First let’s agree that we have an obligation, as individuals and as a country, to do our part to minimize the effects of increases in global energy production and use caused by human activity. The environmental impacts of human living on our planet’s atmosphere will only increase. We are now at 7.6 billion souls and will be double that by about 2070.
Further, the distribution pattern of carbon dioxide shows a significantly higher concentration of this greenhouse gas north of the equator – where most of the world’s population live – with the North Pole being affected much more than the South Pole. This distribution shape does not coincide with the global temperature patterns – which presently is equally distributed north and south of the equator. Of course, the earth’s land mass is also much larger north of the equator – so there are other environmental factors at play.
Anyway, Canada would appear to be a special case in terms of our contribution to CO2 atmospheric load. We make up less than 0.5 per cent of the world’s population but account for two per cent of global carbon emissions. At the same time, we are also among the world’s leading energy suppliers and not just users. We share this distinction with United Arab Emirates, USA, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Russia. Still, we need to do our bit.
And we are trying. It is a mixed picture. We are heavy energy consumers with a sparsely distributed population so that transportation costs are high. We live in a cold climate with high heating and housing costs. We are highly developed industrially and have a resource-based economy. A lot of action has been taking place to mitigate the impact of our energy production through federal/provincial/territorial collaboration led by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Climate change targets and programs have been set by provinces and territories depending upon their individual circumstances (e.g. Alberta set a regulatory framework for industrial emissions; BC instituted a carbon tax). The federal government has jurisdiction over greenhouse gases in matters of trans-border environmental impacts and interprovincial and international trade and commerce. The federal government also has national taxation authorities to address climate change.
Unhappily, the federal government is failing to meet our expectations and its responsibilities. For instance, while we produce two per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases, we only contribute 1.7 per cent of the international Green Climate Fund (shades of the shirking of our NATO commitment). On the home front, its actions on safe and efficient transportation of our energy production have been, if anything, counterproductive.
And now we have a confused message on a proposed federally imposed carbon tax. It is a targeted Goods and Services Tax. Respected economists have determined that this is the best way to tackle climate change. And it would make sense if the tax collected were used to mitigate the impact of our energy use – such as supporting home energy audits and upgrades, or providing rebates for using recycled paper (an office of 20 people using recycled paper is equivalent to taking 70,000 cars off the road for a year), or even promoting carbon capturing Plant a Tree programs.
Using the tax revenues from this source for wealth redistribution is a repugnant form of election bribery and a dereliction of governing responsibility.
Alan Murdock is a local pediatrician.