Can The Green Shift Work?

The Pembina Institute, one of Canada’s leading environmental think tanks, has just released their analysis of the political parties’ green plans. You can find it here.

To sum up, it says The New Democrat’s green plan is a little ambitious, and it’s essentially a tax hike, since it’s not revenue neutral. (The money goes towards green technology, rather than lowering income and business taxes.) The Green Plan is the most strict, with emissions priced at $50 per tonne. The Conservative plan is complicated, and will allow overall emissions to rise: it allows emissions from the Alberta Tar sands to triple over the next decade. By contrast, the Liberal Plan is extremely clear on what it will cost, and how it will affect lower overall emissions, through a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system. It is also revenue neutral, since the money is returned to consumers and businesses through tax cuts.

And in political terms, its specificity may be its problem. Harper seems to have assumed that Canadians would like to feel that they are doing something about climate change, without really doing much of anything at all. He has a green plan, although as my colleague Andrew Coyne points out, we have no idea how much it will cost, and precisely how its going to work. (Emissions are expected to rise under the current government plan, at least according to simulations by Simon Fraser University’s Mark Jaccard.) The problem is addressing climate change will cost consumers, whether the action is a cap- and-trade system or a carbon tax. The economy runs on fossil fuels, and making the shift to alternative energy isn’t going to magically happen without some serious investment. Dion has gambled on the assumption that the public knows this, and will want to tackle climate change anyway. Obviously, Harper has assumed the opposite.

We’ll see soon enough who’s right.

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