Pembina Institute Scores Parties' Plans for Pricing Pollution

Oct. 8, 2008

Ottawa, October 8, 2008-The Pembina Institute today released an in-depth assessment of each major federal party's proposal for putting a price on greenhouse gas pollution - widely agreed to be the most important element of any Canadian plan to fight global warming.

The analysis highlights major differences between the parties, with the Greens performing well, the Liberals and NDP receiving mixed reviews, and the Conservatives scoring poorly.

"Carbon pricing" has emerged as an important election issue, and each party has presented a distinct approach. The Pembina Institute's report, Putting a Price on Pollution: Assessment of the Federal Parties' Plans to Fight Climate Change, evaluates each party's carbon pricing proposal against 10 criteria covering both environmental effectiveness and economic fairness.

"Each party has put a carbon pricing proposal at the centre of its plan to cut greenhouse gas pollution," said Matthew Bramley, director of Pembina's climate change program and the author of the report. "But when we looked below the surface, we found big differences between the parties in both the effectiveness and fairness of their proposals."

Governments can put a price on greenhouse gas pollution through either a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade system, or a combination of the two. By making pollution cost more, governments can create an economy-wide incentive to reduce emissions.

The assessment criteria include the carbon price level that a party's plan reaches in the short and medium term; how widely the price applies in the economy; and the use of revenues. The report also identifies three key "economic fairness" criteria: avoidance of exemptions, compensation for low-income Canadians, and protection for genuinely vulnerable industries.

The highlights of Pembina's assessment include:

  • The Bloc Québécois' proposal for cap-and-trade provides little detail, raising many questions about its adequacy.
  • The Conservative Party's proposal for industry regulations received a negative score on a majority of the criteria because of its delayed start, its high degree of complexity, and its major exemptions from the principle of "polluter pays."
  • The Green Party received a positive score on nearly all the criteria.
  • The Liberal Party's emissions tax received a mixed evaluation, because it covers a high percentage of Canada's emissions with a straightforward "polluter pays" approach; however, the initial price is low and there is inadequate spending on further emission reductions.
  • Similarly, the NDP's proposal for cap-and-trade received a mixed review, with its commitment to relatively high prices balanced by uncertainty about how quickly it could be implemented and a number of other unanswered questions.

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The Pembina Institute is a non-partisan sustainable energy think tank. The carbon pricing assessment report is available online here. The results of the party assessments are found on p.7.

For more information, contact:
Matthew Bramley
Director, Climate Change Program
819-483-6288 ext. 26


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