By Chris Sorensen - Friday, May 17, 2013 - 0 Comments
Celebrated partnerships like the Boreal Forest Agreement are crumbling. Can corporations and NGOs really work together to save the environment?
Rachel Plotkin is well-acquainted with the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay, Ont. A science-project manager for the David Suzuki Foundation, Plotkin has spent more days than she cares to count holed up in one of the hotel’s meeting rooms with representatives from local logging companies and fellow environmental groups. They are trying to hammer out a conservation plan for a four-million-hectare section of boreal forest in northwestern Ontario, and the thousands of woodland caribou that call it home.
Their work represents a sliver of the sweeping Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement signed in 2010 by 21 forestry companies and nine non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. In a bid to put decades of pitched battles behind them, the two sides pledged to jointly develop conservation and sustainable land-use plans for 76 million hectares of mostly untouched forest that stretches from Quebec to British Columbia. But progress has been painfully slow. With the agreement’s three-year anniversary barely a week away on May 18, the two sides have yet to offer much in the way of concrete results.
Angry with the glacial pace, two of the original signatories, Greenpeace Canada and Canopy, have dropped out of the pact, blaming the forestry companies for dragging their feet. The industry, on the other hand, accuses Greenpeace and others for being impatient and unrealistic with their demands. “We understand that this is very complex,” says Plotkin, who remains hopeful a breakthrough will be reached. “But our patience is wearing thin.”
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 5:51 PM - 0 Comments
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Global warming will only be brought under control by deep…
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Global warming will only be brought under control by deep international collaboration and intense investment in technology — not yelling on street corners, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.
Harper was in New York all day Thursday, addressing an influential group of American academics at the Council on Foreign Relations and meeting separately with a tight-knit group of business leaders.
With several dozen protesters outside the venue and a couple of probing questions from the floor about Canada’s environmental record, Harper defended his regulatory approach to emissions reductions as the most effective, practical way to achieve concrete results.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 2:28 PM - 0 Comments
Canada’s oil sands are already subject to provincial regulations that are driving investment in new environmental research and bringing emissions down through technological innovation. Alberta has regulations that require large oil sands operators to either reduce emissions or contribute money toward innovative research to improve the environmental performance of the industry.
Indeed, the Alberta government has a “Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund” that prices carbon emissions at $15 per tonne. And Peter Kent recently seemed to suggest that this wasn’t a completely terrible thing.
Amid reports that Alberta might be prepared to increase that price, Erica Alini explained the province’s system last month.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 12:43 PM - 0 Comments
The last three weeks for the Natural Resources Minister have been fun.
Vs. James Hansen, April 24.
A leading climate change activist and former NASA scientist is “crying wolf” with his “exaggerated” comments about the effects of oilsands development on the environment, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver charged Wednesday … ”It does not advance the debate when people make exaggerated comments that are not rooted in the facts. And he should know that,” Oliver said to reporters, following a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Vs. James Hansen, April 24.
I couldn’t help myself: I asked Oliver what he thought of Hansen’s willingness to chain himself to the White House fence to protest the pipeline. He couldn’t help himself either. Given the dirty oil in California, he replied, “he should be chaining himself to a mannequin in Rodeo Drive.”
Vs. Al Gore, May 6.
Oliver told CTV’s Power Play Monday that Gore’s remarks were “over the top,” but he doesn’t think the prominent Democrat’s criticism will have an impact on Keystone’s approval in the U.S … “I think that what is happening here is that, as the decision approaches, some of the more strident voices in opposition to the development of hydrocarbons are out there with their exaggerated, over the top comments,” Oliver said in a phone interview from Europe, where he’s lobbying against proposed legislation that would require a reduction in the greenhouse gas intensity of vehicle fuels.
Vs. the European Union, May 9.
Canada’s Natural Resources Minister is raising the prospect of a trade fight with the European Union over its proposal to label oil-sands crude as dirty even as both sides try to seal a major deal to liberalize two-way … “This fuel-quality directive is discriminatory towards Canadian oil and not supported by scientific facts,” Mr. Oliver said.
Vs. some concerned scientists, May 9.
He also took a swipe at a group of scientists who have sent him an open letter raising concerns about the environmental impact of pushing ahead with pipelines and other oil projects. Mr. Oliver said every major resource project has been opposed by some groups. “The position of these scientists is unfortunately unrealistic in the real world because what they want to do is to see a diminution of the use of hydrocarbons and they look upon the oil sands as a symbol, as an example of that,” he said adding that the global demand for energy will increase by 33 per cent over the next 25 years. “Even under the most optimistic scenarios for renewables, hydrocarbons, fossil fuels, will represent at least 63 per cent of the source of energy by the year 2035. So we have to be realistic. The world needs energy.”
Vs. Marc Jaccard, May 10.
“I wouldn’t characterize it as desperate,” Oliver said of the recent barrage of federal emissaries travelling the globe to talk up Canada’s oilsands in the face of projects like the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Rather, he said, it’s oilsands opponents who are starting to sound panicky. “It’s pretty clear that opponents are getting desperate, hence the shrillness of their arguments, the hyperbole and the exaggeration that we’re hearing from some sources.” …
At the same time, Mark Jaccard, one of Canada’s leading energy economists, is about to take a European tour of his own — to denounce the federal government’s penchant for pipelines at a time when they have no solid plan to reduce emissions from the oilsands. Jaccard’s arguments only serve to undermine Canadian and global prosperity, Oliver said, because they would result in a shortage of affordable energy. “I think there are some people who really have a vision of the world which isn’t realistic,” he said. “They would like to see the world powered by alternative energy. I think that would be great if it could be achieved, but it can’t be entirely, or even to a majority extent.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 1:47 PM - 0 Comments
It’s very true that oil companies are not charitable organizations–which is why it’s not a good idea to make policy based on the assumption that they will passively absorb the costs of new regulations. It’s not at all obvious why firms would pass along the costs of a carbon price but not the (larger) costs of regulation.
Meanwhile, Ryan Leef is being criticized for the information he has distributed on the polar bear population. And Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver received a rebuke from the scientist—now a Green candidate in British Columbia—he had previously cited. (Andrew Weaver is also a fan of taxing carbon.)
In other news, the NDP motion that initiated last Thursday’s debate was defeated last night and various New Democrats took to Twitter to criticize Elizabeth May for voting against. Ms. May responded with a lengthy explanation of her problems with the motion.
I would have loved to have seen a unified group of MPs from all the Opposition Parties rise on principle and (hoping against hope) some of the Conservatives who understand the need for climate action might have voted with us to give the Parliamentary call for reductions in GHG a chance of passing. But since tonight’s motion forgot to call for climate action, maybe we could take a run at a properly worded motion another day.
There does exist, it should be noted, a multi-partisan climate change caucus. And Mr. Leef is one Conservative who attended its most recent meeting.
By Stephen Gordon - Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 10:32 AM - 0 Comments
This is from last Thursday’s Hansard:
Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, picking up a bit on where the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage left off, it is not just that the Canadian public rejected Liberal proposals over the last three campaigns, of course mindful of the Liberals’ woeful record with respect to climate change, but it is something to hear the Liberals continue to retread through ideas that have been rejected and present them once again as though they are new and should be taken up even though Canadians have said something quite different.
Does the member understand that there is a world price for oil, there is a world price for gasoline and that oil companies like the idea of a carbon tax principally because they will get the world price for oil or gasoline regardless, but the carbon tax will then be paid by Canadian consumers and it will completely exempt them? However, if they are actually regulated, they will have to absorb these costs and only receive the world price for oil and gasoline. Oil companies are not charitable organizations. They are an important industry for Canada, but they are not charitable.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 6:32 PM - 0 Comments
It was just two weeks ago, asked about Alberta’s carbon tax, that Peter Kent was moved to muse aloud about a contentious and contested topic. “There hasn’t,” he ventured, “been a great deal of subtlety in talking about carbon pricing.”
Perhaps this lack of subtlety is something like the root cause of our current impasse. Or perhaps this is no time for nuance.
The foreign press is now referring to Joe Oliver as the Canadian “oil minister, which is terribly unfair to the trees and rocks and water he is also responsible for making use of. Of a year-old op-ed, Mr. Oliver is accusing a NASA scientist of “crying wolf” and suggesting that James Hansen ”should be chaining himself to a mannequin in Rodeo Drive,” which would be pointless unless the mannequin was itself nailed down. And now another scientist is likening Mr. Oliver to “a Shetland pony in the Kentucky Derby,” who is “making Canada look like a country full of jerks,” which is terribly unfair to at least the three or four of us who aren’t.
It was on something like this note that Mr. Mulcair stood to harangue the government side this afternoon. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 12:05 PM - 0 Comments
Backloading failed because even in very green Europe, economic concerns seemed to trump environmental ones. European Parliamentary members worried that any action that would cause the price of carbon to rise would add to European industry’s already high energy costs. Europe, unlike the U.S., doesn’t have relatively cheap, relatively clean natural gas to help cushion that blow. At the same time, European nations like Germany are rethinking some of their renewable energy policies, concerned by the rising cost of electricity. It looks like a textbook example of what Roger Pielke Jr. calls the “iron law of climate policy“: when climate policy starts to hurt economically, even the greenest states start to back away.
It’s possible that backloading may get a second chance before the European Parliament, and even without a viable carbon market, Europe is still the global leader in climate action. Nor is the ETS the only game in town. California launched its own cap-and-trade system this year—though that’s come under political pressure as well—and Australia has introduced a price on carbon. China may do so as well. But the hope that we may be able to reduce carbon emissions the same way we cut pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide—through a well-run cap-and-trade —seems to be dimming, a victim of its own complexity and a sluggish global economy. That might leave the door open for other policies, including a straight carbon tax, more support for renewables or increases R&D funding for carbon-free power. We could use all three, but carbon markets may be finished. If carbon trading can’t make it in Europe, it can’t make it anywhere.
China is apparently undeterred.
The developments in Europe might be interpreted in one of two ways: either it is evidence that carbon markets won’t work or it puts the onus on those who propose carbon markets to explain how their proposal accounts for the shortcomings of the European system.
There is, it seems to me, another looming issue, another one which the NDP will have to account for. Let’s say that, by 2015, British Columbia has expanded its carbon tax (as the BC NDP currently proposes), Alberta has increased its carbon tax (as the Progressive Conservative government there seems to be considering), Quebec has a cap-and-trade system linked with California (as both jurisdictions are moving towards) and, say, one other province has implemented a carbon-pricing mechanism of some kind (Manitoba? Ontario? Newfoundland?). How then does the NDP reconcile its proposal for a national cap-and-trade system with all of that? What do the Liberals—Mr. Trudeau having offered vague support for a price on carbon—propose? Do we end up with a number of different approaches—carbon taxes, carbon markets and regulatory regimes—functioning within the country? Does that make sense? Is it feasible or political possible to build a national carbon-pricing mechanism, or at least a national approach that takes into account provincial jurisdiction?
Jean Charest thinks the country is headed towards a carbon tax. Somewhere Stephane Dion is either nodding grimly or screaming.
