Sunday, July 27, 2008

The False Choice

Despite the fact that Dion allowed for a cap and trade component with the Green Shift, certain quarters have chosen to ignore that, instead presenting the intellectually dishonest either/or proposition. This distinction, despite the fact most environmentalists see no conflict between a carbon tax working in concert with cap and trade. Politically motivated, it seems important for some to make the ideas mutual exclusive, because it ultimately provides a contrast for voters.

In the interest of clarification, I thought I would link to the latest Dion quote, wherein he speaks on cap and trade. Sounds reasonable enough:
All the experts are saying you need to do carbon pricing. There are two ways to do carbon pricing: cap and trade or a carbon tax. And I'm still a supporter of a cap and trade, but it will take some years to go there. The western initiative that your premier is now a partner in, they said they cannot start a cap and trade before 2012. Assuming you have an election this year, something I'm not confirming, 2012 is the end of the first mandate. That means it will be very difficult to start something meaningful during the first mandate. I want to start first year, first budget, and the advantage of carbon pricing through the tax system is that you start right now. Many experts are saying it's the best way to go.... And if you start with that, nothing prevents you over the years to build a good cap-and-trade system for the whole of Canada and hopefully with our American friends. And then to bridge it with Europe and to build this world carbon market. Start somewhere, and I suggest the best place to start is with the Green Shift.

So, as the NDP and their supporters present the false choice, it is important to realize that the Liberal plan doesn't require the either/or, it requires the now(carbon tax) and the future(cap and trade) working in tandem, an appreciation of simple practical chronology.


catherine said...

From CTV, quoting Gerald Baier, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia:

"Dion is trying to do what he thinks is good for the enviroment. The NDP is quite opposed to their approach, and the voters are probably quite puzzled over this. These subtle differences get really confusing," he said.

In the US, it is widely acknowledged that a carbon tax is considered a non-starter with voters, since it mentions the word tax, and that a cap and trade will be easier to sell, even though it will result in similar price increases, although with more volatility. Perhaps Layton thinks Canadians will react similarly. I know a few former NDP voters who have been turned off by this and plan to vote Liberal, but they understand how both cap and trade and carbon taxes work, and so may not be your typical voter.

knb said...

catherine, they have to become the typical voter.

I've been bleating about this for a while now Steve and back your comments completely.

I think the Lib's must push these points, not so much to counter the Con spin, but more focus on the absurdity of the NDP claim would stand us in good stead.

I won't leave the Con's out, but there is more gain in, honest gain, in exposing the NDP.

You know, I kind of liked Nathan Cullen and thought him to be an honest player. What a disappointment.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile the Liberals have no cap and trade at all in their plan. Who cares if Dion says he isn't "averse" to one. Words are cheap. But in the meantime he has no commitment to it of any kind. Instead we have this "pay to pollute" scheme that doesn't even set any targets for actual GHG emission reductions. The Carbon Tax will do about as much to reduce emissions as the GST did to get people to stop buying consumer products.

Its a joke.

Blues Clair said...

"Words are cheap"

Exactly, that is one problem Mr. Layton deals with daily.

Anonymous said...

The NDP plan actually has HARD CAPS on emissions and concrete targets. All the Liberals offer is - "we will impose this tax on everything and cross our fingers that someday, maybe some people might set their thermostats a bit lower - we hope."


Jaytoo said...

There is nothing false about the choice facing those who honestly want to see action to reduce GHGs. This is overwhelmingly a political choice about what we make happen now. First. Immediately. Because it's going to take a collosal, concerted effort to make anything happen.

Until May, opposition parties were united together behind a carbon market -- urgently, first. None more fervently than Dion. And it's Dion who broke that consensus -- to go solo with another plan that has the distinctions of being (a) weaker; (b) more controversial; and (c) clearly opposed by the other oppo parties.

So far among pundits, only Paul Wells seems to have nailed it: Dion went solo to stoke conflict -- to try to change the channel from "Not a Leader." Partisan aims, not environmental ones. And in so doing, he has made action on global warming less likely.

So sure, let's talk about “intellectual dishonesty.”

Blues Clair said...

And when does Mr. Layton & Co. hope to impose these HARD CAPS?

Anonymous said...

"And when does Mr. Layton & Co. hope to impose these HARD CAPS?"

