Canada’s efforts to cut greenhouse gases would benefit more from provinces moving ahead on pricing carbon emissions independently than from attempts to set a nationwide system, a study found.
Most benefits from limiting emissions would come from levies or caps set by provinces, while linking policies across the country would account for just 10 percent of the advantages, according to a report by the Ecofiscal Commission, an economic research group that counts former Prime Minister Paul Martin among its backers. A national system would be too complex to implement, and waiting to agree on one could extend delays that have already begun to deepen Canada’s image as a laggard in global efforts to address climate change.
“Ninety percent comes from unilateral provincial action,” Christopher Ragan, a McGill University economics professor and one of the authors of the report, said by phone. “That’s why I say, ‘Look, you don’t have to wait for anybody, just go.’”
Canadian lawmakers have been grappling to overhaul environmental policies for more than a decade. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has refused to implement national carbon pricing or regulate emissions from the oil sands, bears the brunt of criticism for the country’s failure.
Meanwhile, Canada’s provincial leaders have been seeking to negotiate their own national agreement, with a draft deal circulated among bureaucrats and expected to be presented in a few months, people familiar with the talks have told Bloomberg News. Provinces shouldn’t let a failure on that front gridlock progress, said Ragan, whose report found that just about all of them are forecast to miss targets to cap emissions.
“That need not be an obstacle for current action,” said Ragan, a founder of the research group whose advisory board includes former provincial premiers Jean Charest of Quebec and Michael Harcourt of British Columbia.
The report also said a federal carbon-pricing policy faces major challenges largely because it would probably redistribute revenue from one region to another.