Update 4:19pm. Further to this post, I sent along a question to the NDP side: How would an NDP government reconcile a national cap-and-trade system with provincial jurisdictions that already have carbon-pricing mechanisms? The response from Thomas Mulcair’s office is as follows.
We will deal with this as we’ll deal with every other issues of shared responsibility: by cooperation.
I’ve asked a few smart people if they have any thoughts on the way forward and hope to post those in the next while.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
The most immediate concern is, then, that the current approach will fall significantly short of yielding the reductions required to meet Canada’s stated target (17% below 2005 levels by 2020). Indeed, there is presently no basis for a serious claim that we will meet our Copenhagen commitment. Current Environment Canada projections are for a 113 megatonnes shortfall in reduction by 2020 (that is assuming that all the measures and regulations that governments across Canada are putting in place have the desired effect). That would mean that we will have succeeded in reducing emissions compared to 2005 levels by only 20 megatonnes or less than 3%.15 No government could be proud of such ‘achievement’.
Unfortunately, constructive dialogue on how we might reduce the gap has ceased, and name-calling has taken its place. Carbon pricing of any type is characterized as a ‘tax on everything’. This serves neither the goals of the government nor the well-being of Canadians, particularly since it is far from clear that the targets to which we are committed are adequate for the long term.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 15, 2013 at 9:28 AM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Press notes the recent visits of Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Environment Minister Peter Kent to the Washington, DC.
In separate appearances and meetings, Kent and Redford both stressed that Canada was taking climate change very seriously and that strong measures were in the works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector … Gone was the federal talk about any form of carbon pricing being akin to a carbon tax that would raise the price of everything. Indeed, Kent took pains to stress that while Ottawa likes its regulatory approach to emissions, he was open to provinces setting up their own plans — as long as such arrangements lead to actual reductions in emissions.
So the Harper government might believe that putting a price on carbon is a terrible idea, but it respects provincial jurisdiction enough to refrain from criticizing provincial governments that decide to implement cap-and-trade systems or carbon taxes. That’s an entirely admirable and mature approach to federalism.
Peter Kent explains…
“There hasn’t been a great deal of subtlety in talking about carbon pricing…
… There are those carbon taxes where the revenues go into general revenue and do not guarantee the reduction of a single ton of greenhouse gases. (But) Alberta has a tech fund wherein their revenues are focused only, and in isolation, on technology to achieve further ghg reductions than the emitters in that province are already able to achieve.”
Less than a year ago, Mr. Kent ventured that “carbon pricing in any form is a carbon tax.” There would not seem to have been any subtlety left at that point, at least so far as the Conservatives were concerned. A few months later, Conservative MP John Williamson explained that “cap and trade or cap and tax, a price on carbon is a tax on carbon.”
Over the subsequent weeks and months, the Conservatives have repeatedly criticized the NDP’s plan to implement a cap-and-trade system: saying, for instance, that ”a carbon tax like the NDP is proposing would critically hurt Canadian families” and that “the economy would be lost and family would be lost” and that “this costly new tax that will kill jobs, stall the economy and ruin winter” and so on.
So what is Mr. Kent saying now? Is he saying that carbon taxes aren’t necessarily bad? Is he saying that Alberta’s carbon tax is somehow okay or at least somehow less ruinous?
Let’s go back to CP’s report of last Wednesday—when CP paraphrased Mr. Kent as saying the federal government is not against carbon pricing. Here is what Mr. Kent was quoted as saying in that piece.
“I’m saying that carbon taxes where the taxes go into general revenues…
The general “revenue” argument is not new, but I’m still not sure how that matters if, in Mr. Kent’s opinion, any price on carbon is equivalent to a carbon tax and if, as it seems the government wishes to convey, a carbon tax is an inherently bad idea. Unless, again, we’re allowing now that a price on carbon isn’t necessarily a terrible thing…
…, as the NDP’s would, for social engineering, not for the reduction of (greenhouse gases)…
This particular matter of revenue is perhaps an interesting and worthwhile nuance to explore: that any revenue derived from cap-and-trade or a carbon tax should not be used for social programs. If that’s what Mr. Kent means by “social engineering.” This point has been raised in the past: Stephane Dion’s Green Shift used some of the revenue to reduce poverty and Brian Topp raised it as a point of concern during the NDP leadership race.
In 2011, the NDP committed almost all of the revenues from cap-and-trade to what it termed “green initiatives.” And when I spoke with Thomas Mulcair in December, I asked him about this point. He said then that “there has to be an equivalent amount that goes into environmental purposes” and “it has to be concentrated in those provinces, those areas where that money is being generated.”
Is there a possible difference between “environmental purposes” and “the reduction of (greenhouse gases)”? Maybe. But is that suddenly all that remains of this apparent disagreement over the NDP’s cap-and-trade platform?
… that’s something we would consider to be … unworthy,” he said.
So is there a kind of carbon tax that Mr. Kent would consider worthy? Is Alberta’s carbon tax worthy?
The global debate about how to reduce carbon has not really taken a hard look at how effective carbon taxes are in actually cutting emissions, he added.
Fair enough. There are certainly questions to be asked. Which approach would be most effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Cap-and-trade, a carbon tax or regulations. Which would be the most cost-effective and efficient option? Here is Stephen Gordon’s take. Here is Jack Mintz’s take. If Mr. Kent is willing to engage it, there is certainly an interesting debate to be had.
I asked Mr. Kent’s office two questions after reading CP’s story on Wednesday. Here are those questions, with the responses provided.
Does Mr. Kent not categorically oppose all forms of carbon pricing?
Our government has been clear: we will not implement a carbon tax.
And what is Mr. Kent’s opinion of the kind of carbon tax used in Alberta?
