Whatever you do, get on with it

Canada needs an “economy-wide” price on carbon emissions, says the federal government’s environmental economics think tank … but the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy punts on the key question in the debate today, which is whether a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system should be the key measure for imposing that price.

There is, of course, no pithy money quote to demonstrate this vagueness, but the gist of the lengthy report is that the feds can use whatever instrument they like to put a price on carbon, as long as it’s properly designed and is coupled with complimentary policies to get at whatever parts of the economy the chosen instrument doesn’t capture.

Ah. Easy enough, then. Just some details to be sorted out.
What does come through clearly in the NRTEE’s final report on “Getting to 2050: Canada’s Transition to a Low-emission Future” is that this is an extremely urgent problem that the NRTEE doesn’t think the government is taking seriously enough.

The federal government has committed to deep long-term emission reduction targets for GHGs and air pollutants. For GHGs, these targets are 20% below 2006 levels by 2020, and 60% to 70% below 2006 levels by 2050; these targets match those of the NRTEE’s “fast and deep” [that is, most ambitious — DR.] scenario in this report. Achieving this vision of a low-emission economy for Canada requires embarking upon a focused and deliberate transition beyond current policy approaches. Our research shows that achieving the 2050 target of a 65% reduction in GHG emissions from current levels requires meeting the stated 2020 target of a 20% reduction. Missing the 2020 target will put at risk the attainment of the longer-term target, or make achieving that target come at both higher economic and environmental costs.

People who pay close attention believe that the government’s plan, which is still off somewhere in perpetual consultations awaiting death that will be either quiet (if the governing Tories call an election) or extremely noisy (if the supposedly green-friendly Liberals force one), will not actually achieve the targets the government has set, suggesting the whole thing is a fiasco in the making.

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