Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party (UCP) has promised to axe the carbon tax. Whether or not that will be possible, or how long it may take, is another matter.
If they do successfully repeal the carbon tax, the federal government may very well impose its own carbon tax as it has for Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick as of April 1.
Alberta had escaped that fate as it had its own carbon tax in place before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s deadline.
To really understand the carbon tax issue, there are three separate questions that need to be asked:
1) Is global warming real?
2) How is the carbon tax supposed to work?
3) Is a carbon tax the best way to combat climate change?
The idea of global warming is nothing new.
In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) international treaty was signed. The treaty was a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and was a consensus that global warming was real and most likely caused by human-made CO2 emissions.
In other words, the leading nations of the world agreed over 20 years ago that global warming was real and something needed to be done.
The evidence of climate change is all around us, in the form of extreme weather events, with the current flooding crisis in eastern Canada, and forest fires in B.C. and California in recent years.
Some believe that Canada exists in a “carbon sink,” meaning its forests make it carbon neutral. However, CBC News reported Feb. 12 that due to forest fires and insect infestations, Canada’s forests have been producing more CO2 than they absorb since 2002.
The polar ice caps are melting, coral reefs are disappearing and animal populations are on a steady decline worldwide.
For those wanting to understand more about how global warming is affecting the environment and interconnecting ecosystems, Our Planet on Netflix is an excellent series.
The speech 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg made to the United Nations in Dec. 2018 calling nations to action is likewise compelling.
Past efforts to reduce emissions or to make an impact on the overall warming of the earth have largely failed.
Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol at the end of 2012, and although the Liberals signed a new commitment in Paris in 2015, an article published by Reuters April 1 stated that official data shows Canada has little chance of meeting its current climate change goals of reducing emission by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 30 per cent by 2030.
It also claims that Canada will heat up twice as fast as the rest of the world as northern regions continue to warm at an accelerated pace, according to a report from the Canadian environment ministry.
The newest solution being put forth is this so-called “price on pollution,” as the federal government is branding its carbon tax.
What does the carbon tax actually do though?
Trudeau has stated that the purpose of the federal carbon tax is to have funds available when natural disasters occur due to extreme weather events caused by global warming.
What we didn’t hear from the former Notley government was any similar claims or statements explaining how the carbon “levy” has any expectation of actually combating climate change, rather than being a thinly-veiled tax grab and vehicle for wealth redistribution.
The problem with both the federal and provincial carbon taxes is that at least a portion of the money collected is just returned in rebates, and no evidence can be seen of any of the money being used for any useful purpose.
Scientists and economists believe that a price on carbon will act as an incentive for industries to find innovative ways to reduce their emissions.
Although a price on pollution may be effective in reducing industrial emissions, it’s unrealistic to expect it to change behaviour of individual consumers. Albertans still need to heat their homes in the winter, no matter the cost hike.
So what are some other solutions to reducing emissions while still getting Canadians back to work?
Other things have been tried, with uncertain results, such as offering credits for retro-fitting homes, subsidies for renewable energy, and using trains as they are perceived by some as less environmentally risky than pipelines (that’s an argument for another time).
Simply setting ambitious goals to reduce emissions has not worked, so perhaps putting a price on pollution will have more of an impact.
However, one doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the current federal government to find green solutions when it can’t even figure out how to remove the 2,500 tons of trash in 103 shipping containers that a Canadian company dumped in the Philippines in 2014.