Oh, Canada: climate action out of Ottawa

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Climate
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Art Babych / Shutterstock.com
29 Oct
2016
Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This month, Marco Magrini looks at Canada’s carbon plan

The last few weeks brought plenty of multilateral agreements. ICAO, the UN’s aviation arm, has agreed to partially control emissions from international flights after 2020. The Montreal Protocol has been amended to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), refrigerants with a much higher warming potential than carbon dioxide. Last but not least, the Paris Agreement has received the required number of ratifications and will soon enter into force.

Now, it is time for unilateral actions. Individual countries have a duty to put in place the policies required to meet the targets agreed to in Montreal, Kigali and Paris (and possibly to exceed them, as the treaties’ prescriptions are not enough to prevent runaway climate change in the future). This is why, instead of applauding the wisdom of the crowd, we should instead salute a single resolution: Justin Trudeau, Canada’s young and spirited prime minister, has just announced a plan to discourage greenhouse emissions by putting a price on carbon. Every province may choose which way to go: a cap-and-trade system (as originally suggested by the Kyoto Protocol) or just a plain tax on carbon emissions.

Offsets are like the indulgences sold by the church in the Middle Ages

Trudeau – who was born in Quebec and studied in British Columbia – knows that a flat-out tax is the solution. According to his plan, whichever system each province chooses, there must be a minimum price per ton of carbon of CAD $10 by 2018, rising to at least $50 by 2022. He favours the tax route because of the bold, unilateral steps taken in 2007 by Quebec and British Columbia; not only did British Columbia impose a carbon tax, it also pioneered a ‘revenue-neutral’ solution. The $1.2 billion raised every year by its $30 carbon tax is used to ease the middle-class income tax rate and provide benefits for lower-income citizens. By contrast, a cap-and-trade system operates by putting a ceiling on emissions, while allowing utilities and plants to buy and sell permits to emit. ‘Offsets are like the indulgences sold by the church in the Middle Ages,’ climatologist James Hansen protests.

For a country such as Canada, that owns the world’s biggest reserves of the dirty yet lucrative Alberta tar sands, this is a doubly brave unilateral move. If we are truly to save the planet, many more such acts – from airlines, corporations and entire nations – are needed.

This was published in the November 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

Target Ovarian Cancer

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Polar

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Oceans

The effect of plastics on the world’s oceans is posing…

Geophoto

Camera technology may have come a long way since the…

Energy

The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn…

Wildlife

Despite their high profiles, most of the world’s national animal…

Oceans

Asian countries are pledging to reduce the amount of land-based…

Geophoto

There’s a world of visual wonder beneath the waves but…

Energy

A short, summer eclipse in America has solar power generators…

Climate

A dramatic increase in dust storms across the western United…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Climate

A study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of…

Wildlife

It’s not just the bees that are disappearing. Insects across…

Oceans

Far beneath the waves, a race is unfolding to claim…

Climate

Compared to other types of carbon sink, seagrass in Kenya…

Geophoto

Who in their right mind wants to shoot with film…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Geophoto

Calling photographers passionate about capturing and sharing great images of…

Climate

Five experts weigh-in on the future of the Paris Agreement…

Oceans

Analysis into a killer whale found dead off the shores…

Geophoto

For the past ten years, the Chartered Institution of Water…