Putting a price on carbon emissions

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Let’s talk about the environment. Not our community or our social space, but our physical environment and its state of being. We are in an age where climate change, global warming and other environmental concerns are very contentious and polarizing issues. Due to it being such a broad topic, it becomes challenging to reach a consensus on solutions to mitigate the risks we’re facing.

Without delving too much into the scientific realm, first and foremost, it is imperative to understand that climate change is real and the process is undeniably being intensified by human activities. This is not a made up topic as some have been led to believe.

The range of human activities varies from sector to sector. In the case of Canada, we have a rich resource-based economy and are fortunate to have natural resources which we can utilize. In the process of doing that, it is crucial to strike a fair balance between the exploitation of these resources for economic gains while maintaining our integrity to the environment and the core principles of sustainability. This is a topic with a multitude of factors, involving unique stakeholders, having a variety of risks and proposed solutions and much more. But let’s be a little more specific and look at the recent first minister’s conference.

Our newly elected Liberal government ran on an election campaign to mitigate environmental risks while protecting our economy. Based on that, the proposal for a national carbon tax is up for discussion. The talks in Vancouver yielded very little as the premiers were unable to reach a consensus on how to proceed with the issue, each keeping in mind the needs of their provinces. But this is something we need to take quick action with.

We must put a price on carbon, both for the producers and the consumers. It has to be a two-way street in which we cannot put the sole blame on corporations exploiting carbon for monetary gains because us, as consumers of energy, are equally to blame for this. Though we may change our behaviours and lifestyle, like driving a fuel-efficient car, recycling more or biking to work and school, it’s not enough. As a nation in the globalized world, we have to take drastic action towards this issue.

By imposing a carbon tax and putting a price amount on every tonne of greenhouse gases emitted, we are able to reduce our overall greenhouse gas emissions as the market starts to adjust its behaviour in the burning of fossil fuels. The revenue-neutral method implemented by British Columbia is worth looking into.

By charging everyone who consumes carbon, British Columbia has been able to reduce the overall emissions of GHGs. The money is allocated back to the public, by decreasing taxes in other realms and so far, this approach has worked. By imposing a national strategy with similar characteristics to the BC model, we may be able to curtail the emissions of GHGs in the long run.

Brad Wall, the premier of Saskatchewan, has stated he will oppose a carbon tax at all costs. Part of that may have to do with the fact that he is going to the polls in less than a month; to talk about imposing a new tax on voters is politically jeopardizing.

However, we have to start looking beyond political gains and whether a party will survive the next election or not.

Patrick Brown, the newly elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario has stated his party will support some form of carbon pricing and that is a step in the right direction. It may come as a shock to a lot of Conservative voters that one of their own politicians is talking about the environment and mitigating risks for future sustainability, but he isn’t the first Conservative to do so.

In the years of Brian Mulroney, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, each took some sort of action towards the environment, whether be a cap and trade system or carbon pricing.

I am not here to advocate the merits of one method over the other. By getting lost in the details, we lose scope of the bigger picture. This topic is something which goes beyond party lines.

Whether you are a Liberal, Conservative, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or anyone else, as humans abiding by the social contract, we have to take strict action now to sustain ourselves in the future.

Putting a price on carbon is one way of going about it.

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