Carbon pricing: Beyond the talking point

It's all fun and games until China institutes a carbon tax

Michael Den Tandt wonders if the Conservatives will have to stop freaking out about the NDP’s cap-and-trade proposal if they hope to see the Keystone XL pipeline approved by the United States. If the Conservatives think likewise, we’ll presumably see a different tone on Monday when the House returns to business (the Conservatives certainly weren’t shying away from their preferred talking point when the House was sitting a week ago).

Meanwhile, China is talking about a carbon tax and Ontario is thought to be moving forward with cap-and-trade and here is what the woman thought to be President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the EPA told an audience of regulators yesterday.

Addressing a room full of familiar faces at a workshop of state and federal regulators, McCarthy applauded local efforts, such as the nine-state carbon cap-and-trade program in the Northeast United States, for showing Washington a path forward on combating climate change.

“At the EPA we will do our part to build on your success,” she said at the Georgetown University Law Center. “We can find a way instead of having national solutions…to open up opportunities for states to use all the flexibility, the ingenuity, the innovation that you have shown could be done, and just simply get it done.”

Stephen Gordon talks to Global about what international developments might mean for Canada.

As the rest of the world starts to put a price on carbon, any Canadian exporter is going to have start paying that price regardless of where it is located,” said Laval University economics professor Stephen Gordon. Carbon taxes are usually applied to imports as well, so local producers are not disadvantaged, according to Gordon.

The U.S. is Canada’s largest trading partner and accepted $330.1 billion worth of exports from Canada in 2011. China ranks number three when it comes to Canada’s largest export destinations, accepting $16.8 billion in exports in 2011. “If Canadian exporters are already paying for it why not send that tax revenue to Ottawa instead of Washington or Beijing,” Gordon said.

And PJ Partington compares coal regulations in Canada and the United States.

The U.S. ambassador has made it crystal clear that as America steps up its climate action it expects us to do better too. The new line from the Harper government is that we’re already there, particularly on curbing emissions from coal power. Foreign minister John Baird recently suggested “maybe the United States could join Canada” on “taking concrete direct action with respect to dirty, coal fired electricity generation,” adding that “we’re the only country in the world that’s committed to getting out of the dirty coal electricity generation business.”

Sadly, Canada isn’t the shining example of coal-curbing excellence that Harper’s ministers are claiming. When it comes to regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs) from coal power, we’re doing about the same as our neighbours to the South — and may well be eclipsed before too long. While coal power is America’s biggest source of GHGs, accounting for over a quarter of national emissions in 2010, it accounted for about 11 per cent of Canada’s in the same year. As for “getting out of the dirty coal electricity generation business,” Canada won’t be fulfilling that commitment until 2062.