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!

Baird's Bull Gets "Gored" -- Baird Responds by Trying to Shoot the Messenger

John Baird attacks Al Gore for calling the latest Conservative scheme
...a "complete and total fraud" that is "designed to mislead the Canadian people".
Far and Wide provides a great rebuttal to Baird's attack:
"Mr. Baird, forever the pitbull, seems to forget the historical facts of a Republican dominated Senate and House of Representatives during the Clinton years, not to mention the fact that he again looks to the past to excuse the NOW. I'm also confident that Gore knows the 'contents of our plan', so his opinion is valid. Given the fact that Baird makes it personal again, and then offers to meet with Gore, I recommend a public debate with either Gore or maybe Suzuki. Afterall, Baird should have no problem arguing the merits of the toughest climate change plan on the globe should he? I agree, these two should really meet, with the cameras rolling."
To save on travel-related carbon emissions, they should do the debate by video link from wherever they are.

Baird would still have to buy extra carbon offsets to cover his hot air. :-)



Saturday, April 28, 2007

"Les Coulisses du Pouvoir" (Télé de Radio Canada), le dimanche, 29 avril 2007 / Sunday, April 29, 2007

J'ai entendu dire qu'ils mentionneraient ce blogue à la chronique blogue de l'émission "Les Coulisses du Pouvoir" (Télé de Radio Canada), le dimanche, 29 avril 2007. L'émission commence à 11 HAE à la SRC et en rediffusion sur RDI à 13 et à 18 HAE... à suivre.

I've heard that they may mention this blog as part of the blog chronicles on the Radio Canada (SRC) TV program "Les Coulisses du Pouvoir" ("The Corridors of Power"). The show starts at 11 AM EDT on regular SRC stations, and repeats at 1 PM and 6 PM EDT on RDI, their Cable TV News Channel... more to follow.

Bienvenue aux lecteurs de radio-canada.ca / Welcome radio-canada.ca Readers

Je remercie M. Philippe Schnobb de radio-canada.ca pour l'honeur de sa recommandation de notre blog, avec trois autres sites Web répondant au dernier plan de Harper ([ 8 h 00 HAE - Environnement ] -- "Le plan Vert... détails et commentaires [...] Un blogue écolo critique le plan Vert"). C'est le seul site web anglais dans sa liste, et nous avons reçu de nombreux visiteurs grâce au lien.

J'avais eu l'idée générale d'ajouter une version française au blogue. Maintenant, je vais y penser plus sérieusement. Mais je ne suis plus qu'un blogueur amateur, avec un job et une famille. Que pensez-vous?

I'd like to thank to Philippe Schnobb of radio-canada.ca for recommending our blog ([ 8 h 00 HAE - Environnement ] -- "Le plan Vert... détails et commentaires [...] Un blogue écolo critique le plan Vert"), along with three other web sites responding to the latest Harper scheme. Ours is the only English-language site on his list, which makes it even more of an honour. We have received numerous visitors thanks to his link.

It's making me think more seriously about adding a French-language version of this blog, an idea that I'd toyed with before. But I'm just an amateur blogger, with work and family obligations. What do you think?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Canadian Government Goes From Failing to Plan to Planning to Fail Kyoto Targets

"The new program does not bring Canada into compliance with its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol—a reduction of emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. Canada’s emissions are currently 30% above 1990 levels, and the new goal puts Canada 11% above its Kyoto targets. Under the new plan, Canada will meet its Kyoto targets in 2025, 13 years late."

(Source: Green Car Congress, based on Globe & Mail and Government Website; emphasis added.)
Of course, Baird's latest scheme would actually regulate "intensity" i.e. GHG emissions per unit of production, not total emissions. If production increases enough, it might wipe out the gains from "intensity". Reaching Kyoto targets may take even longer -- if ever.

So the Harper Government has gone from failing to plan on addressing this issue at all after the last election to deliberately planning to fail our international obligations.

