election platform from 2011 shows the scheme would see Ottawa collecting $21-billion over four years. “Their $21 billion is an up-front tax. It’s a revenue generator. Ours is not,” Kent said, explaining how he justifies equating a cap-and-trade system with a carbon tax and dismissing both approaches as inferior.

We’ve already dealt with this “revenue” question—by the government’s own logic it’s a red herring. Even if, theoretically, the cap-and-trade that the Conservatives were proposing previously wouldn’t have resulted in government revenue—and it’s not evident to me that that’s what they were proposing—it would have established a price on carbon. And the Conservatives insist—see here, here, here and here—that a price on carbon and a carbon tax are the same thing. Mr. Kent said so himself just three months ago. “Carbon pricing in any form is a carbon tax,” he said.

So three questions remain to be answered. When did the Conservatives decide that cap-and-trade was equivalent to a carbon tax? How do they reconcile their 2008 election campaign now that they believe what they opposed (a carbon tax) and what they proposed (cap-and-trade) are equivalent? And, given how vehemently they now oppose cap-and-trade, why can’t they commit to never implementing a cap-and-trade system in the event that the United States decides to do so?

Kent says the cap-and-trade idea proposed by the NDP is based on a good theory that indeed was once the preferred approach of Conservatives. But he says the party changed its mind because the theory breaks down in practice, and the Conservatives wanted a system that would guarantee emissions reductions. “It’s a great concept and it’s a minor cost of doing business for large companies, but it’s not proven and it’s got all sorts of negatives,” he said.

Here, maybe, could be the basis for a mature discussion about the practicalities of cap-and-trade and the options available. On that count, it is worth noting that the Conservatives have invested heavily in the unproven technology of carbon capture and storage. And the Canadian president of Royal Dutch Shell says carbon capture and storage won’t be adopted widely unless a price on carbon is established.

“Compliance with regulations is a much more tangible concept than a theoretical trading system,” he added.

Many economists also believe regulation is the most expensive way to reduce emissions (at least so long as they’re intended to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions).

The coal rules are not free, however. Federal calculations estimate that the new rules in just that one sector will cost about $16 billion in today’s terms. About half of that is due to increased consumption of natural gas that will be the side-effect of cracking down on coal. But Kent says there is a big difference between those costs and the NDP’s costing of its carbon reduction plan. With the Conservative regulations, the costs are spread out over decades, and none of money goes directly to the government, he explained.

Once again, the revenue argument is a red herring. Otherwise, Mr. Kent seems to concede that the Harper government’s approach is guilty of the primary sin the Conservatives charge against the NDP’s approach: it will ultimately raise various costs for consumers. It just might take longer for the Conservatives to fully implement their approach?


Peter Kent tries to explain the farce

  1. All sorts of negatives, like what? Nothing Kent says offers any insight into which system is better. I don’t think he even knows what he’s talking about.

    • Remember, you’re simply seeing a portion of an interview. If the interviewer didn’t ask him “like what?” he’s obviously not going to provide an answer.. especially because the answer is somewhat technically complicated

  2. Justin’s assessment of Peter Kent is correct.

  3. I would like to know what pols, bureaucrats, economists and rent seekers are talking about when they discuss putting a price on carbon because carbon isn’t free in Canada. We all pay electric/heating/hydro bills, gasoline isn’t free, there are three different taxes charged when we pay for gas in Ont and more in other provs. Government has established multiple prices of carbon – Canadians buy smaller, cheaper vehicles than Americans do because gas is more expensive here and smaller cars are more fuel efficient. In many ways, Canadians already pay multiple carbon taxes but the bureaucrats don’t call them that.

    Is a ten or twenty cent ‘carbon tax’ really going to change people’s behaviour, enough to save planet from a phenomenon that isn’t occurring? Whole climate change debate is farcical, Wherry. Don’t hate the players, hate the game.

    • I don’t like the whole “nothing’s happening” argument, and think it’s silly and goes against the overwhelming scientific consensus, but regardless, the government can’t very well hide behind it.

      I’d disagree with the policy, but at least I’d give the Tories some small bit of credit if their argument was “climate change isn’t happening (or isn’t caused by humans) and so that’s why we’re not going to do anything about it”. However, that’s not what they’re saying. They’re on record referring to climate change as a serious threat to humanity. They’re investing in the arctic at least partly on the argument that CLIMATE CHANGE is opening up access to mineral resources and new shipping lanes. Kent himself seems to be saying that they’re now against cap-and-trade because they don’t think that such a system does ENOUGH to fight climate change.

      Now, it certainly appears in some ways that the Tories are TRYING to do as little as possible. How else can one explain that the Tories were for cap-and-trade right up until the moment that the NDP got on board? Then again, now the Tories seem to be backing increased REGULATION, which it seems to me most experts feel will be more expensive, less free market friendly, but potentially more effective in curbing greenhouse gases than cap-and-trade. Ordinarily I’d think that the NDP should call their bluff and start openly supporting the Tories’ sudden embrace of increased regulation, but it feels like a trap. I’m pretty sure that if the NDP started supporting the Tories’ new position on increased regulation that Tories from coast to coast would be calling for a cap-and-trade system to be established, and loudly denouncing increased regulation as a tax on businesses and job creators in a time of economic uncertainty before Mulcair could finish his press conference.

