[Sust-mar] [Fwd: Beyond Kyoto] - op-ed from Michael Ignatieff, MP and Liberal leadership candidate

Paul Falvo pfalvo at chebucto.ns.ca
Tue Jul 11 00:17:00 EDT 2006

From: Jamie MacDonald <macdjamie at gmail.com>
Reply-To: Jamie MacDonald <owens8 at parl.gc.ca>

Paul- here's an op-ed from Ignatieff in today's National Post (and en
Francais in La Presse). Feedback welcome. Feel free to forward around.

PUBLICATION:  National Post
DATE:  2006.07.07
PAGE:  A13
BYLINE:  Michael Ignatieff


Beyond Kyoto: The National Post has invited candidates for the
federal Liberal leadership to share with readers their vision for the
country. The following was submitted by Michael Ignatieff.


Canadians want to reduce the gap between our strong environmental
values and our weaker environmental record. While most Canadians rate
the environment as one of their top concerns, we know that we haven't
done all we can: Canada recently ranked 28th out of 29 nations in the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in a study of
environmental performance in 10 categories, including air, water,
energy, waste, climate change and transportation.

The evidence is conclusive that rising greenhouse gas emissions pose
an unacceptable risk to our planet's climate. But there is a growing
consensus that Canada may not be able to meet its Kyoto target of
cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012.
This cannot be a license for the Conservatives to abandon Kyoto,
however. We must remain leaders in the Kyoto process, and Canada
should continue to work with our international partners to set
mandatory targets for reducing emissions. "Made in Canada" solutions
mean nothing unless they are part of an international agreement with

But we must bolster our Kyoto commitments with stronger action at
home. We need to make tough choices now because the cost of neglect
is just too high.

Tough choices mean recognizing that it's just not enough to rely on
voluntary initiatives and subsidies to encourage reductions in
harmful emissions. The rules of the free market dictate that
emissions will continue to rise unless the environmental cost of
emissions is reflected in the financial cost of doing business. If we
are serious about adressing climate change, we need to implement
policies that provide financial and regulatory constraints to prevent
the free dumping of emissions into the atmosphere. We need an open
national debate on the options available to us.

We need to understand, first of all, that environmental policy should
not pit one province against another. Policies can be designed to
make sure that they do not penalize one region of the country or
sector of the economy. Secondly, we need to understand that a good
environmental action plan should be implemented gradually, in step
with the normal rate of new investment. We need to show the world
environmental leadership without jeopardizing our international

Good environmental policy needs to be developed in consultation with
all the stakeholders, including the provinces, the energy sector,
experts and environmental groups, but it shouldn't be captured by any
one group. It must serve all Canadians.

One policy which should be considered is a direct tax on greenhouse
gas emissions. Mr. Harper has made it clear that a direct federal tax
is not even on the table for consideration. He wants Canadians to
believe that even a balanced, revenue-neutral plan to curb emissions
is political death in energy-producing provinces such as Alberta.
That would be to ignore the passion that all Canadians, including
Albertans, feel for their environment, and the deep desire of all
segments of the population, including the energy sector, to be good
stewards of their natural resources.

Some people try to paint a direct tax on greenhouse gas emissions as
a plot to punish Alberta for its success. Let's be clear about this:
Any direct emissions tax must not be a disguised transfer of Alberta
oil and gas wealth. Tax payments should not be included in federal
general revenues. An emissions tax should be offset by reductions in
other taxes, so that there is no net tax increase. This would
represent an environmental tax shift from taxing activities we want
to encourage to taxing activities we want to discourage. Any payments
received in excess of the tax reductions would be returned to the
source province to fund emissions reductions and other programs,
which can be the catalyst for a boom in sustainable development. We
need to work in partnership with the energy sector if any climate
change plan is to succeed.

Putting a price on carbon emissions creates a real bottom-line
incentive to make choices that reduce emissions over time. An
emissions tax should be set at a modest level at first but could be
scheduled to rise gradually, so it affects new investment decisions
immediately but does not render existing equipment unprofitable.

To protect our international competitiveness, industries whose
exports were threatened by a domestic tax on emissions could be given
some tax exemption and assistance with emissions reductions.

Critics of a direct emission tax suggest there are many different
approaches to tackling climate change. It is true that getting the
policy mix right is crucial and requires a frank and principled
dialogue. But in the end, I am unequivocally committed to pursuing a
solution that effectively answers the climate change challenge. We
need to get tough, and we need to do it before it is too late.
Positions based on mere political convenience and rhetoric are not an

One proposed alternative to a direct emissions tax that needs to be
evaluated is a program to allow carbon-emitting industries to trade
emission allotments among themselves under a gradually reducing cap.
Under such a regulatory regime, industry would be required to buy
permits for emissions above their permitted amount. Like the direct
emissions tax, a cap-and-trade program puts a price on the cost of
industrial emissions. It also requires, over time, the development
and adoption of non-emitting technologies, thereby creating business
development opportunities in this field.

Other possible additional market-oriented regulations include a
carbon-management standard and sequestration requirement, so that the
fossil-fuel industry takes responsibility for the fate of the carbon
it extracts and stops releasing it into the atmosphere. We also need
tougher standards for vehicle emissions, and for power consumption by
buildings and appliances. The federal government must also work with
the provinces to set a standard for the development and use of
alternative energy sources such as biofuels and wind power.

In addition to these efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, a
responsible environmental policy must include a plan to clean up,
protect and conserve our freshwater supply. The quality of the air
that we breathe must not be compromised further, and we need a plan
to address smog in our urban centres. Let's be the very best in the
world at making cleaner cars, cleaner trucks and world-class public
transportation systems.

Canada can be a world leader in sustainability. Canadians know that
we are the stewards of the world commons, the climate and our
biosphere. We hold our environment in trust for our children and the
generations that follow, and we take that responsibility seriously.
We reject the false polarity between meeting environment challenges
and economic success. Leadership means finding balanced and effective

A great leader once observed, "People and nations behave wisely --
once they have exhausted all other alternatives." The time for action
is now.

- Michael Ignatieff is the Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-
Lakeshore, and is a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party
of Canada.

More information about the sust-mar mailing list