This may end up costing Canada much more than expected. The Harper Government's most detailed document [PDF] explaining their scheme fails to mention that Kyoto has "teeth":
"If a Party [to the Kyoto Protocol] fails to meet its emissions target, it must make up the difference in the second commitment period, plus a penalty of 30%. It must also develop a compliance action plan, and its eligibility to “sell” under emissions trading will be suspended."

(Source: UNFCCC; bolding added; italics in original.)
So much for the Harper Government's scheme reliance on Kyoto Protocol emissions trading to reach some of their goals.

There is also the cost of not directing new business to a greener path right away:
"New facilities will be granted a three-year grace period before they have to meet an emissionintensity reduction target in order to provide sufficient time for the facilities to reach normal operating levels. After the third year, the initial greenhouse gas emission-intensity target will be based on cleaner fuel standards. New facilities will also be required to improve their emission intensity each year by 2%, as with existing facilities. New facilities are defined as those whose first year of operation is 2004 or later."

(Source: Environment Canada)


[satire]
In other news:
  • The Government will introduce a motion in the House of Commons to change the word "Nation" to "Procrastination" in all official documents.
  • The book How to Lose Your International Credibility and Wreck the Planet for Canadians for Dummies, with a Foreword by Rona Ambrose, is headed for the top of the bestseller list.
[/satire]

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's like Christmas!

Obviously, somebody just couldn't wait to hear about Baird's new targets:

The federal Liberals say a main section of the Conservatives' environmental plan was faxed to their offices Tuesday, a potentially significant breach of security.


Only two more sleeps....

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What's Wrong with Baird's Anti-Kyoto "Economics"?

"The purpose of studying economics is... to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists." --Joan Robinson
John Baird claims that complying with Kyoto would cause a recession (Press Release, Full Report). Baird and the economists supporting him ignore the costs of inaction (which could further undermine post-Kyoto talks). They forget that emissions trading creates incentives to cut emissions. Finally, they ignore mitigating economic strategies -- and the many benefits of action. Other economists disagree with Baird, which he has failed to mention. Meanwhile, Germany is already reaping a bonanza of jobs and exports from renewable energy. Why can't we?
  • Failure to properly account for all the costs of inaction.
    • This goes beyond the direct effect of Canada's emissions over a few years on the global climate:
    • By officially giving up on Kyoto for fear of a supposed recession, we would also undermine post-Kyoto negotiations (even more than we already have under this Government). Other countries could use Canada's example as an excuse to delay their own emission reductions for years. The effect on the global climate would be compounded.

    • The fear that we would need a carbon tax of $195 per tonne is based on a rejection of unlimited international trading in carbon credits.
    • If unlimited trading is allowed, the Baird Report itself admits that we would only need to pay the international price of $25 per tonne.
    • So why are they rejecting unlimited international trade in carbon credits? The main argument is this:
"Assuming that 80% or so of Canada's Kyoto target would be met through international credits, somewhere in the range of $6 billion annually would be required for these purchases, while at the same time there would be little incentive for domestic investment in energy efficiency and GHG [Greenhouse Gas] reduction technologies" [emphasis added].
    • Let's see: businesses would pay $6 billion per year for carbon emissions -- but they would have "little incentive" to reduce this cost?! Ignoring a $6 billion/year incentive for energy efficiency and GHG reduction might pass for "economic analysis" around the Harper Cabinet table. But how did it not get red-lined by the (formerly) level-headed economists endorsing the report?

  • Failure to account for the benefits of action, and mitigating economic strategies:
    • "...the report he [Baird] presented also states that its calculations do not take into account the benefits of green technology infrastructure, or the jobs created by new investments in that technology. Neither does it consider the impact of monetary policies the government could implement to diminish losses." (Source: Globe & Mail, emphasis added.

  • Failure to disclose that other economists reviewing the draft Report had refused to endorse it:
"Baird did not mention that other economists who were asked to review the study came to different conclusions.

"'While Canada cannot plausibly meet its Kyoto commitments by domestic action, I think the report overstates the difficulty of implementing policies in the short term,' said David Keith, Canada Research Chair in Energy and the Environment at the University of Calgary.

"'The difficulty of meeting Kyoto is not an excuse for inaction.'"