      • “…. and think it’s silly and goes against the overwhelming scientific consensus …. ”

        There is a consensus that global warming is taking a break and scientists predicted this two decade hiatus? I guess we read different sources because I missed the part where scientists have been telling us that earth hasn’t warmed since mid 1990s.

        We talk about climate change now, not global warming, because the earth isn’t warming but what new science has been produced to show that we should be worried about a changing climate? The climate changes all the time, we want it to change, so I am curious to know what is correct temp for earth or how many tornadoes/floods/droughts are too many?

        Spiegel Online ~ Stagnating Temperatures:

        The planet’s temperature curve rose sharply for almost 30 years, as global temperatures increased by an average of 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.25 degrees Fahrenheit) from the 1970s to the late 1990s. “At present, however, the warming is taking a break,” confirms meteorologist Mojib Latif of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in the northern German city of Kiel. Latif, one of Germany’s best-known climatologists, says that the temperature curve has reached a plateau. “There can be no argument about that,” he says. “We have to face that fact.”

        • I see your Der Spiegel International Online article and raise you a Scientific American (“The New Normal?: Average Global Temperatures Continue to Rise”; “2000 to 2010 is already the warmest decade since records have been kept and the 10 warmest average annual surface temperatures have all occurred in the past 15 years”), and a NASA (“The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000“. Graph).

          Both articles, btw, point out that the continued rise in recent years is actually surprising, due to the strong La Nina effect, and reduced solar activity. NASA actually EXPECTED the plateau that you suggest is actually happening right now, they just didn’t find it.

          None of which changes the fact that the Tories continue to argue themselves that climate change is real, is a threat, and that they intend to do something about it. Like the Liberals of the past that they criticize for this exact same thing though, it’s the “doing something about it” part that they keep getting stuck on.

          • There’s a distinction to be drawn between the two, but I’m not sure which is worse. The Liberals and Conservatives both claim to believe in climate change and both claim they’re going to do something about it.
            The Liberals probably really do believe in climate change, but were lying about intending to do anything about it. So that’s half as many lies, but a good deal more inconsistency and moral cowardice–given that they do believe in climate change, it’s a craven surrender to special interests to not do anything about it.
            The Conservatives are lying on both counts–they mostly don’t believe in climate change, and so they won’t do anything about it. So they’re lying twice as much, but they have the courage of their convictions. Of course their cowardice is intellectual–they only disbelieve climate change because they don’t want it to be true, because it’s incredibly important to them to be able to imagine their craven surrender to special interests as a moral crusade for the American way (and yes, I do mean American).

          • So they’re lying twice as much, but they have the courage of their convictions.

            LOL. Not to be pedantic, but people who have the “courage of their convictions” don’t usually say publicly that they believe the opposite of what they actually believe.

          • Point. Um, they have . . . internal consistency? They’re, um, lying in the service of what they’ve made themselves believe, rather than lying to advance an agenda they know to be wrong? Something like that.

        • Galileo ~ for in the sciences the authority of thousands of opinions is not worth as much as one tiny spark of reason in an individual man

          I think you prove my point. Some scientists claim global warming has taken a break while others claim it continues. Science is about one person being correct, it is not meant to be a vote of scientists who are dependent on government funding to continue their careers.

          What would these scientists be doing if they acknowledged the world isn’t warming, that earth is behaving like it always has, unpredictably. Science isn’t mean to be based on faith something is occurring, I am just waiting for one scientist to prove global warming is actually happening.

          • The odds of the one person who’s railing alone against the consensus of the thousands being right is pretty damned rare. That’s why we remember it so well on the freak occurrence of it happening.

            Most of the time, however, it’s just a wingnut braying at the universe.

          • And here are the further words of the “individual man” you quote:
            “If my name was not Mojib Latif, my name would be global warming. So I
            really believe in Global Warming. Okay. However, you know, we have to
            accept that there are these natural fluctuations, and therefore, the
            temperature may not show additional warming temporarily.”

            Too bad Galileo didn’t say, “for in the sciences the authority of thousands of opinions is not worth as much as one quote from one man, presented so as to portray the the exact opposite of that man’s conclusions.”

          • Zing! That musta hurt.

          • “Science is about one person being correct,”

            No, Science is about the evidence being correct.


            “Einstein was attacked by some with anti-Jewish leanings. When a pamphlet was published entitled 100 Authors Against Einstein, Einstein retorted “If I were wrong, one would be enough.” “

          • Always loved that quote.

      • “How else can one explain that the Tories were for cap-and-trade right up until the moment that the NDP got on board?”

        Not quite. More like around the time the NDP started to rise in the polls, necessitating a shift in tory strategy and disengagment from most of the accepted standards of decency, not to mention reality. I guess they figured if the NDP could hide behind a half truth they might as well go for the really big lie. Maybe they think we are acclimatized to them by now?


    There’s a petty simple explanation here as to why not booking revenue – the supposed Tory preference according to Kent/Vanloan] is the second[?] worse option available. It essentially rebates or credits the tax to the emitter, not the tax payer. No chance whatsoever that will be passed on to consumers. Free license has apparently been a disaster in Europe, as it would be here. Thank goodness the Tories were lying all along then eh!

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