As The U.S. Goes (Green), So Too Goes Canada By Ibbitson G&M June 1

Posted on Monday, June 01 at 11:47 by Janet M Eaton

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/columnists/john-ibbitson/as-the-us-goes-green-so-too-goes-canada/article1162458/

As the U.S. goes (green), so too goes Canada


John Ibbitson

Thursday, Apr. 02, 2009 01:40PM EDT

Ten Congressional committees are working on Canada's plan for
reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming.

They're not actually thinking about Canada at all. But the chances
are getting steadily better that Congress will pass legislation to
cap carbon dioxide and other emissions, allowing polluters to trade
credits depending on whether they are above or below their cap.

"There is the strongest prospect ever" that the United States will
embrace cap-and-trade, believes Elliot Diringer, vice-president for
international strategies at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

That likelihood represents a profound surrender of sovereignty by
Canada on environmental policy.

For a dozen years, since signing the Kyoto Protocol to fight global
warming, the federal government has struggled to craft a cap-and-
trade policy of its own.

But repeated Liberal and Conservative governments have retreated in
the face of entrenched opposition from energy and manufacturing
interests, and from provincial premiers who fear the economic
consequences.

Now Canada can only watch as the United States, moving from laggard
to leader in the fight against global warming, crafts a cap-and-trade
policy, one that Canada will have no choice but to emulate.

"It's almost certain that Canada will mirror U.S. cap-and-trade
legislation," said Gerald Butts, president of World Wildlife Fund
Canada.

"The government's delay in implementing caps shows the danger in
outsourcing such a fundamental piece of national policy."

To do nothing while the United States joins Europe and Japan in the
fight to cool the planet's air would leave Canada virtually alone
among major developed nations in refusing to act, something that
neither Canadians nor Canada's international partners would tolerate.

In essence, the Americans are legislating for us because we can't do
it on our own.

How did this come to pass? Simply put, while Canada dithered, Barack
Obama became President of the United States.

The 44th President is determined to implement a cap-and-trade system,
because he sees it as the linchpin of not only his environmental but
also his economic policies.

Mr. Obama is determined to retool America's energy sector by reducing
its reliance on fossil fuels, while establishing dominance in a new
economy founded on researching and manufacturing alternative energy
sources.

Capping and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by manufacturers and
energy producers is fundamental to that industrial strategy. And with
a strong Democratic majority in the House, and a majority as well -
though less robust - in the Senate, the President has an excellent
chance of pulling it off.

The House is expected to pass cap-and-trade legislation this year.
And "if the President continues to push the way he has, there will be
strong pressure on the Senate to move a bill next year," Mr. Diringer
believes.

The U.S. could have cap-and-trade legislation in place within months,
with Canada's Parliament scrambling to catch up.

So, what will Canada's new cap-and-trade system look like, once we
emulate whatever the Americans adopt? To find out, it's best to look
to the House of Representatives. And here, Canadian opponents of cap-
and-trade can find at least partial reasons for solace.

The House Energy and Commerce committee recently passed an amended
version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, commonly known
as Waxman-Markey in honour of its authors, congressmen Henry Waxman
and Ed Markey.

Although eight other committees in the House are looking at the bill,
the real fight was in the energy and commerce committee. Liberal
Democrats from outside the industrial Midwest championed the toughest
possible legislation; those from the states with coal or heavy
manufacturing wanted the weakest possible rules. The conservatives
won.

While scientists and environmental groups argue that the United
States must cut emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 if
global warming is to slow, the revised bill has a target of 4 per
cent below 1990 levels, or 17 per cent below current levels.

Initially, emitters such as coal plants or heavy industry were to buy
at auction credits allowing them to continue polluting, creating a
carbon market that would provide the federal government with tens of
billions of dollars in revenues as it auctioned off the credits.

But the revised bill gives away 85 per cent of the initial credits,
to give coal-powered plants, steel factories and the like more time
to reduce emissions.

Requirements for utilities to greatly expand the percentage of
renewable energy they draw from were also watered down.

"The revised bill is a triumph for coal-patch Dems and big business
and a punch in the gut for greens," analyst David Roberts lamented on
Grist, an environmental website.