With regards to Alberta, the Minister was very clear in the press conference and I refer you to the following statement from the presser on Wednesday: “Well, we’ve been working in terms of our federal sector by sector regulatory process with the oil and gas sector since late 2011. We continue to work with – with the sector, with stakeholders, with the provinces – Alberta and other provinces that are blessed with oil and gas. But I think it would be premature today to talk about where we are.”
These responses didn’t seem to sufficiently explain Mr. Kent’s position on carbon pricing, so I tried again.
The minister is quoted today as saying: “There hasn’t been a great deal of subtlety in talking about carbon pricing There are those carbon taxes where the revenues go into general revenue and do not guarantee the reduction of a single ton of greenhouse gases. (But) Alberta has a tech fund wherein their revenues are focused only, and in isolation, on technology to achieve further ghg reductions than the emitters in that province are already able to achieve.” Is he saying that carbon taxes are not necessarily bad policy?
To that I was told to refer to the previous responses.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 12, 2013 at 11:18 AM - 0 Comments
The Natural Resources Minister talks to La Presse.
“I think that people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees,” Oliver said in an editorial board interview with Montreal daily newspaper, La Presse. “Scientists have recently told us that our fears (on climate change) are exaggerated.” Oliver was not able to identify which scientists he was using as a source, the newspaper reported.
Less than four years ago, Stephen Harper identified climate change as a profound threat.
In the interests of time, allow me to focus my remarks this afternoon on the fight against climate change, perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today.
Canada may be a small contributor to global warming – our greenhouse gas emissions represent just 2% of the earth’s total – but we owe it to future generations to do whatever we can to address this world problem.
Update 7:33pm. The Canadian Press adds some of Mr. Oliver’s comments.
In an editorial board meeting with La Presse in Montreal, Oliver cited scientists who say that fear of climate change has been exaggerated. His comments were confirmed through a transcription of that part of the meeting, provided to The Canadian Press on Friday by Oliver’s spokesman.
“I did not say that there is no problem, and I do not say that others (scientists) have said that there is no problem. Instead, they say there is a big problem. But now they say that the problem is not so urgent that they previously thought. Maybe it will take more time,” Oliver said, according to his spokesman. ”But … I do not deny the problem, which is a fundamental problem.”
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 5:12 PM - 0 Comments
So Alberta hasn’t really proposed to increase its carbon price to $40, as reported last week. Speaking with Luiza Savage in Washington, D.C. yesterday, Premier Alison Redford said the much debated 40-40 plan isn’t something “we’ve in any way landed on or proposed.” (Read the full interview here.)
You still need to know about Alberta and its system for pricing carbon. Why? Because it might be the blueprint for federal emission regulations for the oil and gas industry that are expected to — forgive the pun — come down the pipe later this year. Alberta and Ottawa are collaborating “intensely” on the upcoming federal rules for the oil and gas industry, Redford told Maclean’s.
But is Alberta’s setup the model the nation should follow? Here’s what you need to know to start making up your mind:
1. Provincial vs. federal regulations, a bit of history.
In 2006 Ottawa let it be known via the Canada Gazette that it intended to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The approach the government had in mind was the following: target the largest polluters, those with emissions over 100,000 tonnes per year, and use “intensity targets.” That would limit the amount of GHGs per unit of output rather than putting a cap on aggregate emissions. However, the government added, such targets should be “ambitious enough to lead to absolute reductions in emissions and thus support the establishment of a fixed cap on emissions.” (A big hat-tip to University of Alberta professor Andrew Leach here, who wrote this paper.)
Deeds, however, did not follow those words speedily, and a few provinces have since pressed ahead with their own rules. Alberta was the first to put a price on carbon in 2007; a few months later, Quebec imposed a carbon levy on energy producers and a cap-and-trade system in 2011. B.C. followed suit in 2008 with a carbon tax on gasoline and other fuels.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 4:33 PM - 0 Comments
Alberta premier Alison Redford is in Washington, DC today to speak about her province’s energy resources and environmental policies as the Obama administration continues to review the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
She is having meetings on Capitol Hill and gave a speech to the Brookings Institution, in which she made the case that if the cross-border pipeline is rejected, the winner will be Venezuela. Said Redford:
“The opponents of Keystone are, in effect, tilting the playing field in favor of Venezuela, which would be the biggest beneficiary in the absence of Keystone. If it is not Canadian oil sands in those US refineries, it will be Venezuelan heavy oil. Yet Venezuela’s oil has the same carbon footprint, while Venezuela has little of the environmental policies and commitment that we do in Alberta. And importing oil from Venezuela does far less for the US economy and US jobs than Canadian imports.”
I asked her about reports that her government is planning to raise Alberta’s $15 per tonne carbon price to $40 per tonne as a means to getting American approval for the pipeline project — a price that environmental critics say would be still too low. Below are highlights of our conversation:
Q: Washington, DC is very polarized on the issue of oil sands and Keystone XL. So who is left for you to persuade here on your trip?
A: It’s funny. This is my fourth trip down here in the last 18 months. I was thinking about it on my way down yesterday that in some ways the conversation hasn’t changed. But this happens to be a point in time when people are very focused on this issue. So from our perspective, it’s not about a roster of people we are trying to convince. It’s to make sure that we are present in the discussion. So that as the dialogue changes and more people get engaged, we have more of an opportunity to talk about the issues related to the project.
This is an issue about Keystone but we never come to say, ‘We are proponents of Keystone and please approve the project.’ We come to say, ‘We know that in your considerations with respect to this project you are asking questions about Canada and Alberta – what does environmental sustainability look like? How do you balance environmental sustainability and economic development? What are the priorities for Canada and the U.S.?’ For me, part of that dialogue is to have thoughtful conversations with people so that they understand that we are thinking about the same issues, that our values as Canadians are not different than the values of people who are involved in these issues in the United States.
