Voting green in the Canadian Elections
If you want to cast your vote for the environment in the upcoming Canadian elections, then here is a piece that will try to help you decide how to do that.
It's a good thing that the environment is such an important topic in the upcoming elections, but while all the parties agree that emissions from fuels need to be reduced, there is very little agreement on how to do that.
There is two choices essentially. A carbon tax on carbon-based fuels and a 'cap and trade' system, which puts a limit on carbon emissions.
A carbon tax applies a cost per tonne for carbon emissions from fuels such as coal, natural gas, heating oil, gas and diesel fuel. Some of these fuels are dirtier that others however.
A cap and trade system, allows each company to have a carbon allowance and can buy carbon credits from companies that do not use all of theirs, or that company can also sell their credits. This sets up a price for carbon and means companies have to stay within a certain range or risk paying a monetary price.
So let's see where the parties stand on these ideas:
The Conservative Party The Conservative plan has avoided setting an overall cap on carbon. Instead, it has required companies in regulated sectors to progressively reduce the amount of carbon used for every unit of production. But if they exceed their reduction targets, they can sell or trade credits. And credits are available for cutting emissions sooner than planned. Critics say that under this system, if production overall increases, regardless of how efficient it is, so will carbon emissions. The Liberal Party Liberal Leader Stephan Dion announced a Green Shift policy in June, saying that the Liberals wanted to "cut taxes on things we want more of, such as income, investment and innovation," and shift taxes "to what we want less of: pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and waste." The Liberal plan proposes that: • A $10-per-tonne tax be levied on carbon emissions the first year.
• The carbon tax be increased by $10 per tonne each year until it reaches $40 per tonne.
• Gasoline at the pump, which is already taxed, will not be subject to the carbon tax.
• The tax be income neutral by using money it raises to reduce personal and corporate taxes. The tax cuts for corporations are aimed at getting them to invest in reducing the amount of pollution their businesses generate.
The cap and trade system is the basis of the whole NDP environmental platform.
NDP Leader Jack Layton surprised everyone by not supporting the Liberal proposal for a carbon tax. Layton said that he “welcomes the debate” but that he isn’t convinced that cap and trade and carbon tax necessarily “complement” each other. Cap and trade makes sure that the biggest polluters pay the most and moves that money more quickly into solutions, he said.
The Green Party supports the Liberal's Green Shift plan, and the Green's platform also includes for a 'cap and trade' system.
Elizabeth May has criticized Layton for not supporting the carbon tax, and says his platform will do more to hurt the climate than help it.
So each of the parties have a different stance on how to deal with Canada's Kyoto agreement.
"The environment as a central issue ... that's something we haven't seen in Canada yet," says Mark Winfield, a political scientist and professor of environmental studies at York University in Toronto.
This is not a simple issue to decipher.
The Conservatives do not believe that the Kyoto targets can be met by the 2008-2012 deadline, without some kind of a recession.
In a nutshell, the NDP and Bloc Québécois still believe, at least publicly, that Canada can reach its Kyoto target (563 million tonnes annual emissions) by 2012 or thereabouts, which would require a reduction of approximately 30 per cent from current GHG emissions of just over 740 MT.
Under the Green Shift plan, the Liberals want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, with an increase to at least 25 per cent if other countries take on comparable efforts.
The Conservatives want to reduce emissions by 20 per cent below 2006 levels by 2020. Their big cuts would not take place for another 10 or 20 years, when the first set of "hard caps" under their proposed legislation would kick in.
One has to wonder however, whether these plans will actually reduce emissions or whether they will just reduce the intensity of emissions.
The Liberals' new Green Shift plan talks of aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. The party wants that to rise to at least 25 per cent if other countries take on comparable efforts.
The NDP wants the Kyoto targets met by 2012; it also wants a further 25 per cent cut in emissions over the 1990 baseline by 2020 (449 MT); and it is proposing what it calls a science-based target of 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.
The Bloc wants Kyoto met as well and notes that Quebec, with its huge hydroelectricity infrastructure, is only eight per cent above the Kyoto target at the moment.
The Green party has argued for a 30 per cent reduction over the 1990 baseline by 2020 and an 80 per cent reduction by 2050.
Environmentalists say that none of these strategies offer a complete solution to the issue of attacking climate change, and how much the environment will figure in the voting booth remains to be seen.
There are numerous pros and cons for both the carbon tax and the 'cap and trade' system.
But it is up to the voter to decide which platform they like the most, as unfortunately there isn't one party that encompasses a plan for all of these things.
The environmental issue is an important one, but is still not an issue that can be pushed completely to the front, at least, not yet anyway.