Friday, October 20, 2006

Thoughts on Canada's new policy

The Clean Air Act announced yesterday in the Canadian Parliament has been pretty much universally panned. The only support has been from what the press calls the "business community", although a real poll of companies operating in Canada would find many would welcome a policy that will addresses near-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

No doubt, many of the critics are being opportunistic. Blustering by members of the previous government about how the Conservatives are ignoring Kyoto is a bit hypocritical, given how emissions grew under the previous government. And, at this point, yelling "Canada should meet Kyoto" is a meaningless pledge required to win support among a certain constituency. I agree with idea behind the Kyoto pledge, that there still be a concerted effort to reduce emissions and engage with the other sigantories. But this late in the game, there's no point at all in making the pledge unless you have a real plan.

We should not let the failures of the previous government give the current government a pass. No matter what, if the authors of this Act thought it would address climate change, if the authors thought the 45-65% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 had any real meaning, don't you think the word climate would find its way into the title, or the language of the act? It is called the Clean Air Act for a reason: to focus people's concern on air quality, not climate. Otherwise it would be called the Clean Air and Safe Climate Act.

The long-term reduction goal itself is fraught with complications. Bear with me here:

1) The target is 45-65% below 2003 levels by 2050, not 1990 levels, the standard used by Kyoto and the UNFCCC. Canada's emissions rose ~24% between 1990 and 2003. So the 45-65% works out to 32-56% less than 1990 emissions. The choice of numbers seems entirely arbitrary. I see no basis, climatically, for these numbers.

2) Reaching that goal would require a 1.35-2.35% annual reduction in GHG emissions. For perspective, reaching the science-based British goal of 60% below 1990 levels by 2050, would require a 2.55% annual reduction. Tough, no doubt.

However, the new plan says there are to be no hard caps 'til 2025. So let's say emissions stay constant until 2025. That means an annual reduction from 2025-2050 of 2.35%-4.20%. Of course, with no hard cap, a growing population and a growing economy, emissions are unlikely to stay constant. Let's say they increase at the rate (~2%/year) observed in the past 15 years. Take note, given average economic growth of 3%/ year, this emissions growth rate implies a continued decrease in emissions intensity. The result is the reduction between 2025 and 2050 must be 4.2% - 5.9% each year.

In other words, setting a cap for 2050, but not starting the reductions until 2025, is ridiculous. This is not a political argument. It is plain-old mathematics.


tim said...

Good attempt to analyze the latest initiative by Conservatives.

Actually if you would take into account that business does not operate the same way as academia. In academia you can procrastinate for most of the year and then right before deadline you cram and write paper, grant proposal, or finish experiment. For real life business you can not be idle for couple of years and suddenly meet the targets. Investments, projects, take time. Conservatives just put in a harsh long term enforceable targets. This means that businesses and industry have to plan now how to meet the targets. This is the best long term plan that Canada have ever seen. Compared to the Liberal’s plan to keep the status quo and buy green credits from developing world this will bring results that are tangible. Kyoto is not about GG reduction, it is all about wealth redistribution. Unfortunately, there is very little done in Kyoto frame work. Here is a personal anecdote:
I was in a Soviet Army (mandatory conscription) in 1989 during political indoctrination class we study Warsaw Pact or Warsaw Block. It was after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. I told political officer that Warsaw Block died of natural causes. He new I was right and did not argue with me. He was shocked. It just was not allowed to be said. Well, in 2006 Kyoto as dead as Warsaw Block. Lets admit it and move on with realistic solutions.

tim said...

If I would be a Machiavellian politician I would legislate a political travel tax and large events tax. There was a huge amount of discussion on politicians travel and emissions. My second beef are celebrities. They travel extensively. They travel in style, therefore, the amount of green gasses emitted would probably dwarf an average politician.

Another thing large evens like rock concerts, political conventions. The amount of electricity used is huge. You know that most of electricity used by rock groups is stolen?
I talked to one impresario who admitted connecting to the grid bypassing the meter.
Even when not stolen just one digital projector that enables everyone to see the person on the stage takes about 5-10 kW of power. Put 10 of them and it is significant amount. Then 50 lights at 300 Watt each. How about some lasers at 2 kW each, oh, and 15 kW sound system, that needs 3 times power to run. You would need a whole wind farm to sustain it. I am not talking about the amount of fossil fuel to move all this equipment from place to place.

Why I am saying all this. When it comes to green gasses emission, there are no green saints. I was walking by Green Peace protest another day. First thing that I have noticed was a noise from 15 portable gas generators that were running to keep all the props inflated. Enviros already killed 50 millions Africans and left hundreds of millions handicapped by stopping use of DDT to prevent malaria. Now they want to destroy the western middle class and enrich tyrants of the third world.

Simon Donner said...

Perhaps then the plan it too academic, as the problem with it is procrastination. Delay too long, the reduction becomes extremely difficult. To achieve the 2050 target, there'll have to be some movement in the right direction by 2025. If you want to ensure that happens, set a near-term target. Otherwise, the 2050 target comes off as phony.

If the plan was designed to help business address GHG emissions, there would be actual near-term targets, not a promise to set targets at some point. Canadian emitters had been preparing for the previous gov'ts LFE policy, were put on hold by the current gov't cancelled that plan, and now must wait to see whether to reintroduce them or to design something new. It is very inefficient, regardless of the world in which you live.