Change of atmosphere on climate in Ottawa

Even the most hard-nosed climate change deniers seem to be softening their positions

Clearwater resident Keith McNeill and other members of Citizens Climate Lobby-Canada meet with Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo M.P. Cathy McLeod on Nov. 29 to talk about carbon fee-and-dividend as a way to help control climate change. Pictured are (l-r) Andy Blair

Your editor was in Ottawa again recently to take part in a Citizens Climate Lobby-Canada conference.

This is the third such conference I have participated in. The first was in the fall of 2014, and the second was in spring of 2015, when fellow Clearwater resident Jean Nelson and I cycled nearly 500 km from Toronto to Ottawa to take part.

I can happily report that, with the change of government, the mood in Ottawa has improved dramatically on climate change.

Things are happening, but they are not happening nearly quickly enough, and there is still quite a bit of wishful thinking going on.

The conference, which lasted from Nov. 26 – 29, consisted of training and talks on the first two days, then lobbying of M.P.s and senators on the next two days. A total of 41 face-to-face meetings were held, as well as six meetings with senior staff.

I can’t give you the details of what was said in the four or five meetings I attended as they were off the record, but I can say that even the most hard-nosed climate change deniers seem to be softening their positions.

We were told that the efforts by Citizens Climate Lobby-Canada and especially our national director, Cathy Orlando were instrumental in how the federal government has laid out its carbon dioxide pricing strategy.

This is believable. Ottawa has mandated that there should be a nationwide price on carbon but has left it up to the provinces whether they should use carbon taxes or cap-and-trade, and what they should do with the revenue gathered.

The federal government has made it quite clear, however, that it prefers carbon taxes over cap-and-trade, and that the first option on what to do with the revenue should be to return it as payments to households.

That sounds a lot like carbon fee-and-dividend to me.

Overhanging the conference was the upcoming pipeline announcement, which came out just as the conference was ending.

Allowing the twinning of Kinder Morgan’s Transmountain pipeline will outweigh any benefits that come from Canada’s putting a price on carbon, some say.

Maybe so, although that remains to be seen.

What is clear, to me at least, is that the Kinder Morgan decision shows the inadequacy of expecting national measures to deal with a global problem.

Yes, the Kinder Morgan twinning is intended to primarily carry product from the oil sands. And yes, we are all going to be cooked if all the oil sands petroleum is converted to carbon dioxide. On the other hand, we are all going to be cooked even if development of the oil sands somehow stops forever.

Citizens Climate Lobby has chapters in many countries but, up until now, has always focused on implementing carbon fee-and-dividend at the national level.

During the conference I asked a senior CCL official if any consideration had been given to implementing it at the global level.

Carbon fee-and-dividend set at the same level as B.C.’s carbon tax and collected worldwide would generate enough to give every adult human being on the planet dividends of about $200 per year, I said.

His response was that the industrialized countries would never go for that as the revenues would tend to go to poorer nations.

My response is that the only way we can prevent India and then Africa from following the fossil fuel route to industrialization is by compensating them fairly not to do so.

 

Carbon fee-and-dividend at the global level would be the way to do that. It’s time to stop thinking small about a big problem.

 

 

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