Government Records Reveal Canada Supports Global Carbon Pricing

Government records newly released under access to information legislation say that Canada supports carbon pricing as part of a global climate change strategy.

Mike De Souza writes for Postmedia News, that the documents "come from the Privy Council Office and Environment Canada, and they contrast with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's public criticism of carbon taxes."

As De Souza explains, the Privy Council Office (PCO) is "the central department in the government that supports the prime minister's office."

The PCO notes were reportedly prepared for the November 2011 G20 summit attended by Harper a month before Canada's pullout from the Kyoto Protocol. They highlight the World Bank's recommendation for "putting a price on carbon for developed countries," and comment that "Canada could support other countries implementing this proposal."

The PCO records also say that "Canada supports the development of new market-based mechanisms that expand the scale and scope of carbon markets." De Souza adds that the records suggest Canada "wanted to expand markets that require polluters to pay and allow other companies to profit from deploying technologies or other methods to reduce emissions in the atmosphere."

The Environment Canada documents were notes given to Deputy Environment Minister Bob Hamilton after he was appointed in July 2012, briefing him on the potential for job creation and economic growth in a strong climate change strategy.

The notes say that a "well-designed environmental policy, including GHG emission reduction policies, can also support economic objectives, in areas such as innovation, improved energy and resource productivity, and opportunities in global clean technology markets."

The briefing observes that "environmental damage and natural resource degradation can have important economic costs" in addition to posing "serious" and "significant impacts on human health and safety…and ecosystems in Canada and throughout the world."

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq's spokeswoman told Postmedia News "that the government does not support a carbon tax," reiterated the Harper government's position "that an NDP climate change proposal from the last election to raise billions of dollars by auctioning of pollution permits as part of a market-based carbon pricing scheme — was a tax on gas, groceries, electricity and everything else."

Aglukkaq's office said Canada is "playing a leadership role in addressing climate change."

De Souza writes that despite all major Canadian federal political parties supporting carbon pricing in the 2008 federal elections, "the Conservatives later decided to favour binding regulations in each industrial sector instead, because of the failure of the U.S. Congress to pass legislation creating a carbon market."

Several provinces have implemented their own forms of carbon pricing or taxes on greenhouse gas emissions, such as British Columbia's highly-successful tax on buying or using fuel.

The Environment Canada briefing notes suggested Canada inteded to meet its "GHG emission reduction target of 17% under 2005 levels by 2020," especially with "greater international pressure to demonstrate concrete action and to outline how Canada's national emissions targets will be met." A new report from Environmental Defence shows Canada cannot, however, met its emission reduction targets given current planned expansion in the tar sands – Canada's fastest source of growing GHGs.

Image Credit: Prime Minister's Office / Fickr

Indrapramit Das is a freelance writer, critic and artist. His work has appeared in Slant Magazine, Vancouver Weekly, Strange Horizons…

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