Carbon Tax or Cap and Trade?

Also can be found at thegreenpages.ca

The Federal Conservatives are looking as poor as ever on the environment. By a quick scan of their website, they have no policy ideas for solving the climate crisis. What they do have is strange stories on their homepage criticizing the Liberals and Greens with awkward audio clips and photoshopped images.

So looking at the other parties that seem to care..

The Liberals promise to now launch a national debate in solutions regarding the environment and economy. About time. Jack Layton said he is ready for the debate. The Green Party has been offering solutions for years, and the Liberals are now adopting part of one of their policies (tax shifting) and will introduce some sort of carbon tax shortly. The NDP has a host of policy ideas unveiled in 2006, which as a package provide good solutions and possibly large cuts. But the NDP oddly has ruled out a carbon tax which other countries have used to get emissions down. Although thought to be potentially unpopular (maybe why Layton decided against it), it actually has 72% support by Canadians in a recent poll.

"There are some who argue it's a slow process [cap and trade]. Those are the people in government who didn't act.," Layton said on CTV,

But the reporter had remarked that environmentalists had made that comment, and indeed it was the director of the Sierra Club who made the comment to CTV.

In the Globe he was quoted, "The carbon tax has a huge advantage over cap-and-trade in that it can be put in place very quickly and deliver results very quickly, whereas cap-and-trade, it's taken Europe decades to get that one figured out," he said. "It's just regrettable that he's focusing on the negative."

Regulations are a sign of failure of a system designed very poorly. But since we have a poor system , they are oftentimes necessary to force businesses and others to design their own way of acting on something in a definite way. I have come to learn that a mix of regulatory and market mechanisms are necessary to move us as fast as we need to go.
There is a great social justice issue if we do not do all we can quickly, as the impact of climate change will lead to significant suffering and death globally due to issues with agricultural, sea levels, cyclones, heat, biodiversity changes, etc.

A good carbon tax would not put a burden on rural or low-income individuals who need to use the fuel until we can create more effective options. Carbon taxing should be geared to extraction of resources first, so the corporations doing that work will first need to pay the most, before the consumer. Tax shifting works best earliest in the life cycle (and should be used in other sectors like mining, land use, etc.) so the most efficient use of resources is done). Rather than make big corporations pay like a carbon tax would do, the NDP would give tax incentives do use better technology. Not a bad idea, but that's taking taxpayer revenues and basically giving it to big corporations. I don't think Imperial Oil or Shell need these kind of incentives or would even be that beneficial.

But a carbon tax also helps consumers make the best choices, which are not available right now. Perhaps organic food would be cheaper for me as it can be les carbon intensive because of the reduction of fuels in the fertilizers, etc. in conventionally-grown agriculture. If this gasoline price spike is temporary (though it will go up in the long-term). A carbon tax (which will concomitantly help to reduce smog) can set a base price so that consumers can start to make purchasing decisions for things like smaller cars, knowing the prices will remain higher for the next couple years.

High gas prices are now making a real difference! Public transit is at highest ridership in 50 years, and Americans drove an estimated 4.3% less.

B.C. may be offering credit cheques to make up for the increase in fuel pricing so individuals can spend that, for example on food. The Greens' platform chooses a tax shift that would be offset through reductions in income taxes, especially low and middle income, and payroll taxes.

Robert Paehlke - a retired Trent professor in politics and environmental studies who just released his book on Canadian climate politics Some Like It Cold last week - writes about the Green plan: "lower and middle-income earners pay a higher percentage of their incomes on these taxes than do upper-income earners. Reducing these taxes gives the less well off a bigger break. It should leave them no worse off even after they pay more for energy."

Regardless of how this goes, thankfully we're now having this debate - though we need to act. The public must push for a plan as well, and one that meets strict firm greenhouse gas cuts and those must be done in a just way throughout Canada and across the Globe. Hopefully the opposition parties can work to negotiate and pass a plan with real ideas, or topple the government to get action on climate.

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