Sunday, April 29, 2007

Baird's claim to "most agressive plan" finally deflated

Every time Baird has been interviewed recently, he's claimed that his new plan is "one of the most aggressive plans to tackle greenhouse gases and air pollution in the world". (See here or here). At first (before the plan was leaked), I felt a tiny, tiny ray of hope from this statement. Now, it just makes me gag.

Last night, CP released story that finally deflates this claim:

Just as Environment Minister John Baird was bragging that Canada now has one of the "most aggressive" anti-climate change plans in the world, Denmark's energy minister was inadvertently helping to punch holes in the claim.

Flemming Hansen, on a two-day trip to Canada, was explaining to an audience at Carleton University on Thursday how renewable sources would account for 30 per cent of Danish energy consumption by 2025. (Canada's is currently 17 per cent).

The oil-exporting country has long made consumers and industry pay hefty carbon taxes on gasoline and cars. Its energy consumption has been reduced to 1975 levels even as its economy has continued to grow.

Because of drastic measures taken over the last decade, the country is struggling to find additional ways to cut emissions and meet its Kyoto commitment - but it still believes it'll come in somewhere around 3 per cent over the target.

That's considerably more aggressive than Baird's plan, under which Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are supposed to "stabilize" from last year's levels by 2010 - 38 per cent higher than the Kyoto commitment.

I've been wondering if he had any evidence to back up his assertion. The story says:

Baird's assertion that Canada is among the best in the pack was not backed up by any government paperwork and questions put to Environment Canada bureaucrats were not answered Friday. For example, are we being compared to all countries, or just those in the industrialized world?

A spokesman for Baird said that the claim was based on Canada's "actual carbon output" and the projected impact of the newly promised reductions on a "national basis . . . over the course of the next five years."

Yet, much of the reductions in Baird's plan don't occur in the first five years. For instance:

  • Major industrial emitters will not have to start cutting their emissions until 2010.
  • In 2010, polluters will be able to meet 80 per cent of their reduction obligations either by buying credits from a technology research fund or helping to fund green projects internationally, leaving only a fraction devoted to actual reductions. If a company's production booms, it could actually increase carbon output.
  • Some polluters who just started operations won't have to make any reductions at all in the next five years.
  • There are no taxes directed at Canadians to change consumption patterns.
  • A promise to regulate better efficiencies in the automobile industry will kick in for model year 2011. But because the commitment hinges on the negotiation on a new North American standard, there is no guarantee any changes will actually occur.

In addition, some economists are questioning whether Baird's plan will even work at all.

Chris Green, an economist at McGill University, said he found it difficult to comment on the possible impact on consumer prices because he finds the plan confusing.

He said he does not understand how the targets in the plan can be achieved.

So basically, it's all lies (or "spin", if you prefer). As usual!


Lord Kitchener's Own said...

It' fascinating too that Denmark now figures they'll come in at around 3% above their target. Just 4 years ago, they were about 35% above their target (source). So in just 4 years, they've gone from 35% above their target, to just 3% above. That's pretty impressive. And aggressive. Denmark was essentially as behind just four years ago as we are today, and have almost gotten back on track.

It's especially impressive when you compare Canada's target under Kyoto to Denmark's. Canada's Kyoto target is to reduce emissions by 6% below 1990 levels. Denmark's Kyoto target is to reduce emissions by 21% below 1990 levels.

So, Denmark has gone from about 35% above target to 3% above target in four years (for a target 3 times more aggressive than ours). The Tory plan for Canada is to go from 35% above target, to 11% above target, in 13 years. Does that look "aggressive" to you???

Now, imagine if we were comparing ourselves against the countries that are actually going to hit their targets.


ydzabelishensky said...

Thank you very much for the insightful comment and link to a document showing how much of a challenge Denmark has had to overcome.

The Harper Government is an international embarrassment for Canada. The sooner the Opposition gets their act together and brings them down, the more time we would have to try to get as close as possible to our Kyoto targets. As you say, the Opposition already has a coherent alternative plan.

I also like your proposed Tory Campaign Slogan :-)

Simon Donner said...

As we saw with the Liberals, an emissions policy has to be about more than naming targets. While I like your point that Baird's claims are clearly false, the real problem is that under this plan, it is unlikely Canada could come close to meeting the weak 2020 target (since there are no hard targets on industry).

Perhaps the federal government will start to learn from the provinces - like BC - that appear to be attacking emissions reductions seriously