Canadian climate change action can't wait for U.S., says new report

Jan 25, 2011

OTTAWA-Canada should move ahead with a domestic emissions trading system to limit climate change even without similar steps in the United States, a climate change think tank says.

The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, a government-appointed panel that studies environmental issues, said in a new report Tuesday that Canada must tackle global warming now, despite economic risks to the country if its policies are out of step with those south of the border.

"In this way, we get ahead of the curve, but carefully so, ensuring economic impacts on Canada are manageable and sustained environmental progress toward achieving our 2020 targets occurs," the report says.

At international climate change negotiations, Canada has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. This after failing to meet a 2012 target to cut emissions to 6% below 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Conservative government has put long-promised regulations to cut industrial emissions on the shelf as it waits for the U.S. to enact environmental standards, but initial efforts by President Barack Obama's administration seem to have fallen from his list of priorities.

"There are economic risks from independent Canadian action," the report says, "but there are also risks to inaction."

With political and economic realities top of mind, the roundtable report says that Canada should get started with policies to lower Canadian emissions while establishing a limit to ensure this country remains competitive with the U.S. In particular, the government should ensure that the trading price of carbon emissions in Canada never reach more than $30-per-tonne higher than the U.S. price whenever Washington gets around to setting up an similar market.

"Our proposed approach would walk a middle line between harmonizing with the U.S. on carbon price and on emission reduction targets, balancing competitiveness and environmental concerns," the report says.