Under intense media pressure, the Harper Conservatives are scrambling to put forth a coherent plan for reducing emissions. Environment Minister John Baird has recently told broadcast reporters that he intends to put limits on Canada’s major emitters. This contradicts statements from the prime minister and other government officials, which indicates the level of pressure.
Here’s the opportunity for the government to complete the outflanking of the opposition and green lobbyists that began two weeks ago with the Conservative green blitz. Set up an emissions trading scheme, similar to the European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), and work with neighboring U.S. states with similar programs (such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) to harmonize ours with theirs.
Harper and company shouldn’t worry about hurting Alberta oilsands operators or other major emitters by rolling out such a scheme. As I have pointed out in previous posts (see GHG reductions in the EU: talk meets reality), the ETS’s operation over the past two years—characterized by carbon prices so low that they provide no disincentive to major emitters—has proven its value as a public relations instrument. (European government officials like Stavros Dimas, the environment commissioner, still admonish Canada and the U.S. to get with the program, and point up the value of projects under the ETS’s auspices as if that is proof that it works.)
So the Conservatives should roll out an ETS-style plan, then work out its ETS-style kinks later. How could the greens possibly disagree with it?