(Source: Canadian Press, via Yahoo!)


"Great export numbers and thousands of new jobs -- Germany is expecting a 'green' economic boom sparked by its renewable energy sector.

"As early as 2020, sales from wind and solar energy companies will surpass those of automobile and machinery companies, right now among the largest industry sectors in Germany, according to a study from international consulting firm Roland Berger.

'The 'green' sector is turning into a leading sector in Germany,' Torsten Henzelmann, a senior official at Roland Berger, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung weekly. 'It really is a job motor. In 2020, the renewable energy and environment technology sector will employ more people than the machinery or car sector. Today already, companies complain that they can't find enough qualified personnel.'

"The study, commissioned by the German Environment Ministry, polled officials at 1,500 German renewable energy and environment technology firms. [...]

"The world market for environmentally friendly products has a volume of roughly $1.3 billion, and that will double by 2020, the study said. The main drivers of this growth will be renewable energy generation and energy-efficiency technologies, thus handing Germany great chances for additional economic development.

"Already, the country's renewable energy sector is among the most innovative and successful worldwide. Nordex, Repower, Enercon (all wind energy), SolarWorld and Conenergy (solar energy) -- renewable companies based in Germany -- dominate the world market. Every third solar panel and every second wind rotor is made in Germany, and German turbines and generators used in hydro energy generation are among the most popular worldwide.

"Most companies in German told Roland Berger they want to hire more staff because they expect even more growth.

"Nearly 800,000 people work in the German environment technology sector; an estimated 214,000 people work with renewables in Germany, up from 157,000 in 2004, an increase of 36 percent.

'Last year alone, the number of people employed in the German renewable energy sector grew by 24,000,' German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said last month in Berlin. 'This is a real success story.'"

The author of this study has no doubt that setting clear GHG emissions targets would help solidify Germany's lead:

"Berlin should formulate 'clear goals' for carbon dioxide emissions, support innovative research projects and fund "green" education programs at universities." (Emphasis added throughout.)

So the Germans get it. What are we waiting for?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Baird's moving targets

Well, so much for targets that will be "among the toughest in the world". According to a story in the Star, the Tories are still considering a 45-60% reduction by 2050 - but a reduction below 2006 levels! When Ambrose announced these same targets they were relative to 2003 levels.

"We need to constantly pay attention to the base year," said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May at a news conference Tuesday.

"They have actually weakened the target Madame Ambrose announced last fall with the Clean Air Act, which is actually a target for a shrinking Great Lakes, disappearing Arctic ice, storms on our coasts and a dust bowl on our prairies."


I guess the Tories really do think they can pull the wool over our eyes!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Oakville Climate Change Forum

Tonight, I attended an interesting event. The main speaker was Dr. Richard Peltier, a U of T scientist, and one of the lead authors of a chapter in the IPCC's fourth report (AR4). Dr. Peltier gave the same presentation that he gave to the Bill C-30 committee, which is basically an overview of the evidence that humans are causing global warming. His most salient points were:

* Warming will be amplified at high north latitudes. This means that much of Canada would be greatly affected by unchecked warming.

* A "business as usual" scenario means that the global average temperature would rise by around 3.5 degrees. However, the temperature on the continents will increase by around 5 degress, and around 7 degrees for high-north latitudes.

He then showed this graph, which depicts the likely temperature change under different scenarios (A2 being "business as usual"):


He noted that out to 2040, there is very little variation between the scenarios. But the choices we make in the next 20 years will determine the global average temperature in 2100. He said:

"You might say that you don't care about that - that you won't be around then. But, I know that you really do care."


As for what we should do: We must reduce emissions. In Canada, we produce 3-4% of the world's emissions. However on a per-capita basis we are very similar to the US. The oil sands projects are a major cause of us not meeting our Kyoto targets. We need cap and trade - with hard caps. We must provide a legislative environment that encourages creativity in the business sector in reducing emissions.

Chairing the forum was Oakville Mayor Rob Burton. Bonnie Brown, our local MP, and Jack Santa Barbara also spoke. I'll write about what they had to say in another post.

