In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Getting off the climate change mark first

Posted 4/1/2009 by Senator Grant Mitchell


The argument is often made that there is no point in starting climate change policies in earnest without China and India and the US being involved.  Well, there is a point to it. At the very least, if we start before the others, then we will have the chance to develop critical technologies for dealing with climate change before they do, and then sell these technologies to them. If we don’t, these countries will, and we will miss these opportunities and the market shares that you get if you are first off the mark.

There is another problem in waiting. These other countries may well create climate change rules and regimes that will profoundly affect our ability to compete or even participate in international markets. The US is already going a long way to doing this. They are talking seriously about not buying oil sands oil. The oil sands are a necessary condition of the future strength of the Canadian economy. That is not to say that we can ignore pressures to deal with their carbon emissions. We have to do that and, in fact, the industry has “got that” – the federal government less so.

The Americans are also well on their way to creating a cap and trade system that will force us to trade credits in US markets if we have not prepared our own markets. In fact, stock markets in Canada are just waiting for the go ahead to offer these markets. They are in an obvious position to use their expertise in markets to create and manage carbon markets effectively.

It would be an important step if we would even start with a volunteer carbon credit market and an offset approval system already modeled in many parts of the world.  Families, for example, could look to these markets to make themselves carbon neutral by buying offsets equal to the amount of carbon attributable to their lives. On average, each Canadian is responsible for about 5.7 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. On the European carbon markets, you can buy credits for about $15 per tonne. So, a family of 5 could be carbon neutral for about $450 per year. This would represent direct investment in the Canadian businesses that create the offsets and credits and would draw people’s attention to the fact that there are solutions to the problem that are within our power as individuals to undertake.

Industry tells us over and over again that they simply want some certainty about what will be expected of them. This is not that hard to do. We simply need leadership and we need it soon.

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