Azara Blog: Canada is in trouble over Kyoto emission targets

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Date published: 2007/04/21

The BBC says:

Canada could see a deep recession if it were to meet its Kyoto targets for reducing emissions, the country's environment minister has warned.

John Baird claimed petrol prices would leap and thousands of jobs would vanish if Canada tried to reduce greenhouse gases by 6% from 1990 levels by 2012.

Canada was one of the first countries to adopt the Kyoto Protocol in 1998.

But the ruling Conservatives have tried to ditch the treaty, which was adopted by a previous Liberal government.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who came to power in January last year, has argued the Kyoto timetable is unattainable.

Yet his minority government could be faced with implementing the measures after an opposition Liberal bill was passed by the Canadian parliament's lower House.

It will now be considered by the Senate, the unelected upper house, which traditionally rubber-stamps legislation passed to it by the House of Commons.

Mr Baird told a Senate committee the only way the government could meet its Kyoto commitment was to impose costs on the entire economy and, in effect, "manufacture a recession".

A steep rise in natural gas prices, electricity and petrol, driven by the additional carbon price of generating fossil fuels, would have a huge impact on the cost of running a business and would lead to a 25% increase in Canada's unemployment rate by 2009, he said.

Some opposition MPs and environmentalists countered that Mr Baird's findings were based on assumptions chosen for their frightening conclusions.

Perhaps the world has a critical test case here. Think of the 1970s Cream of Wheat commercial with kid brother Mikey replaced by Canada: "let Canada try it". If there is no great impact from meeting the commitment then the government can stop bleating. But if there is a big recession then the so-called environmentalists will have guaranteed that the people of Canada will pay no attention to them for a generation and more. Of course the Liberals might well want a big recession so they can claim the country should vote for them next time. It would depend whether the country blames them or the Conservatives for the recession, so it would depend which party is better at getting its propaganda across.

The BBC unfortunately leaves out some crucial information from the story. By just mentioning the 6% cut Canada promised to make in greenhouse gases from 1990 to 2012, they leave the impression (no doubt on purpose) that the Canadian government is just whinging and that to reach the goal now must be a piece of cake. After all, surely Canada is already well on its way to meeting the goal (since 2007 is over three quarters of the way from 1990 to 2012). But no, by 2003 Canada had not reduced its emissions at all but instead they had gone up by 24%, which equates to being around 32% above the 2012 target. Presumably the 2007 figure is if anything worse, although the recent steep rise in energy prices might already be having some impact on emissions. If Canada is now (say) 33% above the 2012 target then it must reduce its emissions by 25% by then, i.e. in five years. Now that is non-trivial.

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