Canada’s emission targets ‘highly unlikely’, say SFU researchers

October 30, 2008

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Three SFU researchers published a six-page paper shortly before the October federal election concluding it is "highly unlikely" that the Conservative government’s policies will accomplish their declared goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

Resource economist Mark Jaccard and grad students Nic Rivers and Jotham Peters say emission targets are frequently "a red herring."

They write, "The lack of an economy-wide emissions price and the allowance for 100-per cent offsets for industrial emitters make it highly likely that emissions will be significantly higher than target levels in 2020 and indeed might even be close to today’s levels."

The trio have carried out numerous assessments of the country’s climate policies at the federal and provincial levels. Their latest assessment examines the federal government’s current policy, which includes an intensity cap on industrial emissions.

The researchers point out some key lessons from the past two decades of policy failure:

Emissions targets are meaningless by themselves.

Non-compulsory policies and subsidies don’t increase the cost of emitting and thus fail to cause substantial reductions — only compulsory policies will do this.

To make reductions as economically efficient as possible, compulsory policies, whether an emissions cap or trade or carbon tax, need to have economy-wide applications.

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