You can read more about Dr. Peltier's work in this Toronto Star article, and in this interview.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"the planet does not have time for the old, tired, cynical game of politics"

I'm coming rather late to the Dion/May blogging party, but I need to say my piece...

May and Dion are absolutely right. I'm very impressed that M. Dion has taken this step to move beyond partisan politics and support Ms. May in Central Nova. In my opinion, we need more of this kind of action. We don't have time to stand around slinging mud at each other. We don't have time to wait for proportional representation.

We need a coalition of progressive, environment-aware politicians to stand together now and get things done - before time runs out. In the end, it won't matter which party they were in, or which party got the most votes or most seats, or who scored the most points in the leader's debate.

We know you can do it - look at the new Bill C-30!

Here is a quote from the Dion/May joint statement:

We have agreed that the country needs a strong signal that puts progress ahead of partisanship. To achieve Kyoto, Canada needs MPs and a government that actually understand the threat of climate change and the need for urgent action. This reality has impelled us to seek limited cooperation. While the need for cooperation may be obvious to the average Canadian, within political parties, one is not supposed to allow even limited cooperation.

We admit we are different from most adversarial, political leaders. We respect each other. We will always put the country and the planet first.


And from Elizabeth May's letter to Green Party members (thanks to Saskboy):

Today, we change the face of Canadian politics. Today we will demonstrate that the Green Party is a serious political party, running to win in ridings across Canada. We will also be making it clear that the planet does not have time for the old, tired, cynical game of politics. We do not have time for games at all. We are serious and we need to put our country and the planet first.



I also enjoyed reading these blog posts on this topic:

Layton whines about May


Lizzie an' Stephane, Huggin' a Tree...

I couldn't agree more!

Climate change forum in Oakville tomorrow

I'm a bit late on this, but I only just found out about it:

A Free, Public Forum on Global Warming
Saturday, APRIL 14, 2007
@ 7:30 pm
at St John’s United Church, 262 Randall Street, in downtown Oakville; chaired by Mayor Robert Burton.


Climate change and global warming are major concerns for Canadians. The recent February 2007 Report by the United Nations International Committee on Climate Change has confirmed that we can expect extremely disruptive consequences for our planet’s environment unless this issue is resolutely dealt with.

Sponsored by the Oakville Centre for Peace, Ecology and Human Rights.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Upcoming Climate Change Actions

I just received an email from the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition about some upcoming actions in Ottawa. Also scroll to the bottom for a Toronto event.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) April 13, Ottawa
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

People concerned about global warming (people not necessarily affiliated with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition... but we still thought you should know) will be going to the Environment Minister John Baird's constituency office on Fri. Apr. 13.

From 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. they'll hold large banners that read "Kyoto Now" for all the passing cars to see.

At 9:30 a.m. they'll head inside to Baird's office to deliver the following message: "Canadians want the government to pass the new and improved Bill C-30 into law, a.s.a.p."

His office is located at 2249 Carling Ave. (in the west end of Ottawa), to see how to get there on the bus, visit this website: http://www.octranspo.com/tps/jnot/startEN.oci

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(2) April 15, Ottawa
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sunday night Sleepover at Stephen's on Sussex, 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 15th at 24 Sussex Drive

That's right, we're going to Camp out for the Climate on Sunday, April 15th on the curb in front of the Prime Minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive.
Parliament returns from the Easter Break on Mon. Apr. 16 and we need to send a message to Stephen Harper that Canadians demand that he pass the new and improved Bill C-30 into law.

We'll sleep under the stars (make sure to bring lots of warm clothes, a sleeping
bag (or two), food and water) and then wake up with the sun on Monday morning to unfurl a huge banner that says "Kyoto Now", which hundreds of people driving by that morning will definitely honk their horns at in support.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(3) April 22, Ottawa
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Earth Day rally on Parliament Hill Sunday April 22nd at 2 p.m.

We're aiming to get at least 1,000 people on Parliament Hill for this event, invite all your friends, family and any one else you think will be interested.

