This weekend, the leaders of the G7 committed to a series of actions that mark their first serious recognition of the economic transformation that is ahead of us.
Collectively, they recognized the need to decarbonize the global economy, enshrining in economic cooperation what the scientists in the IPCC told us last year in their Fifth Assessment Report. They called for ambition at the Paris climate talks this year – not new, but they recognized that they, individually and collectively, need to be in the upper part of the ambition bracket and that that means at least a “transformation of the energy sector by 2050.”
They talked about the mobilization of capital for this transformation, as well as ending the increasingly profligate use of harmful fossil fuel subsidies. Recognizing the need for an orderly transition to low-carbon growth as quickly and as smoothly as possible, they took on some degree of leadership around the pledge to provide $100 billion in climate finance for developing countries from public and private sources before 2020. More on that in a moment.
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark spoke at the World Bank Group about the effectiveness of her Canadian province's carbon tax and the role of subnational governments in setting policies that can address climate change.
"We’ve had a pure carbon tax for seven years in BC. It covers 72 percent of emissions in the province, so it is very broad. It is now at about 30 dollars a tonne. So we have seen it operating for a long time.
I don't know if we are unique in the world, but we are proud of the fact that we have taken 100 percent of the revenues that we have collected through the carbon tax, which is over 6 billion dollars, and we have invested that plus some in tax cuts.
The Canadian Province of Ontario announced last month that it would join California and Quebec in linking their cap-and-trade programs to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The move was met with approval by carbon market watchers, as local governments showed how they could avoid the lengthy political battles sometimes faced by national governments preparing submissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
At a time when governments are looking for ambition, could this sort of local government action be the start of something much bigger?
Last week, I attended the Navigating the American Carbon World (NACW) event in Los Angeles to explore whether the momentum we are seeing to price carbon is evident on the ground. I found a lot of local government leadership on climate change.
By Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver, Canada
Around the world, cities are taking the lead on addressing the challenge of climate change. While senior governments stall, urban leaders are responding to the urgent need to make our cities more resilient as climate change impacts intensify.
In Vancouver, we are aggressively pursuing our goal to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. It's a bold goal, but in working toward it, we are protecting our environment and growing our economy. The successful cities of the future will be those making the investments and changes necessary to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Climate change poses a serious risk to global economic and social stability, and resilient cities will prove to be attractive draws for people and capital.
With decisive leadership, the everyday decisions of city governments can prepare our communities for climate change. By considering climate change when we evaluate new development or infrastructure proposals, cities can save lives, create jobs, and improve our streets and neighbourhoods.
A clear price on carbon enables governments, businesses, non-profits and citizens to make smarter decisions that will have real impact. Innovative businesses aren't waiting for governments to act; many are already internally pricing greenhouse gas emissions to gain a competitive edge. The forward-thinking businesses and regions that price carbon today will have more flexibility and capacity to respond to the uncertain conditions tomorrow.
By Stewart Elgie, Professor of Law & Economics at University of Ottawa and Chair of Sustainable Prosperity; Ross Beaty, Chairman of Pan American Silver Corp. and Alterra Power; and Richard Lipsey, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Simon Fraser University.
We often hear claims that a carbon tax would destroy jobs and growth. Yet the evidence from a Canadian province that actually passed such a tax – British Columbia – tells a very different story.
The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that B.C.’s policy has been a real environmental and economic success after six years. Far from a “job killer,” it is a world-leading example of how to tackle one of the greatest global challenges of our time: building an economy that will prosper in a carbon constrained world.
A dangerously warming planet is not just an environmental challenge – it is a fundamental threat to efforts to end poverty, and it threatens to put prosperity out of the reach of millions of people. Read the recent Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change if you need further evidence.
If we agree it is an economic problem, what do we do about it? There is general agreement among economists that a robust price on carbon is a key part of effective strategies to avert dangerous climate change. A strong price signal directs finance away from fossil fuels and toward a suite of cleaner, more efficient alternatives.
This logic is not lost on governments and companies. Momentum is building around the globe to put a price on carbon. Consider these facts:
In January, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim urged the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos to look closely at a young, promising form of finance for climate-smart development: green bonds. The green bond market had surpassed US$10 billion in new bonds during 2013. President Kim called for doubling that number by the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit in September.
Just a few days ago—well ahead of the September summit—the market blew past the US$20 billion mark when the German development bank KfW issued a 1.5 billion Euro green bond to support its renewable energy program.
In the climate negotiations under the United Nations framework, we are used to seeing geographical blocs and other blocs at loggerheads. The tension draws attention, but it isn’t the only story of blocs at the climate conference.
In Warsaw Thursday, members of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition – 75 countries and international organizations working together – met and talked about their progress so far and work for the future to slow climate change.
What do these countries – among them, Nigeria, Sweden, the United States, Ghana, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Chile, Morocco, and Canada – have in common?
Answer: The firm belief that we can work together and substantially reduce black carbon, methane, and other short-lived climate pollutants.
The complexity of climate change issue is a challenge for most mainstream media, which increasingly seek the shortest possible sound bite to interest an audience with a very limited attention span. Yet a recent example illustrates the importance of looking past the headlines to understand the importance and true meaning of scientific announcements. The article featured the optimistic headline: “New study finds oil sands fuels would cause imperceptible temperature rise.”
This declaration understandably attracted considerable attention from climate policy-watchers because Canadian oil sands (also commonly referred to as “tar sands” reflecting the heavy, molasses like quality of the substance) are the resource proposed for transmission via the controversial Keystone XL pipeline recently denied a permit by the Obama Administration. (Oil sands deposits have also been found in Russia, Venezuela and Kazakhstan, but a majority of identified reserves and virtually all commercial production are in Canada.)
Some advocates for developing the oil sands see their use as essentially a national energy security issue, maintaining the pipeline is an important step forward toward fulfilling the long cherished dream of US energy independence, not to mention the potential to reduce or at least stabilize gasoline prices: ``Is US Energy Independence Finally Within Reach”, National Public Radio, March 7, 2012.
To be sure, the promise of lower gasoline prices and energy security are strong considerations. But an ongoing debate continues as to whether or not this economically attractive resource can be extracted, refined, and distributed without unacceptable environmental harm. This is why an otherwise academic analysis by Neil Swart and Andrew Weaver at the University of Victoria in British Columbia proved newsworthy. They calculated the global temperature rise that would result from the carbon dioxide released by burning currently proven reserves of Canadian oil sands: Neil Swart and Andrew Weaver, “The Alberta oil sand and climate,” Nature Climate Change, Feb. 19, 2012.