Either if and when he forms of government or if the NDP has a balance of power - they might be able to use their leverage to force the Liberals to take some real action in climate change - but we know that that since the Liberals were in power for 13 years and did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!! to deal with climate change - they will have to be dragged kicking and scratching into taking any real effective action.

Blues Clair said...

Anon, I agree. A Liberal minority with the NDP holding the balance of power would be ideal for a strong climate change policy. Unfortunately it seems NDPs goal is more to replace the Liberals then anything else. If that is the case, PLEASE get on with it...

Anonymous said...

Funny, all the Liberals seem to care about is trying to annhilate the NDP while they barely even mention the Conservatives anymore.

Why doesn't the official opposition spend more time attacking the government instead of having such an obsession with attacking a puny fourth party?

catherine said...

knb: "they have to become the typical voter"

You can see the ignorance on here, "pay to pollute", when the same nonsense could equally well apply to cap and trade if you want to take that perspective. Unless Layton is planning on imposing prison sentences rather than setting up a trade for the excess/shortfall of allowances, the financial bottom line in the two systems is very similar. If so, he should call it "cap and prison", rather than confuse it with "cap and trade" which has a whole lot more in common with carbon taxes than he is willing to admit. Companies "pay to pollute" in both systems -- it is all a matter of when it becomes cost effective to reduce emissions and that depends on the current and projected value of a ton of emissions.

Anon, NDP hard caps? That's on about 50% of emissions, which leaves plenty of room for what is referred to as "leakage" in cap and trade. Also, if the price shoots up unexpectably, one would see those caps come down to save companies (and consumers). If the price ends up similar to the Green Shift, the reductions will also be similar. Learn about how the two systems work, rather than spouting misleading slogans.

There are lots of good, nonpartisan sources on the web about carbon taxes and cap and trade. There are a series of articles on (Aug 2007) comparing these two systems. Interestingly, the USA Congress Budget Office concluded that carbon tax can meet a set target in emissions reduction at lower cost than cap and trade.

JimBobby said...

The NDP plan actually has HARD CAPS on emissions and concrete targets.

It does? What are the cap levels? What are the concrete targets?

The NDP plan calls for hard caps and concrete targets. To my knowledge, those caps and targets are not defined. Nor, will they be defined very quickly. The EU set up the market mechanism for C&T 10 years ago. They are still negotiating on the cap levels and targets. Once they establish the hard cap levels, they will begin to have an impact. Until then, the deep-pocketed big polluters are bargaining hard... and stalling any real action.

The biggest problem I have with Dion's plan is that it merely shifts taxes. We need a massive shift in spending. The NDP plan calls for more spending on energy efficiency but it will get the money from new C&T penalties.

We have been doling out $1.4 billion per year to tar sands developers. Back when PET started that handout, oil prices were too low to make tar sands extraction profitable. That hasn't been the case for several years, yet we continue to provide corporate welfare to the dirtiest and most profitable industry in the country. A spending shift should start with $1.4 billion shifted from tar sands handouts to energy efficiency and conservation initiatives.

You're on the money wrt the false choice. The choice is between a 2 pronged approach (as proposed by both the LPC and GPC) and a 1 pronged approach (as proposed by the NDP and CPC.) Both the NDP and CPC know that the two approaches are not mutually exclusive. By presenting it as either-or, they are misleading the voters.

I blame Dion for being a crappy salesman. He flubbed the tax-shift presentation from day one. He's allowed his detractors to focus on the new tax without focusing on the new tax cuts. It would be very simple to show how his plan will affect various typical demographic groups. The GPC did that and demonstrated that, even with a $50/tonne carbon tax, most average Canadians will be better off after tax credits are applied.

Dion should also be focusing on rural and northern Canadians, as well as the poor. Currently, he's allowing the anti-Earthers to scare the crap out of rural dwellers. The sales pitch needs examples to show these vulnerable people what the plan will mean to their bottom line.


ottlib said...

False choice indeed.

It is going to take the combined meansures of a carbon tax, cap-and-trade, other measures yet to be determined and the development and marketing of green technologies to really make a dent in ghg emissions.

The key advantage of a carbon tax is it sets us on that path, but it is really just a first step.

As someone who in the past had a certain sympathy for what the NDP was trying to achieve in Canadian politics I have to say that I am very disappointed in them with regard to this issue.