More information is available here, http://www.ourclimate.ca

If you'd like to volunteer to help make this Earth Day event a success, write to ottawa@ourclimate.ca


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(4) April 22, Toronto
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I also found this notice on their web site:

RECLAIM EARTH DAY
SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 1PM
METRO HALL SQUARE (King and John)

Send a WAKE-UP CALL on the CLIMATE CRISIS

Bring a bell to ring!

DEMAND:
Kyoto at a minumum
30% greenhouse gas reductions by 2020
Comprehensive, just, green energy and economic strategy

Followed by a street festival on John Street
3PM–6PM

This event is endorsed by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, Climate Action Network, Greenpeace Canada, Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, Sierra Youth Coalition, Sierra Club, Council of Canadians, Ontario Federation of Labour, Streets are for People, CUPW, Toronto Environmental Alliance, CUPE Ontario, Alliance for Social Change and more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you know of other upcoming events, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bush: Don't worry, be happy!

From the New York Times:

A day after the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had the authority to regulate heat-trapping gases, President Bush said he thought that the measures he had taken so far were sufficient.

But the court’s ruling was being welcomed by Congress and the states, which are already using the decision to speed their own efforts to regulate the gases that contribute to global climate change.

Meanwhile, as Congress gets to work on the issue, the oil, coal, and automobile industries prepare for some heavy-duty lobbying:

“It’s incumbent on everyone to roll their sleeves up, if they haven’t already, to deal seriously with this problem,” said Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association, the trade group for the coal mine operators who will be at the center of the lobbying. “If pain concentrates the mind, there will be more concentration on the issue now.”

[...]

“There are differences within the industry,” Mr. Popovich said, “but we are allied in favor of a solution that preserves coal’s growth in the United States.”


At the same time, individual states continue with their own measures:

At least 300 bills have been filed in 40 states that address heat-trapping gases and climate change in some form, said Adela Flores-Brennan, a policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Let's hope this court decision provides enough force to keep the ball rolling down there - and maybe give us a push too!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Need a break from reading? Excellent climate-change podcasts...

Here are some excellent climate-change related podcasts (click the link to listen, right-click to download):

Taking the Pulse of the Planet: David Suzuki and Stephen Lewis (CBC's Ideas, runs 53:46)

Climate Change and Food Security (CBC's The Current, runs 23:19)

Environmental Journalism & Blackwater USA (CBC's The Current, runs 48:20)

TreeHugger Radio: An Interview with David Suzuki

Monday, April 02, 2007

US Supreme Court Rejects Bush in Global Warming Debate

The EPA must now regulate CO2 and other GHGs as pollutants!

For the first time in its history, the U.S. Supreme Court has waded into the political debate on global warming.

Under the Bush administration, the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA has argued that carbon dioxide and the like aren't pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and therefore, the agency has no power to regulate them.

In a sweeping 5-4 decision released Monday, the Supreme Court rejected that position, declaring that Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars.


See the full story here.

Of course, this doesn't mean we'll see action right away. But it takes away another foot-dragging excuse!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Clean Air and Climate Change Act - Good, but is it enough?

The amended Bill C-30 (the "Clean Air Act", now renamed the "Clean Air and Climate Change Act") has achieved widespread approval from environmentalists and opposition politicians. It has been panned by the Conservatives and the Globe & Mail - which, in itself, makes me think that it's probably a good idea. However, will the targets laid out in the amended Bill be tough enough to save us from disastrous climate change? Or are they only a good first step?

While Minister Baird seems to think that the new Bill is "weaker", environmental groups are giving the revised Bill a big "thumbs up":

“This is a moment of truth for government. We now have a bill that puts us on the right path to honouring our Kyoto obligations, with stronger targets for heavy industry, energy efficiency and long-term greenhouse gas reductions for Canada,” said John Bennett, Executive Director of the Climate Action Network/Réseau action climat Canada.
The Globe and Mail has dumped on the new act, labeling it the Clean Red Tape Act, and calling it "a revenue grab, pure and simple". Since the revenue from the emissions penalties will go back into emission-reducing projects, I can't see where they are coming from. They end by saying "To tackle the real problem of emissions, we need new ideas, not more bureaucracies." Well, if you don't like these ideas, let's hear some others... please!

