Canada's Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer plans to fight climate change with a carbon pricing system for large emitters, among other measures, but one policy expert says the plan would actually increase Canada’s emissions.
“This plan is the most comprehensive environmental platform ever put forward by a political party in Canada, far surpassing anything that Justin Trudeau put out before the 2015 election,” Scheer said, unveiling the 60-page plan in Gatineau, Quebec, on Wednesday. He said it had 55 “specific, realistic, and achievable commitments.”
The plan would remove carbon taxes on individuals, arguing green alternatives don’t always exist, but would continue pricing carbon for large emitters, as the current Liberal government has done.
The Liberal pricing system for large emitters includes facilities emitting more than 50 kt of carbon per year; the Conservative plan would include facilities emitting more than 40 kt of carbon. “This means that our plan will be mandatory for more major emitters—more companies—than Trudeau’s plan,” the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) plan said.
Large emitters will be required to invest a set amount in green technologies for every tonne of greenhouse gases they emit above the limit.
A Scheer-led government would provide “green bonds” to finance development of emissions-reducing technologies and reducing the business tax rate from 15 percent to 5 percent on income generated from green technology developed and patented in Canada.
Scheer’s plan affirms the goal of meeting Canada’s modest Paris climate target, a reduction of 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, first set by the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper.
But Scheer will not fully phase out oil and gas, as the Liberals have proposed, calling such a move “unrealistic” and “not in our best interest.”
Instead the plan proposes marketing Canadian oil and gas, and other products, as “Canadian Clean,” framing them as a better alternative to other countries’ products.
“Many forecasters project that demand for oil and gas products will continue to be strong through 2030 and beyond,” Scheer’s plan states. “Canada cannot let that demand be filled by others. We will work to make Canadian oil and gas the cleanest in the world, making our country a sought-after supplier while lowering emissions worldwide by replacing dirtier products.”
Canadian oil has the fourth highest greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity among 50 nations included in a 2018 study. The plan also calls Canada “a relatively small emitter” globally, when in fact it is one of the top 10 global emitters.
“This is not a plan to cut climate pollution,” said Cat Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network. “This is a plan to somehow save the world by increasing Canada’s emissions.”
Abreu was concerned by the similarities between the CPC plan and a proposed Federal Energy Platform released by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers on June 3. Both include a large-emitter framework that prioritizes investment in technology, and both say the government should take a position that Canada has lower-emissions oil and gas products than other countries. “It checks a lot of the boxes of the CAPP platform,” she said.
The main goal of a carbon-pricing system is to “send an economy-wide signal that we’re no longer going to pollute for free,” she said, but instead this system would provide incentives to oil and gas businesses for innovation that they can spend internally.
“If all that money goes right back into company coffers, then there’s no incentive for them to be seeking out emissions reductions opportunities, which is the whole point of carbon pricing,” she said.
Other than the oil and gas sector, Scheer’s climate plan also offers a two-year green homes tax credit for upgrades including installing solar panels. Canadians would be eligible for a 20 percent refundable credit on their income tax if they make green improvements to their homes over $1,000 and up to $20,000.
As for remote communities that rely on diesel generators for power, Scheer committed to pursuing opportunities to connect them with clean power. He said he will “continue to build and maintain a respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples.”