Monday, December 03, 2007

Focus on Emission Intensity and Not Bali or Kyoto

Time and time again Harper has outmaneuvered Dion on the environmental file. Given the fact that Conservative plan is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, this is really quite something. The problem is instead of focusing on Harper’s lack of a plan the Liberals have stupidly focused on Kyoto and now Bali.

Kyoto: Canada was not going to meet the 2012 Kyoto targets without buying emission credits and that was just was not sell domestically. There is no use going to war over something that is glaringly false. That was just the half off it. So long as Kyoto was the focus, the question arose as to why Canada is not going to meet its targets and this allowed the Conservatives to offer up Liberal inaction as the reason why. As for Bali, Dion has again let Harper outmaneuver him. He has allowed Harper to turn the issue into whether such a deal is workable and fair. The problem for the Liberals is however unpopular the general thrust of Harper’s stance is with the public, Harper is not wrong in everything he says and many Canadians, call them Rex Murphy Canadians, will be appreciative of such tough talk. Harper, for example, is right about the following. Without an accord that binds all major emitters to the same standards, the chances of such an accord actually making a dent in the problem and even holding together over time are not good. It does not matter a lick that industrialized countries per capita emissions are much higher. It does not matter that the developed nations are responsible for most of emissions thus far. The past means nothing; the only thing that matters in the dog eat dog world of international affairs is what happens going forward. What is more the developed world is holding most of the aces. There are parts of the developed world that are going to be hit hard by global warming, but global warming is going to have a far bigger impact on the undeveloped world and the undeveloped world does not have the same ability to deal with it. (While it might be sacrilegious to say this, Canada is one of the few countries that could actually benefit from global warming.)

In order to fully capitalize on the issue the Liberals have to switch from talking about international treaties designed to deal with the problem of global warming to how the various parties plan to reduce carbon emissions at national level going forward. The Liberals have a plan, the semblance of a plan anyway, and the Conservatives have a potential political piƱata known as intensity based emissions. Do not give Harper the opportunity to speak hard truths about the treaty process. In politics, the long game goes to those who manage to force their opponents continually trade in half truths or worse; Truth is a turtle, a lie a rabbit. Force Harper into defending his undefendable intensity based emissions plan. The longer the focus stays there, the better. If the focus is left there for a month or more, environmentalists, academics, pundits and yes bloggers will devour the Conservative party’s credibility on the issue like so many scavengers and insects picking clean a carcass. Moreover, if the Liberals are successfully able to reveal the Conservatives intensity based plan as such much hot air, the Conservatives will appear insincere whenever they try to talk tough on Bali.


MarkCh said...

Very sensible advice. The one problem is that focusing on intensity is not necessarily a bad idea. Consider two companies producing widgets for the domestic economy. Company A releases 1 kg of CO2 per widget, and company B releases 800 g. Now, let's assume that, over the course of two years, company B doubles its widget production, and reduces CO2 emissions to 600 g per widget. This takes market share from company A, say 50% of its production, and, let's say, company A does not reduce its emissions per widget. So, after two years, company B's absolute emissions have gone up 50%, while its emissions intensity has declined 25%. Company A's absolute emissions have decreased 50%, but its emissions intensity has remained unchanged. Which company is actually doing a better job for the environment?

A good environmental policy would reward B and not A.

Anonymous said...

Kyoto relies on cap & trade.

Here are some excerpts from article What to Do About Climate Change by Ruth Greenspan Bell in Foreign Affairs May/June 2006

“ emissions-trading regimes…by themselves actually do too little to cap pollution”

“Much of the discussion, meanwhile, has centered on how to refine the existing trading mechanisms rather than on the most difficult but most important issue: how to set and enforce caps on greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Evidence from China demonstrates that even plants equipped with superior pollution equipment (acquired under Joint Implementation) do not run those controls when doing so proves inconvenient.”

There are questions “whether these transactions could honestly be said to achieve the CDM objectives or India's pollution-reduction goals.”

“The first steps toward the effective enforcement of high environmental standards should be to…encourage developing countries to set goals they can meet, as a preliminary move toward developing a more rigorous regime.”

“Harnessing the magic of the market and enlisting technology may become significant tools in combating climate change, but they will not work on their own.”

“And like climate change itself, this sobering truth is best faced sooner rather than later”.

Koby said...

The Conservatives pleadge to reduce GHG Intensity by 2% a year. This is essentially just a pledge to do nothing.

Indeed, GHG Intensity has been going down an average 2% a year since 1996. Meanwhile GHG emissions went up an average of 1.33% during that same time period. At that rate a 78% reduction in green house intensity would leave Canada in 2050 63.7% above what is it is in 2011!