Putting climate change on the docket

TRU ecologist wants climate change discussed for upcoming federal election

A TRU professor is among 60 Canadian academics backing up a new report that hopes to bring climate change to the forefront of political platform discussions in the wake of this year’s federal election.

The Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SDC) report, titled “Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars,” suggests 10 nationwide policy orientations that SDC believes would push Canada to reduce greenhouse emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2025, relative to a 2005 baseline.

Lauchlan Fraser is involved in the report titled “Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars.” (Thompson Rivers University)

Lauchlan Fraser is involved in the report titled “Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars.” (Thompson Rivers University)

“Often when academics and think tanks get together and talk about climate change, the message can look quite bleak,” TRU ecologist Lauchlan Fraser said.

“We wanted to have a positive outlook. We were looking for a solutions-based document that can … propose solutions to make people understand that there is something that can be done.”

The report’s most emphasized short-term suggestion is for Canada to adopt a national carbon tax or “cap and trade” program.

“British Columbia already has a carbon tax that has been very successful,” Fraser said, citing a study conducted by Sustainable Prosperity.

According to the report, titled “B.C.’s Carbon Tax Shift After Five Years,” the province reduced fuel consumption by 17.4 per cent between 2008 (when the carbon tax was first implemented) and 2012.

“[On a national level] it’s likely this would be a “cap and trade” system where certain industries are provided a top level at which they may emit greenhouse gases,” Fraser said.

“If they exceed that level, they pay for it. If they don’t exceed it, they can trade what they haven’t used. We would have to work our way down the scale over time, reducing that cap, but it could be a very effective way of reducing carbon emissions and looking for alternative energy sources.”

The alternative to a national cap and trade system would be a national carbon tax, according to the SDC report.

“With a national carbon tax, one approach to adjusting the price over time would be to link the tax to the social cost of carbon (currently $40 per tonne of CO2 or higher and estimated to increase annually by $1 per tonne of CO2),” the report reads.

In the short-term, the SDC report also suggests that Canada eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and integrate sustainability into new and maintenance-related infrastructure investments.

In the mid- to long-term, the report suggests including an east-to-west intelligent electrical grid to distribute hydroelectric energy, new national energy efficiency programs and a revised national transportation strategy.

(Thompson Rivers University)

(Thompson Rivers University)

Additionally, the report includes sector-specific recommendations.

“My contribution to the report was through my experience with the agricultural sector, and particularly coming from B.C. where we have an agricultural land reserve,” Fraser said.

According to the SDC report, Canada’s agriculture sector is responsible for 10 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse emissions, eight per cent of the national GDP and 12 per cent of jobs in the national labour market.

“There have been some challenges and threats to the agricultural land reserve, and yet that is a very important structure in place to retain valuable agricultural lands – not only for food security but also for biodiversity,” Fraser said.

“The dismantling of the family farm is an issue. We need succession planning. We need diversity in the farm industry to try to get away from the vast monocultures that drive a lot of the big farming today. And of course, we need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels in the agricultural industry.”

Fraser said he hopes the issues and suggestions outlined in the SDC report are discussed at a federal level.

“One of the big pushes for this report was that the main organizers have been working very closely with political parties to get the message onto party platforms so that, when the federal election comes up, these will be talking points,” he said.

The report will also be presented at the United Nations 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, he said.