Economists Denounce Harper "Climate Plan"

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Conservative policy “highly likely” to fail

Three top economists, led by Dr. Mark Jaccard of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, have released an analysis (attached) of the Conservative government’s climate policy, saying that, as designed, the might make no headway whatever in reducing Canadian CO2 emissions.

Jaccard and fellow economists Nic Rivers and Jotham Peters, say the Stephen Harper plan is particularly faulty on two counts: it sets “intensity targets” that allow allow absolute emissions to continue going up, and it allows companies to purchase “offset” that completely absolve the firm of making any CO2 reductions itself. Both of these policies are proven failures in actually limiting or reducing the total emission of CO2.

The report, entitled “Assessing Canada’s 2008 Climate Policy,” also calls into question the value of “emission targets” that are not linked to firm caps.

“Emission targets are meaningless by themselves and often a red herring. Some
environmentalists have applauded politicians for setting aggressive targets for GHG
reduction (called “stretch targets” or “aspirational targets”) and the media tends to focus
on these. As a consequence, many politicians select ambitious targets even while their
actual policies have negligible likelihood of achieving them.”

In the current circumstances, all five Canadian political leaders have set emission targets for 2020 – calling for reduction of CO2 emissions of between 20 and 30 per cent.

But while the Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party have all accepted the international benchmark date of 1990, the Conservatives have chosen a baseline of 2006. Because Canadian emissions rose between 1990 and 2006 by nearly one-third, that means that – even if successful – the Harper Conservatives would reduce emissions by only three per cent from 1990 levels.

Even that, however, is too optimistic, according to the Jaccard report’s conclusioin:

“… it is highly unlikely that the policies of the government of Canada will achieve the target of reducing national emissions 20% below 2006 levels by 2020. The lack of an economy-wide emissions price and the allowance for 100% offsets for industrial emitters make it highly likely that emissions will be significantly higher than target levels in 2020 and indeed might even be close to today’s levels. Since the government claims that it is intent on achieving its 2020 emissions reduction target, it is difficult to understand why it does not immediately convert the intensity cap to an absolute cap and eliminate or severely reduce the offset provision. It also needs to extend its cap to cover all emissions in the economy.”

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