Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Liberal environment expert rejects carbon tax

Stephane Dion’s efforts to sell his carbon tax are under threat by revelations that advice Liberals obtained from an environmental expert strongly advised the party against the carbon tax Liberals are calling for today.

With a new poll showing widespread public scepticism about Dion’s marquee plan to pass a $40 a tonne carbon tax along to ordinary consumers, his sales pitch is being undermined by a report commissioned by the party which outright rejects carbon tax as a solution to climate change.

Described as “a name to watch in Liberal politics,” Désirée McGraw advised the Liberal Party against a carbon tax as chair of the Environment and Sustainable Development Taskforce commissioned by the party’s renewal process in 2006.

An environmentalist and lecturer on sustainable development, McGraw concludes on page 69 of her report that a carbon tax wouldn’t be necessary to meet Canada’s global GHG targets, preferring a cap and trade system like NDP leader Jack Layton is calling for instead.

In the report, McGraw says she came to this conclusion in part because for a carbon tax to be at all viable it would have to be “high enough to … ensure emission reductions.” To that point, a report by economist Marc Jaccard for the David Suzuki Foundation concluded that even at a $100 a tonne - $60 more than the Green Shift plan - a carbon tax still wouldn’t be high enough to meet Canada’s Kyoto commitment by 2020 – eight years after the Kyoto deadline.

Based on this analysis, at $40 a tonne, Dion's carbon tax is just not high enough to ensure critical and long overdue emissions reductions (which is why Dion's plan has no emissions reductions targets at all). It won't get us to the Kyoto targets, and won't get us to 80% below 1990 level by 2050 which scientists agree is necessary to prevent a climate catastrophe.

Instead of a carbon tax, the McGraw report says “Following extensive and intensive input from Taskforce contributors, this report opts for [a cap and trade] approach.”

Among the Taskforce contributors McGraw credits in helping her make her conclusion for cap and trade and against a carbon tax are the the late former Liberal environment minister Charles Caccia and then-Sierra Club head Elizabeth May.

Eight months ago, McGraw, who backed Dion for leader, was being touted as a potential candidate, saying the birth of her son “has deepened her dream since girlhood of becoming an MP.” And eight months ago, Stephane Dion was still dead set against a carbon tax.

Today, neither of those things are true.

Today, the Liberals find themselves in the inconvenient circumstance of having comissioned and accepted expert environmental advice in 2006, which is the same expert environmental advice which says Dion’s “Green Shift” won’t get the job done and Jack Layton’s plan will.


Jason Cherniak said...

Dion"s been pretty clear about supporting both a carbon tax and a cap and trade system.

Blogging Horse said...

Jason, McGraw and the Liberal Taskforce's report was pretty clear that "Canada does not need both an emissions trading system and a carbon tax; either one would be sufficient, so long as the cap is low enough to ensure emission reductions or the carbon tax is high enough to do the same. Following extensive and intensive input from Taskforce contributors, this report opts for the former approach."

Incredibly, Dion is ignoring both pieces of the Liberal Taskforce's advice: he's pursuing a carbon tax with a price too low to work, and ignoring the recomendation that we only need a cap and trade system.

This is why Dion says "I'm not telling you specific numbers [on reductions] because you would not trust me." He knows it won't get the job done.

janfromthebruce said...

thank goodness the liberal renewal task force on environment and sustainability supports the NDP plan to combat climate change and reduce carbon.
There are some bright lights in the party although ignoring their recommendations sure doesn't make for happy campers.
Perhaps she will rethink her alliance and join the party that has it right!

Aaron said...

cap and trade has many problems, check out this video... makes sense to me.


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