Dion’s “carbon budget”

070316_cover_en.jpgThe Liberals’ plan for a “carbon budget” for heavy industrial polluters is an incredibly ambitious scheme that should definitely get the Tories’ attention. Far beyond the weak tea the party offered before the green wave overtook it — even when leader Stéphane Dion was Paul Martin’s environment minister — this thing proposes hard caps on major greenhouse-gas emitters and would apply them next year. That is, if 700 major emitters don’t clean up their acts to Kyoto levels by 2008, they’d have to start paying an emissions tax.

From the white paper (link goes to a PDF):

An absolute emissions cap or ‘carbon budget’ of our 1990 emissions level minus 6% – our Kyoto target – will come into effect on January 1, 2008 for the three largest industrial emitting sectors – electricity generation, upstream oil and gas and energy intensive industries.

Those companies that don’t meet their carbon budget will be required to deposit $20 (growing to $30 by 2011) per excess tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent into a Green Investment Account (GIA) that will be created for each company.

The Liberals use a Pembina Institute projection (PDF) to conclude that these big emitters will have to cut their expected emissions by 127 million tonnes to meet 2010 targets. At $25 per excess tonne that year, it’d be that or pay $3.2 billion into these green investment accounts.

What’s extra-interesting about these figures is that they amount to a hard cap on what a Dion government would expect large emitters to pay to clean up their acts. $3.2 billion is obviously a lot of money but it’s not an economy-killer, particularly if, as the Liberal plan states, the money could all be turned around and invested in the emitters’ own operations. Only if an emitting company couldn’t come up with anything green to spend it on in two years would the money be taken away in a true carbon tax.

The white paper gets a few extra point for guts, too. It goes right after the big emitters in Alberta’s oilpatch, and it targets electrcity generation, which will be a major problem in Ontario, whose government can’t seem to close its coal-fired electricity stations. Frankly, there’s no getting around the fact that if we’re serious about meeting targets that even vaguely resemble those in the Kyoto treaty, the oilpatch and Ontario’s coal plants are going to have to be tackled head-on.

If you’re looking for a no-fooling-around climate-change plan, this is one.

Update: no matter what John Baird says.

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