Some environmental leaders, such as former vice-president Al Gore,
continue to support Waxman-Markey, despite the weakened provisions,
arguing that it remains more than half a loaf, and is in any case
better than no loaf at all. But Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and
other environmental groups have swung against it.

"I don't know that the perfect being the enemy of the good is an apt
analogy," said Nick Berning, in the Washington office of Friends of
the Earth.

"It's more of question of: Is the United States going to stand up and
be a leader in doing what's necessary to avert a catastrophe? And
that bill doesn't get us there."

Nonetheless, the Republicans staunchly oppose cap-and-trade in its
entirety, calling it a "cap and tax."

"It will have a devastating effect on the economy, on families and
individuals in the United States," warned Pennsylvania Congressman
Glenn Thompson in an interview.

The Republicans calculate that the increased energy costs resulting
from cap-and-trade will equate to $3,100 (U.S.) per family.

"All energy will be taxed," Mr. Thompson observed. While analysts
offer a range of estimates, there is no question that cap-and-trade
will make it more expensive to heat homes and purchase manufactured
goods. That will apply to Canadians as well, once the equivalent bill
is passed.

Despite Republican opposition, most observers believe House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi will be able to assemble a comfortable majority for
passage by the House. Meanwhile, the Senate has two committees
working on similar legislation, which could be put to a vote in the
first half of 2010.

Pressure on Congress from the White House to keep moving on cap and
trade has been relentless. Apart from domestic economic
considerations, the President believes that he will be unable to
convince emerging-market polluters, such as China and India, to clean
up their act unless he can show them that the United States is
prepared to do its part. And if the legislation isn't in place by the
time the campaign for the 2010 midterm elections begins next summer,
it might never pass at all.

"There will be changes to the bill," predicts Mr. Berning. But
"there's a very real chance that he could have legislation passed"
either this year or next.

The U.S. bill mandates that if any other country wants to integrate
its emission-reduction measures with the United States, it must meet
the American standards. This is just another reason for Canada to
duplicate the American bill: It would be foolishly inefficient to
operate separate carbon markets in both Canada and the U.S.

And though its language has been watered down and the date deferred,
Waxman-Markey also envisions the possibility of penalizing countries
in the future who try to export goods or energy to the United States
but who lack emission-reduction regimes of their own.

Add it all up, and the case for Canada's federal government simply
photocopying the U.S. program and submitting it to Parliament is
overwhelming.

Canada will join the fight against global warming whether its
politicians want it to or not. The Americans will leave us no choice

Contributed By



Article Rating

 (0 votes) 

Options




Comments

  1. by RickW
    Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:41 pm
    What with both the Yankee & Canuck federal governments finding themselves in the automobile business, what incentive is there is cut back on automobile production and use, in favour of HSR, LRT, et al? We know that the Canadian government isn't interested at all:
    http://thetyee.ca/News/2009/05/29/OttawaHaltsTrain/
    in systems that make a real difference.

    And is Obama really "green"? Cap-and-trade has many areas where "slick operators" can circumvent the intent, unless it is rigorously enforced. As to enforcement, the US has not to date been able (or willing?)to enforce illegal drug imports and usage among its citizens, so why will C&T be different?

    All forms of penalizing carbon emissions ultimately mean hitting the pocketbook of the consumer. If that is the case, then said consumer should be provided with the option of alternative energy consumption.

  2. Sun Jun 07, 2009 7:30 pm
    all of the world has to be joined together in global warming,the rain forests,for if this is not done,then humanity will sist to exsistno one will be giving the option to deate any thing on our planet.the prince of england and his sons also have a site to save the rain forest.Diana would be proud of her sons,beause life matters and thats what she tried to teach them,glad to see its working sign up for life and all of humanity.



view comments in forum


You need to be a member and be logged into the site, to comment on stories.



Latest Editorials

more articles »

Your Voice

To post to the site, just sign up for a free membership/user account and then hit submit. Posts in English or French are welcome. You can email any other suggestions or comments on site content to the site editor. (Please note that Vive le Canada does not necessarily endorse the opinions or comments posted on the site.)

canadian bloggers | canadian news