Q: What is the question you get asked most often?
A: I think that the approach that we’ve taken, which gets a very good response, is we don’t ever have people sit down and interrogate us. But what we say is we’re here to talk about what our environmental record has been in Canada. We have a commitment to ensuring that we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions; that we understand that climate change of course is real; and that there are different approaches to deal with this. You have to ensure that you are developing your energy resources in a sustainable way, you have to ensure you are investing in technology, ensure that your extraction is sustainable; that integrated land use management is important and we understand that you need to have a strong regulatory process with respect to water usage, land management, air quality; that communities matter, and that First Nations matter. We want to be able to talk about the fact we have an integrated approach and have had for well over a decade.
Q: It has been reported that you have a carbon tax plan – the 40/40 plan. Is that a part of your effort to get Keystone XL passed?
A: There are two separate pieces to this. One is that Keystone is a particular project and because people are making a decision around that project, they are looking to see what Canada and Alberta are doing around their environmental record, and so we come and talk about that. This story about 40/40 is sort of – how would I say it – it was reported as ‘news.’ It’s actually part of the work we just do on an ongoing basis with the federal government. This happens to be a point in time when Alberta and Ottawa are working intensely on what our new oil and gas regulations will look like with respect to emissions. So 40/40 isn’t a number that we’ve in any way landed on or proposed. I know that is the story out there. But that’s just a story. It’s very much around what are we doing to make sure we continue to be competitive – that we ensure that we are putting in place an integrated approach to economic development and energy.
This can never be a quid pro quo. This isn’t about saying [to the Obama administration], ‘If we were to make changes, please approve the deal.’ That’s not right. That’s not good public policy. In fact, we have never taken that approach with respect to the work that we do on environmental sustainability. So even though it’s been reported as a particular step or a point in time, nothing has dramatically has shifted. It really is just an evolution, an ongoing dialogue we have with the federal government and industry about what we can do to make sure we are still able to achieve our targets in a competitive way.
Q: So you are saying this did not come out of the effort to approve Keystone?
Q: So what was the genesis?
A: There was not a genesis. We have a minister of environment and a minister of energy who meet with their federal counterparts to make sure we are putting in place policies and approach to environmental sustainability that make sense for Canada and Alberta. So it’s not as if there was a point in time that people sat down and said it’s time to make a decision to go in a different direction.
Q: What have you heard from the U.S. administration – how explicit or blunt or vague have they been in saying, “Look, we can’t approve this unless you do more on emissions?” Have you ever heard a message like that?
A: No. I haven’t had any either pointed or vague conversation with respect to these issues that is any different than if I’m sitting in Edmonton and talking to people at a coffee shop. This is what we talk about now, as citizens of the world.
Q: Is 40/40 a specific proposal or a jumping off point? Some environmentalists say you would need $100 per tonne, or $150 per tonne to really get the remissions reductions…
A: But that’s the point. This isn’t a specific proposal. This is part of an evolution with respect to what we do around policy. We’re not negotiating on specifics with environmental groups, we’re not negotiating with anyone. We’re not negotiating on this issue. We are simply developing a policy approach — because at the end of the day, that’s what matters. It has to be sustainable. It has to make sense for Canada’s economy. It has to make sense for Alberta.
Q: So the 40/40 thing is not a policy, it’s just an idea put out there for discussion.. So at the end of the day, it could not happen at all, or it could be a different number?
Q: So you are collecting input into this?
A: Everyone is. If you were to sit down right now with industry in Alberta they would tell you they run numbers like this all the time. It’s not even related to environmental issues. It could be numbers with respect to this issue or with respect to pipeline capacity or how many rail cars they need to be able to contract to export product.
Q: Is it your expectation that at some point the carbon tax in Alberta will be raised from where it is now?
A: I don’t know. And it’s not a carbon tax, it’s a price on carbon – and that’s different. A carbon tax is when you tax emitters and use the money for whatever government may choose to do. We don’t do that. We have a price on carbon, of $15 per tonne, that goes into a technology fund that is then used to invest in projects that will allow for more sustainable development of the resource. It’s not a carbon tax, it’s a price on carbon. There is a difference.
Q: So do you expect to change that $15 – maybe not to $40, but to something else?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Is there some timeline at which these decisions are being made?
Q: So it’s been reported as a new policy but really it’s just an internal conversation?
A: Think about what politicians do every single day, what governments do. We continually try to get ahead of public policy issues.
Q: So this is an internal policy discussion?
A: It’s not even internal. We are talking to industry they are talking to the federal government, and the federal government is talking to us. This is our job. This is what we do.
Q: So you don’t have a particular vision of where this might go?
Q: Will you be discussing it here [in Washington, DC] while you are meeting with people?
A: What we’ve talked about is the fund we have in place. There are still a lot of people here who are surprised by the fact that we have legislation that has put a price on carbon. The governor of Colorado was visiting two weeks ago and I had a chat with him, and he said he didn’t know we had a price on carbon. And it’s important for people to know that.
We’re not down here to pitch a project and say, ‘Boy, if you approve this project, we’ll do all these things.’ What we are here to do is say, ‘We want to tell you what we’ve done because we are proud of what our record has been.” The technology fund, carbon capture and storage, integrated land use planning, ensuring that land, air and water are developed in a sustainable way, an independent monitoring agency that provides real time data, a strong regulatory process. These are all things we’ve already done and we want to make sure people know that.
Q: Do you expect to be coming out with in the next months or a year new steps to get closer to meeting emissions targets?
A: Well, we’re very confident with respect to where we are going already. If there are innovative approaches that allow us to do more, that’s great.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 10:37 AM - 0 Comments
Mike De Souza finds that the Conservatives purchased carbon offsets to account for emissions related to the Vancouver Olympics.
The Harper government paid $226,450 to conserve trees in a British Columbia forest to prevent its activities at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics from contributing to global warming, say newly released internal memos obtained by Postmedia News. The three memos, prepared for Environment Minister Peter Kent, said the money was used to buy certified credits to compensate for about 16,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions generated from federal employee travel, security, the torch relay and other government activities at the Vancouver Olympics, which were hailed as the first carbon neutral games in history…
The total would be equivalent to paying a carbon tax worth about $13.55 per tonne of emissions. It does not include other credits that were donated and purchased by suppliers and sponsors to make the Vancouver event entirely carbon neutral.
But it gets worse. Not only did the Harper government pay for its emissions, it apparently did so with an official pronouncement of pride in having done so.
Today, Canada’s Environment Minister, the Honourable Jim Prentice, announced the Government of Canada’s commitment to offset federal greenhouse gas emissions for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
“Canada is proud to be the first host country in history to help offset the greenhouse gas emissions of its Olympic Games,” said Minister Prentice. “This commitment is one of many ways our Government is contributing to sustainable Games and meeting our global climate change responsibilities.”
Of course, the Olympics occurred in 2010, a year before the Conservatives started criticizing Liberal and NDP plans for cap-and-trade and two years before the Conservatives decided that to put a price on carbon was to wish great suffering upon Canadian families.
That said, the Prime Minister, presumably unaware until now of this price paid, will no doubt now wish to reconsider his generally fond assessment of the Vancouver Olympics. And it is probably a good thing that Jim Prentice quit in November 2010 for he would surely have to resign if he was in cabinet this morning.
The Conservatives on pricing carbon: For it before they were against it before they precipitated it?
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 12:35 PM - 0 Comments
John Ivison explains how the Harper government’s regulations on the oil and gas sector might be implemented.
Mr. Kent was said to be in Alberta last month, meeting with industry executives and there seems to be a broad agreement on both sides. Companies like Exxon, Cenovus Energy and Total are on record as saying a greenhouse gas levy at least brings cost certainty and reduces concern about trade restrictions on oil sands bitumen based on carbon density. While the feds will not impose that tax, their regulations will inevitably lead to a price being placed on carbon…
… eventually, the deal that Mr. Kent is currently negotiating will be released for public discussion. What is it likely to look like? One thing is certain — Ottawa will not be imposing directly anything that walks, talks or quacks like a carbon tax. The most likely scenario would see Ottawa set a target for large emitters across the country. Then, provincial governments would create mechanisms to meet those targets, via a carbon tax or cap and trade system.
For their part, the Harper Conservative are intent on basing the next election campaign message around the NDP’s “dangerous” new taxes and spending schemes.
So, under this scenario, the Conservatives, who promised and advocated for cap-and-trade while opposing a carbon tax, but then decided that cap-and-trade was the same thing as a carbon tax and proceeded to loudly and repeatedly criticize the NDP’s proposal of cap-and-trade, will soon introduce greenhouse gas emission regulations that will lead the provinces to implement carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems, but then the Conservatives will maybe still spend the next election campaign criticizing the NDP’s interest in cap-and-trade.
British Columbia and Alberta already have carbon-pricing policies in effect. Ontario is committed to a cap-and-trade system.The Quebec government is moving forward with a cap-and-trade system. Manitoba has already implemented a price on emissions from coal and would like to see a federal system of carbon pricing established. The Saskatchewan government is willing to put a price on carbon. And the Newfoundland government is considering a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system as options.
President Barack Obama favours cap-and-trade. Asked in February what the Harper government would do if the United States implemented cap-and-trade, Joe Oliver said that scenario was a hypothetical he didn’t want to get into.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
On the environment, Redford said she would like to see the federal government adopt a strategy similar to Alberta’s $15-per-tonne carbon levy on large industrial emitters that are unable to meet their greenhouse-gas reduction targets, with the cash then used to improve environmental outcomes. “We think that’s the right approach,” Redford said, when asked whether Ottawa should introduce a federal carbon levy on large emitters.
Alberta’s carbon tax of sorts has generated more than $300 million for a technology fund used to green operations and improve environmental performance. “The federal government needs to be supportive of that policy (setting a carbon price) in areas where it can actually make a difference to the outcome. Simply symbolically setting a price doesn’t actually achieve an outcome,” she added. “So I think it’s fine to set targets, I think it’s time to be supportive of sectors that are looking to try to reduce emissions and to be able to partner together on that.”
But Ms. Redford’s office now says that she wasn’t quite endorsing a national carbon tax.
Premier Alison Redford did not advocate for a national carbon tax as today’s PostMedia story implies. The Premier was clear that Alberta’s climate change actions to date—including the creation of a fund for clean technology projects—have been successful and are driving innovation. Clean technology initiatives are worthy of consideration as the federal government develops new greenhouse gas emission regulations for the oil and gas industry.
John Baird once bragged of plans to establish a clean technology fund with the proceeds of a $15-per-tonne carbon price, but the Harper government has since decided that any price on carbon is a carbon tax.
But then Ms. Redford also prefers her province’s carbon levy to a cap-and-trade system (another policy the Harper government used to support).
Redford, however, doesn’t believe a widespread cap-and-trade emissions reduction scheme is necessary or the best approach for the federal government, questioning whether it would actually be effective in reducing emissions. “The goal is not to do something as a PR stunt; it’s to actually do something that is going to make a difference to outcomes. It can be a price on carbon, it can be work on consumer policies, energy efficiency, dealing with greening the (electricity) grid, that kind of thing,” she said.
But then the Alberta NDP doesn’t think the province’s carbon levy is sufficient.
“The ad is extremely misleading with respect to Alberta’s environmental record. It says that we have put a price on carbon. What we have is a very low price put on carbon intensity emissions,” Mason said.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 11, 2013 at 2:07 PM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister’s Office has lately been uploading old speeches of Mr. Harper’s to YouTube. On Friday, for instance, this speech from June 2007, delivered in Berlin, was added.
In it, Mr. Harper explains, in part, his government’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas thusly.
So we vowed to develop a real plan – with real, absolute, mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. A plan that’s practical, affordable and achievable. A plan that’s balanced and market-driven. A plan that deals with our growing economy and population…
Of course, it may not be possible for all countries, or all industries and firms within all countries, to reduce their emissions by the same amount on the same time line. That is why other compliance measures such as carbon offsets and carbon trading are also necessary. They are part of Canada’s plan and, provided they are not just an accounting shell game, they must be part of a universal, international regime.
It was about seven months later that the Harper government started explicitly endorsing the idea of a “price on carbon.” And it was almost exactly a year after his speech in Berlin that the Prime Minister gave this speech in London (which was uploaded to YouTube four years ago), in which he managed to both support a price on carbon and oppose a carbon tax.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 6:03 PM - 0 Comments
Ezra Levant, the carnival barker of the conservative movement in Canada and the foremost heel to Canadian progressives, was trying to explain the problem with environmentalism.
“I have no problem with treating the environment on an issue by issue basis: we’ve got to fix this or solve that,” he said. “But environmentalism is a philosophy, like most words ending with ism. Socialism, communism… hinduism, it’s a faith. And so the question is if your true ideology is conservatism or libertarianism, and you also think you can be an environmentalism person, you may have a conflict there.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 4, 2013 at 12:31 PM - 0 Comments
Sustainable Prosperity finds that oil and energy companies are already building a price on carbon into their estimates.
The 10 companies surveyed in the report including BP, Shell, Suncor, Statoil, Devon, Cenovus, Penn West, Enbridge, Ontario Power Generation and SaskPower are using shadow carbon prices of between C$15-68/tonne carbon dioxide equivalent (Co2e), reflecting a range of expectations about the actual short and long-term carbon price. The top of the range represents a price projection for future years: C$48 – $68/tonne for 2020 and up to 2040.
A shadow carbon price is the hypothetical price of carbon used voluntarily by a company, reflecting the company’s expectations of the future market carbon price or regulatory cost, or the cost of reducing or offsetting carbon emissions. The company’s choice of shadow carbon price reflects the actual regulatory price (such as Alberta’s C$15/tonne contribution to the province’s Climate Change Emissions Management Corporation) and the expected future increase in that price, among other factors. “Current carbon pricing systems in Canada provide varying levels of policy certainty for companies. That is why more and more companies are using a shadow carbon price: to ensure they are prepared for the future when carbon emissions are likely to be priced.” said Mike Wilson, Sustainable Prosperity’s Executive Director.
Note here that a price on carbon includes the possibility of costs related to either market-based solutions (cap-and-trade, carbon tax) or regulation.
Of course, the Harper government also uses a price on carbon in its estimates.
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 9:18 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Canada can teach the United States some lessons on reducing greenhouse gas…
OTTAWA – Canada can teach the United States some lessons on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Sunday in a blunt rejoinder to recent chiding by the Obama administration on climate change.
Baird told The Canadian Press that the U.S. should actually be following Canada’s lead on working to cut back on the use of coal-fired electricity generation.
Baird was responding to U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson who told The Canadian Press separately last week that President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address calling for swift action on climate change should also be interpreted as a challenge to Ottawa.
“We adopted the same goals and objectives in terms of climate change … We worked with the Obama administration and harmonized vehicle emission standards, light truck standards,” Baird said Sunday in a telephone interview from Lima, Peru.
“We’re also taking concrete direct action with respect to dirty, coal fired electricity generation.
“Maybe the United States could join Canada on that file.”
Baird was mindful that environmentalists were descending Sunday on Washington for a major protest of Canada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry Alberta oilsands bitumen to the U.S. Gulf coast.
Following a similar protest last year, Obama postponed the controversial Keystone decision until after the November presidential election.
The Harper government has for years said it would remain in lockstep with the U.S. on climate change, but Baird said Canada has gone even further on coal.
Baird’s defence of Canada’s environmental record appears to be part of a renewed initiative by the Harper government to burnish Canada’s climate credentials as Keystone’s future once again hangs in the balance.
“We’re the only country in the world that’s committed to getting out of the dirty coal electricity generation business,” Baird said.
“These are real meaningful steps that will either meet or even exceed the work that’s been done thus far in the United States.”
A spokesman for Greenpeace Canada, however, said the federal government was not responsible for the coal generation reductions.
“John Baird shouldn’t try to take credit for Ontario’s phase out of coal-fired electricity, although environmentalists would welcome federal assistance in making progress in other provinces,” Keith Stewart said in an email.
“The reality, however, is that the federal coal regulations delay any serious action until after 2025.”
The coal lobby was one of the many interests to which Obama was beholden as he fought for re-election last year. Coal is a major industry in the key swing states in the U.S. Midwest, which Obama counted on to win back the White House.
But the coal lobby now fears that Obama will take a harder line on their industry, now that he is secure in a second term. It points to the omission of coal in his State of the Union address as he touted the possibilities of wind and solar energy alternatives.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been a climate change crusader, was non-committal on the fate of the Keystone project during a joint news conference with Baird in Washington earlier this month.
All Kerry would say is that a decision is coming soon.
Baird reiterated Sunday that the pipeline is good for job creation in the both countries, as well as for weaning the U.S. off of less secure sources of oil in the Arab world and Venezuela, which he visits this coming week.
“They (the U.S.) are our best trading partner, and if you want to create jobs, and you want to have energy security for North America, obviously the pipeline is a central part of that,” said Baird.
Environment Minister Peter Kent also said last week that it won’t take much work to boost Canada’s credibility in the U.S. on climate change.
“We’re doing a lot. Our American friends know that.”
But the Harper government is clearly bristling at the messaging coming out of Washington since Obama’s re-election, and following last week’s State of the Union, on the need to combat climate change.
“We all need to do as much as we can. And that is true in your country and in mine,” Jacobson told The Canadian Press after the speech.
“Obviously the more that the energy industry — whether it is the oilsands in Canada or the energy industry in the United States, or any place else — the more progress they can make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce their consumption of water, to other environmental consequences, the better off we all are.”
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that he sent a follow-up letter to Jacobson on Friday seeking clarification of his comments.
“We, in Canada, do have to do a better job in getting our message out. We have a record on the environment here. It needs to be better. We’re working on that,” said Wall.
“But we also haven’t done a very good job of telling our story.”
Wall and 10 Republican governors sent a letter to the White House last month urging Keystone’s approval.
By Andy Blatchford - Friday, February 15, 2013 at 6:45 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – Canada’s environment minister says it won’t take much work to boost the…
MONTREAL – Canada’s environment minister says it won’t take much work to boost the country’s credibility in the United States when it comes to climate change.
Peter Kent made the remark in Montreal on Friday, a couple of days after the Obama administration challenged Canada to act more aggressively on climate change.
His comment came as Canada desperately seeks ways to get Alberta’s oilsands bitumen to markets, including the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project to pump oil though the U.S.
The pipeline debates appear to be catapulting climate change back up the political agenda, with the future success of Canada’s oil industry potentially hinging on the outcome.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 4:39 PM - 0 Comments
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, asked after QP today about the possibility of the United States adopting a cap-and-trade system, as raised by President Barack Obama in the State of the Union address.
Reporter: If they move to cap-and-trade, is that an initiative this government would support as well?
Oliver: Well, that’s speculative and hypothetical. I don’t want to get into that.
Mr. Oliver tried to be more categorical in November, but was undone by the convoluted history of his party’s position (ie. previously opposed to a carbon tax, while in favour of cap-and-trade, but now opposed to cap-and-trade, while saying cap-and-trade is the same thing as a carbon tax).
There are two ways to clarify matters now. Mr. Oliver could say that the Harper government would never, ever, ever, ever implement a cap-and-trade system, even if the United States did so. Or Mr. Oliver could say that, while the Harper government currently opposes cap-and-trade, it would have to at least consider implementing such a system if the United States did so. Although the latter would likely require some degree of explanation given the repeated and strenuous condemnation of cap-and-trade that has been offered these recent months.
This is probably academic (cap-and-trade is unlikely to pass the House of Representatives, although I’m interested to see if a “market-based solution” becomes more interesting to Republicans when the alternative—regulations—comes into focus). But this issue also seems to be of great and pressing concern to many Conservative MPs, so we should all try to strive for the greatest clarity.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
About midway through his State of the Union Address last night, Barack Obama turned to climate change and put the following to Congress.
I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
What did John McCain and Joe Lieberman propose? Cap-and-trade.
So the President’s preferred policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions would seem to be cap-and-trade. (Note: this would also seem to mean he differentiates between cap-and-trade and a carbon tax, which his office dismissed in November. And so dies a talking point.) If Congress fails to act in that regard, he will presumably move forward with regulations.
That’s basically the opposite of the Harper government’s position. Having proposed and pursued a market-based solution (cap-and-trade), the Harper government now advocates government regulation as its preferred policy while loudly and repeatedly claiming that cap-and-trade would be ruinous for the country.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 1, 2013 at 12:56 PM - 0 Comments
Bloomberg looks at support within the oil industry for a carbon tax.
The contradiction of an industry seeking a new tax on itself has emerged in energy-rich Canada because producers are concerned the crude they process from tar-like sands will be barred from foreign markets for releasing more carbon in its production than competing fossil fuels.
Oil companies operating in Canada such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Total SA (FP) of France and Canada’s Cenovus Energy Inc. (CVE) plan to convert billions of barrels of the sticky bitumen into diesel and gasoline. Under foreign and domestic pressure, they now see a greenhouse-gas levy helping to provide access to markets and more predictable costs for Canada’s biggest export industry, which shipped C$68 billion ($68 billion) of oil in 2011.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 25, 2013 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, calls for a price on carbon as part of an agenda to deal with climate change.
The world’s top priority must be to get finance flowing and get prices right on all aspects of energy costs to support low-carbon growth. Achieving a predictable price on carbon that accurately reflects real environmental costs is key to delivering emission reductions at scale. Correct energy pricing can also provide incentives for investments in energy efficiency and cleaner energy technologies.
A second immediate step is to end harmful fuel subsidies globally, which could lead to a 5 percent fall in emissions by 2020. Countries spend more than $500 billion annually in fossil-fuel subsidies and an additional $500 billion in other subsidies, often related to agriculture and water, that are, ultimately, environmentally harmful. That trillion dollars could be put to better use for the jobs of the future, social safety nets or vaccines.