The Green Party Climate Plan
Elizabeth May and the Green Party can take credit for putting forward a serious climate change plan, based on a $50 per tonne carbon tax, with some revenues from this directed to a reduction of other taxes. http://www.greenparty.ca/en/releases/06.06.2007?origin=redirect
Today, they placed in the public realm a study by Marc Jaccard suggesting minimal economic disruption from such a strategy- which I will read with interest to see how closely it meshes with May’s plan. http://www.greenparty.ca/carbontax
I agree with much of May’s agenda, which includes a heavy emphasis on regulation for greater energy efficiency including caps on large industrial emitters as well as major public investments in energy efficiency programs, alternative energy, public transit etc. However, I find no specification at all in the Green Party plan of how much of the revenue from a carbon tax and auctioning of emission permits for large final emitters would go to income and payroll tax reductions, and how much to the various public subsidies to greater energy efficiency which she proposes (and which Jaccard has been much more skeptical of.)
Also, I find it hard to think that there would be minimal economic disruption from her policy of phasing-out nuclear, coal and even natural gas power plants – about 75% of power generation capacity in Ontario – in favour of renewables. Ramping up to 25% or so of power needs from renewables would be an ambitious but worthy medium-term target, and even this would certainly increase power costs quite significantly. (Moreover, May’s plan highlights shifting autos from gasoline power to plug in hybrid vehicles – which will presumably increase power needs significantly.)
A $50 carbon tax would clearly raise costs significantly for a range of energy intensive industries if it is to raise significant revenues, and May is vague at best on her proposed cap and trade system for large final emitters.
Presumably because the cost of a (needed) transition to a much more energy-efficient economy is discounted, May’s plan fails to include a Just Transition program to assist displaced workers. (This will, by the way, be noticed by coal miners and power workers in Nova Scotia where she is runnig for a seat.) Also, her plan has almost nothing to say about how to translate the quest for greater energy efficiency into a badly-needed industrial renewal program. For example, we should twin major investments in public transit and renewable power with domestic procurement policies so that the new jobs are created here in Canada to offset job losses in the carbon-based energy sectors.
In short, May’s plan falls short of what the labour mevement has been calling for – serious action to deal with climate change, taking into full account the associated need for Just Transition and green industrial policies.