Canada’s approach to “fighting” climate change is based on magical thinking.
Consider: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced to much fanfare that he is going to ratify the Paris climate treaty.
In doing so, he has pledged to lower our industrial greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change to the same levels as former prime minister Stephen Harper promised, back when the Liberals called Harper a climate denier.
Trudeau is never going to achieve Harper’s targets — 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, 30% below by 2030 — because our current level of technology makes it impossible to do so without causing a massive recession.
Harper was never going to achieve Harper’s targets.
In fact, no Canadian prime minister going back to Brian Mulroney, through Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Harper and, as we shall soon see, Trudeau, has ever come close to meeting his promised emission cuts, which keep getting watered down even though they’re still impossible to meet today.
But even if every nation on Earth, including Canada, fulfilled its emission cuts submitted to the UN — also impossible — all the Paris treaty would do, according to climate scientists, is lock the world into dangerous global warming, far above the 1.5C to 2C threshold they say is the upper limit.
If Canada, or any country, fails to achieve its emission targets under the Paris treaty, nothing happens.
The treaty has no mandatory deadlines or penalties for failing to reach these targets.
All it requires is that countries report their targets and progress made towards achieving them, but there is no penalty if they don’t.
Trudeau and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna say they are going to establish a national carbon price following negotiations with the provinces.
But even if they succeed in bringing in a national carbon price of, say, $30 a tonne, the level of B.C.’s carbon tax and the highest in the country at present, emissions will be virtually untouched.
The B.C. government itself says its revenue neutral carbon tax, widely praised as one of the best in the world, is only going to reduce B.C.’s emissions by three megatonnes (Mt) annually by 2020.
By contrast, if Trudeau is to make good on Harper’s target for 2020, which is now his target, Canada will have to reduce its emissions by 146 Mt.
That’s the equivalent of shutting down Canada’s electricity sector, which emits 78.2 Mt of GHG annually, along with most of the agriculture sector, which emits 72.9 Mt of GHG annually, in less than five years.
Canada would need a carbon tax of at least $150-per-tonne to achieve these kinds of emission cuts that quickly, which would destroy our economy.
The only way to achieve cuts at the level and speed the Trudeau government is promising would be through a revenue neutral scheme called carbon fee and dividend, in which every dollar the government imposes in carbon taxes is returned to the public through equal, monthly, dividend cheques.
But our politicians aren’t going to do that because it wouldn’t increase government revenues, which is their real aim, as opposed to reducing emissions.
What Trudeau’s carbon pricing scheme will actually become is a permanent sin tax imposed on Canadians, punishing them for the sin of using fossil fuel energy, which will swell government revenues by billions of dollars annually but do nothing to reduce emissions.
That’s what happened in Europe and it’s exactly what’s going to happen here.