Climate Change – a political hot potato


Climate Change Shouldn’t be Political

We take many things the government does for granted, regardless of the political party in power: Social services, education, emergency services, transportation infrastructure, waste management and clean water all happen reliably, no matter who’s leading.  Why can’t climate change mitigation and adaptation be on that list?

I’m over the politicization of climate change. It’s tiring, counterproductive and often embarrassing.  I realize that at both the provincial and federal levels, political parties are all doing their best to get elected; doing so on the back of climate change, however, is wrong.   We should be better than that.

While I’m not a big fan of California’s carbon market framework, I am in awe of the states’ commitment to climate change mitigation, and its ability to stay the course regardless of who’s in power.  Both Democratic and Republican leaders in California get “the environment” and both are committed to building the economy while reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Why can’t we do that in Canada?  Why can’t political leaders put the environment ahead of the party the way they do their commitment to provide emergency services?

The fact is that they can if they want to. We know this because they’ve done it in the past.  For proof we need only look to the Acid Rain Accord, signed by the US and Canada in 1991.

The Acid Rain Accord created the first Cap & Trade system in the world and was implemented to reduce SO2 emissions in the most cost-effective manner. It was signed by Richard Nixon and Brian Mulroney (a republican and conservative) and it’s been maintained by all subsequent federal governments in the USA and Canada since.  A price on SO2 emissions was set back in 1991 because the great lakes and forests were dying, public health was being impacted and buildings made of marble and limestone were corroding.

Bad things were happening so Governments acted to reduce SO2 emissions – and it worked! It worked because they created a stable emissions reduction market, but it mostly worked because those in power chose to make it work.

Why can’t the various political parties in Canada can’t choose to do something similar today? The environment is apolitical. All we seem to hear in Canada regarding carbon taxes, for instance, is that political parties are either for them or against them. With no middle ground, there’s not even a starting point for meaningful discussion.

My advice to Canada’s political parties is to find the middle ground. Your job is to do what’s best for the people of Canada and for the land we live on. Your priority should not be to do what’s best for your party, the federal or provincial treasury or  to get elected.

To all the elected officials in Canada I say stop fighting and start collaborating. Clearly, you can’t agree on the carbon tax, so agree on something else. Something fundamental to all of Canada and something that’s been proven to work, like developing a robust emissions reduction market that all governments can support.

Do that and you’ll provide industry with much-needed market certainty and stability, which will result in investment in technologies and projects that reduce GHG emissions. Do nothing, then nothing changes – and we know the status quo is unsustainable.  We have the experience required to build a world class emissions market. I urge our elected officials to act now.

Develop a results-oriented, market-based climate policy that respects:

  • Substantial investment of over a billion dollars already made in the sector
  • People who work in the oil, gas and power production sectors;
  • The fact that our natural resources are precious and should be valued;
  • The scientific evidence calling for corporations, investors, governments and individuals to reduce GHG emissions; and
  • The ability for markets to drive down emissions in the most cost-effective manner

In 2018 the value of global carbon markets was $82B USD[1].  Greenhouse Gas Emissions are the acid rain of this generation. Together, it’s not only possible to make Canada a leader in this expanding global market, but it’s the chance to positively impact the Canadian environment and people for generations to come.