As energy and climate issues dominate environmental discussions this federal election, the New Democratic Party has released its plan for a national cap-and-trade system that sets emissions limits for polluters. The announcement came just ahead of a survey released by the David Suzuki Foundation in partnership with the Environics Institute for Survey Research that confirmed public support for domestic policies to tackle carbon emissions is on the rise in Canada.
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The NDP plan would allow provinces to opt out of the national cap-and-trade system if their own carbon-pricing plans meet or exceed federal objectives. Carbon-pricing revenues would be returned to the provinces to be reinvested into efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. The market would determine the price on carbon. As well, NDP leader Tom Mulcair said his party would re-introduce the Climate Change Accountability Act to help track progress on long-term targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With respect to emissions-reductions targets, the NDP tabled a private member's bill in June that set a target to reduce emissions 34 per cent below 1990 levels by 2025, and 80 per cent by 2050.
The David Suzuki Foundation — along with many leading global organizations, including the World Bank, World Economic Forum, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — agrees that a price on carbon pollution through a carbon tax or regulatory cap-and-trade system is a critical part of any effective plan to address climate change.
Both a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax can be effective if they are well-designed. Putting a price on carbon pollution through a carefully constructed approach is one of the most powerful government incentives to encourage companies and communities to pollute less by investing in cleaner technologies and/or by adopting more energy-efficient practices.
Evidence from around the world shows that these incentives work. A market-based cap-and-trade system was used to drastically reduce emissions that cause acid rain in North America in the 1980s and 1990s. When the B.C. government introduced its carbon tax in 2008, it set out a path to fight climate change while continuing to stimulate economic growth. From the tax's introduction to the end of 2012 (when the tax was frozen at $30 per tonne), B.C.'s consumption of fossil fuels covered by the carbon tax decreased by 19 per cent per capita compared to the rest of the country. At the same time, B.C.'s economy outperformed most of Canada.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation/Environics poll mentioned previously, support for the carbon tax among B.C. residents is at its highest level since the policy was introduced in 2008. Sixty-one per cent of residents say they either "strongly" or "somewhat" support the carbon tax. Outside of B.C., 58 per cent of Canadians are in favour of a B.C.-style carbon tax in their own province.
British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario have already implemented (or are implementing) their own carbon tax or cap-and-trade systems. When Ontario's cap-and-trade regulations are finalized, and considered alongside B.C.'s carbon tax, Quebec's cap-and-trade and Alberta's large industrial emitters' regulations, more than 80 per cent of Canadians will live in provinces that price carbon pollution.
The NDP has also announced a plan to invest $1.3 billion each year over 20 years to support municipal transit-related needs as well as $200 million over four years to retrofit homes, making them more energy efficient. Finally, the NDP has pledged to create a green municipal fund of $150 million over four years available to cities and towns seeking to create cleaner transit systems and other projects aimed at sustainability.
Stay tuned as we expect other parts of the NDP's environmental platform to be announced shortly.
See our blogs on what other parties have committed to the environment: