Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2020.
Robert Lyman is an economist with 35 years’ experience as an analyst, policy advisor and manager in the Canadian federal government, primarily in the areas of energy, transportation and environmental policy. He also has eleven years’ experience as a private consultant conducting policy research and analysis on energy and transportation issues as a principal for ENTRANS Policy Research Group. For the last five years, he has been a frequent contributor to the publications of the Friends of Science, a Calgary-based independent organization concerned about climate change-related issues. He resides in Ottawa, Canada. Full bio.
Far too often, those who seek a proper balance among economic, social, environmental and other considerations in climate policy devote all their attention to criticizing the measures now being implemented by governments. While the criticisms are usually valid, the overall impression often given to the public is one of negativity and lack of “vision”. This note is intended to stimulate thinking and exchange of views in another, more constructive, direction. It seeks to do so by answering the question, “What should the federal government’s climate policy be?”
Some will respond that the following response to that question is not radical enough, and that all federal climate policy should be reversed and the measures ended. To that, I simply respond that a credible policy position must be moderate enough to attract broadly-based support, and it must be pragmatic rather than absolutist. In other words, the following is my view of a potentially acceptable compromise.
For too long, Canadian public policies concerning energy, the economy and climate have been dominated by the politics of fear – the irrational claims that small changes in carbon dioxide emissions here will have disastrous effects on the global weather and climate. It is time to base policy on the politics of hope and prosperity.
Canada is blessed to have immense, secure natural resources, including all forms of energy, minerals, forests and water. We also have an educated, technologically advanced population. This has been the basis of rising incomes and standards of living throughout our history and they can be again.
To achieve this, we must implement a framework that encourages investment in all our industries, that emphasizes technological innovation and development of all our human resources, that offers economic opportunities for all regions and income groups, and that stresses income growth not just income redistribution.
The effects of climate policy on Canadians are widespread and diverse. Policy development should take place in an environment is which the different interests and regions are represented and respected, and all constructive views are welcome.
Regulatory certainty, efficiency and predictability are important for people to plan. These conditions must be restored in industries affected by climate policies.
The federal government must play its proper role as protector of the Canadian economic union, and address by legislation or other direct measures as necessary the use of political and legal tactics to block interprovincial trade and the legally approved construction and operation of interprovincial and international energy infrastructure.
Federal and provincial governments should reform the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change to ensure that all emission reduction measures are subject to benefit-cost analyses and that GHG emission reduction objectives are no longer treated as over-riding policy goals.
The federal government should review all outstanding federal programs that promote GHG emissions reduction through subsidies, regulation, tax measures and social marketing to ensure that they only continue if they can be justified on the basis of cost-effectiveness and non-duplication with provincial measures.
A moratorium should be placed on further increases in the federal carbon dioxide minimum tax so that it will not rise above the $30 per tonne rate that took effect in 2020, pending a full evaluation of the impact of the tax on the competitive viability of emissions intensive industries in Canada. Such a moratorium also would allow for a fulsome review of the real effects and consequences of such taxes applied at the federal and provincial levels.
There should be a rigorous and publicly transparent review of the implicit social cost of carbon to be included in all benefit-cost analyses of climate mitigation policies, programs and tax-related measures to ensure that the social cost of carbon is justified by the underlying data and that it is harmonized with practice in the United States.
Canada should place a much higher priority on measures that enable the economy to adapt to whatever climate changes may occur. This is a sensible insurance policy, and the benefits of adaptation measures will adhere entirely to Canada.
The legislation that substituted partisan political consideration for independent, merit-based review of new energy pipeline projects (Bill C-69) must be repealed.
The federal Parliament should declare that the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and related works is for the general advantage of Canada. Justice Canada must challenge any and all court actions that impair the prompt implementation of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and related works.
Canada should withdraw, at the earliest possible date, from the 2015 Paris Agreement.
In the meantime, Canada should impose a moratorium on all payments to the United Nations Green Climate Fund, pending completion of a thorough assessment by Environment and Climate Change Canada, Foreign Affairs Canada and Finance Canada to determine to what extent the countries that are the intended beneficiaries of these payments are in fact using them to reduce emissions in a manner consistent with the stated intent of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Canada should reduce the economic burden of current climate policies on the transportation sector, motorists and taxpayers. Specifically, it should align the emissions intensity standards for light and heavy duty vehicles with standards applied at the federal level in the United States. It also should terminate the existing large subsidies for electric vehicle purchases.
Canada should promote research and development of new energy technologies applicable in Canada’s climatic and geographical conditions.
Canada should conduct a policy review based on the most up-to-date scientific information available to determine whether current federal regulation of the construction and operation of nuclear power plants in Canada and provincial government electricity policies are inordinately impairing the role that nuclear power reactors can safely and economically play in meeting Canada’s future energy supply requirements.
I hope that these proposals will receive wide distribution and debate in different fora and will be conveyed via different means to those who have influence with the federal political parties before the next election.
These proposals do not necessarily reflect the views of the Friends of Science Society or Canadians for Sensible Climate Policy, the two organizations that have most often published my articles. I take sole responsibility for them.
Your comments will be most welcome.