Canada has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. The trick will be to achieve that goal without damaging the economy or impairing the right of Canadians to drive to and from work or the kids' hockey games. The good news is that it is doable, says Dr. Mark Jaccard, a professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
Other than asking Canadians to park their cars or industry to shutter its doors, there are three policy solutions with the potential to reduce carbon emissions, he says. These include: imposing a carbon tax; coming up with a slate of regulations affecting a wide range of activities from electrical generation and fuels to farming and transportation; or establishing a cap-and-trade system. "You have to have at least one of these options in play, or a combination of all three, or you're never going to meet climate targets," he says.
A carbon tax is hard to sell politically, and while regulations can be effective, and are likely to be utilized in some cases, the cap-and-trade system is slowly emerging as the policy of choice for politicians. It has already proven its effectiveness; it was used successfully in the 1980s to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide, key ingredients in acid rain. Although there have been calls to establish a pan-Canadian system, Dr. Jaccard says a nascent national system is already happening by default. Quebec already has one and Ontario is expected to join. "With Ontario and Quebec alone, you would have a system in place that encompasses 60 per cent of Canadians," he says.
That's a good start, but to work effectively and fairly, especially for industries operating across provincial boundaries, it would be better if all provinces were involved. Dr. Jaccard believes the best way to create a pan-Canadian system would be to build around the work of Quebec and soon Ontario, which prices carbon dioxide in such a way as to make polluting progressively more expensive, but at a rate of implementation that does not damage the economy or impair mobility. "You can't force any of the other provinces to join, but you could create incentives that would make it easier to do so," he says.
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