On October 2, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a firm stand on climate change. His government will put a price on carbon emissions starting in 2018. The initial price will be $10 per tonne and will rise to $50 by 2022. It will apply to provinces that don’t meet this minimum threshold. Some provinces didn’t take it so well.
Now let’s forget about the three environment ministers walking out of a meeting with Catherine McKenna, the federal minister of the Environment and Climate Change after the PM made the announcement in the House of Commons. (You can read his full speech HERE) Let’s also discount the political rhetoric from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall about feeling betrayed and disrespected.
It’s all just political manouevring. The whiny kids were stomping their feet because they didn’t get to have chocolate cake and ice cream for supper. They must have been really loud in their outrage because they didn’t seem to hear the plan was revenue neutral and all money raised by the carbon price would remain in the provinces.
Of course, disgruntled politicians weren’t the only ones that took the news of a minimum national carbon price badly. Everyday Canadians jumped on social media to lambaste the Prime Minister for the decision. I have friends that did. Its their right after all, we do live in a democracy.
And it’s true, as one friend from Saskatchewan pointed out, that even if Canada reduced its greenhouse gas emissions to zero, the impact on climate change would be negligible, if anything at all. The country only emits about 2% of global emissions and therefore going to zero won’t do much in combating the global challenge.
This doesn’t mean action shouldn’t be taken. Climate change is the biggest disaster facing humankind. Farmers in Saskatchewan, for example, will have to contend with wetter winters and dryer summers. This is what the science tells us.
(Canadian Green Tech has more on this as reported from the 2015 Canadian Climate Forum. Read the following article: CCF Symposium 2015: Climate impacts on food security and adapting to meet the challenge.)
So let’s look at the climate and emissions issues through a purely Canadian lens, only in a Canadian context. We’ll be simple too and just look at emissions from the provinces compared to their population size. With Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall being the loudest opponent of national carbon pricing, we’ll pick on that province.
First of all Saskatchewan’s population as of July 2016 was 1.15 million or about 3% of Canada’s population. (We used the 2014 figure of 1.13 million because it matches the last year emissions data is available.) The province’s 2014 emissions have been measured at about 75 megatonnes (Mt). That puts it in the top three of national emitters. Only Alberta at about 275 Mt and Ontario at about 170 Mt spew more carbon emissions. Canada’s total emissions topped 730 Mt in 2014 (the data from Environment and Climate Change Canada is HERE).
This means Saskatchewan emits 10% of Canada’s national emissions, yet only has 3% of the population. Now not to say Ontario has the best population to emissions metric, but there are about 13 million people living in the province or about 36% of the national population, yet it emits about 23% of the country’s emission.
Drilling down a little further reveals Saskatchewan is among the highest per capita emitter provinces in the country. Its per person emissions in 2014 was more than 60 tonnes per person. For comparison purposes, Ontario was around 13 tonnes per person that year. The national level was around 20 tonnes per person.
Simply based on this metric, Saskatchewan is a poor performer and therefore needs to improve. It has committed to increase the amount of renewables from 25% to 50% in the province by 2030. That’s a great start, but it needs to either phase out coal entirely or capture all coal emissions.
Of course, this is a very simplistic look at emissions in the country and it doesn’t take into account economic activity, the makeup of provincial economies and energy systems or provincial contribution to national GDP. That’s for economists and politicians to use when they design policy and regulations. Canadians need to understand in simplistic terms their actions at home don’t happen in a vacuum and this type of basic analysis does that.
Saskatchewan is a high per capita emitter plain and simple. There is no way around it. Other provinces have taken steps to reduce their emissions, and now the federal government is stepping in to make those that aren’t doing enough up their efforts.
Besides, those that are decrying the federal plan as nothing more than a tax grab that will destroy the economy - this includes Saskatchewan Premier Wall - are severely misinformed. The national carbon pricing plan is going to be revenue neutral. Again, the LINK to the PM's speech.
So for my friend in Saskatchewan who bemoaned the federal plan for taking money out of his pocket to pay for the increased costs to fill up with gas and heat his home, you will get that money back in reduced personal income taxes. That’s what revenue neutral means. You pay more now, but get it back when at tax time.
Unfortunately, your so much loved Premier has forgotten to explain that to you.