The Toronto Star says, that "overall it is a much better bill", hints that Harper will re-introduce his own amended version when parliament re-opens in two weeks, and suggests their own list of ways to reduce GHG emissions, including:
  • financial rewards for creating clean power and fuels and for cleaner extraction techniques, while imposing fines or so-called "carbon taxes" on all dirty energy production
  • fuel efficiencies must be increased, more people must stop using their cars to get to work and more goods must be hauled by trains instead of trucks
  • breaks for commuters using public transit and more fuel-efficient vehicles [presumably, they mean better ones than what Harper has already introduced]
  • higher fuel taxes and penalties on gas guzzlers or parking lots
The amended version seems to include most of the changes proposed by the Climate Action Network, many of which were introduced by the NDP, plus changes suggested by Stephane Dion's Liberals. The Green Party of Canada also supports the amended legislation.

Highlights of the new Bill include:
  • implementing the Kyoto targets (6% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012)
  • a carbon budget of 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, 35% by 2035, and 60-80% by 2050
  • a price on carbon emissions for Large Industrial Emitters (starting at $20/ton in 2008 and increasing to $30/ton by 2011, and higher after that)
  • removal of the sections which were widely agreed to have weakened the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
  • creation of "an independent agency to be known as the Green Investment Bank of Canada, which is to be responsible for monitoring and regulating the greenhouse gas emissions of large industrial emitters"
  • provision for a greenhouse gas emissions trading system (cap and trade)
  • a requirement for the government to produce a yearly Climate Change Plan
  • setting ambient air quality standards, with emissions managed on a "zone by zone" basis to achieve the standards
  • energy efficiency standards for all energy-using products the use of which has a significant or an increasing impact on energy consumption in Canada
  • a fuel consumption standard that meets or exceeds international best practices for any prescribed class of motor vehicle for any year
  • a fuel efficiency labeling scheme for motor vehicles
While the goal of 60-80% reduction by 2050 sounds ambitious (and it is!), it's possible that even the targets listed in the new Bill do not go far enough. For example, the target of 35% by 2035 would be seen as far too little, too late by people who agree with George Monbiot:

If we’re to have a high chance of preventing global temperatures from rising by 2C above pre-industrial levels, we need, in the rich nations, a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The greater part of the cut has to be made at the beginning of this period.

See also Monbiot's book Heat.

If Monbiot is right, then we're in deep trouble even with the new targets. But, we've got to start somewhere. Every journey starts with a single step, etcetera...

Perhaps the yearly Climate Change Plan required in the Bill should be vetted regularly by a panel of independent scientists, to ensure that our plans and targets are still in line with the latest science. That way, we would have some feedback on whether our planned targets still make sense, and would help to ensure that we are not lulled into false complacency. And, of course, we may end up changing our emissions targets anyway if a new post-Kyoto international agreement is made.

The Fourth Assessment Report of IPCC Working Group III (Mitigation), to be approved in early May 2007, will likely have some useful things to say about emission targets. It will be interesting to compare that report with this new Bill.

Also, we'll need to have some sort of plan for adapting to the climate change that is already in progress, and will not be stopped by the reductions targeted in this Bill.

So overall, I think that it is wonderful to see so much political consensus on this topic. These amendments are miles ahead of where we were before. If we had proportional representation, we may already have this plan in place and be well on our way to serious GHG reductions. Harper could show true leadership (and potentially neutralize this issue for the next election) by accepting the amended Bill and making it unanimous. I think that many Canadians would cheer this result.

Some people are speculating that Harper may use the amended Bill as an excuse to call an election. If, as the Star suggests, Baird introduces another version when parliament resumes, it may indeed play out that way. I can't see the opposition voting for something that doesn't include their own amendments. However, given Harper's record on the environment, I can't believe that the Tories really want an election over Kyoto and climate change. What they'll do next, is anyone's guess.

For anyone interested in reading the actual amendments, legislation, and proposals involved (a LARGE cup of Organic, Fair Trade and Shade Grown coffee might help :-) -- here are the relevant links: