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Scheer’s Climate Plan Costs More, Achieves Less Than Current Federal Policies: Clean Prosperity Study

Andrew Scheer/Flickr

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s recently-announced climate strategy [1] would end up costing more than the current government’s policies and leave Canada farther from achieving its Harper-era carbon reduction targets for 2030, according to a report released last week by Clean Prosperity.

“The plan would result in Canada missing the Paris target of 513 megatonnes in 2030 by 109 Mt, an increase of 30 Mt or 38% from the current 2030 projection from Environment and Climate Change Canada,” wrote environmental economist Dave Sawyer and environmental engineer Seton Stiebert. “It is not reasonable to assume the plan, as currently outlined, is scalable to close the 2030 gap to Canada’s Paris target.”

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“Sawyer and Stiebert estimate that repealing the national carbon tax on fuel would increase emissions by 13.5 megatonnes in 2022, while eliminating the clean fuel standard would increase emissions by 7.4 megatonnes,” CBC reports [3]. “The new technology investment fund proposed by the Conservatives would decrease emissions by 2.5 megatonnes, they said, while the tax credit would result in a decrease of roughly nine megatonnes. But Sawyer and Stiebert report that those reductions would come at a relatively high cost per tonne of emissions.”

Overall, they concluded that Scheer’s plan would increase the cost of climate action by C$187 per household in provinces with their own carbon pricing policies, and $295 per household in provinces currently paying the federal backstop price on carbon.

“This offers more proof that a carbon tax is the right way to address climate change,” said Clean Prosperity Executive Director Michael Bernstein. “It’s better for our economy, our small businesses, and the millions of households who already benefit from the carbon tax rebate.”

Scheer’s communications director, Brock Harrison, wrote the study off as part of a “pro-carbon tax agenda”. But at the reliably pro-Conservative National Post, columnist John Ivison gave the report more credence.

“Voters know there is no such thing as a free lunch—but that doesn’t stop them wanting one,” Ivison wrote [4]. “Andrew Scheer’s climate plan plays on such grasping delusions—claiming to meet Canada’s Paris emissions targets at little or no cost. But a new assessment of the plan suggests the benign promise of achieving emissions reductions ‘without making the lives of Canadians harder or more expensive’ is a chimera.”

While it’s hard to see how the governing Liberals will hit their own Paris Agreement target without increasing carbon prices beyond 2022, “at least their plan has the climate change effort going in the right direction,” Ivison added. By contrast, for anyone who believes the reality of climate change and wants to see greenhouse gas emissions reduced, Scheer’s plan “makes voting for the Conservative Party of Canada very problematic indeed.” Which leaves his party counting on voters to “favour a fig leaf policy that says they care but which doesn’t cost”.

Ivison quotes University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz’s critique of the Enviroeconomics report, taking issue with some of the assumptions behind Sawyer and Stiebert’s analysis. “Mintz’s points are reasoned—before reading the new report I wondered how any detailed analysis would be possible of the Conservative document, which was not so much a plan as a hole in the air,” the columnist wrote

“But even if some of the assumptions in the new study are wrong, the pith of it is convincing—that the Conservative plan will do little to reduce emissions and more to raise the cost of living. There are no free lunches in the real world.”

A day later, the Globe and Mail editorialized [5] that Scheer had made a “thin and vague” climate strategy a whole lot thinner with his promise [6] to cancel the proposed federal clean fuel standard.

“The party’s opposition to carbon taxes is economically questionable, but one can at least grasp the political logic. Many voters, especially core Conservative ones, are unhappy about anything that pushes up the price of gasoline,” the Globe wrote.

But when Scheer introduced his long-awaited climate plan in mid-June, his “pitch was not that he would ignore climate change. It was that, if elected, he would actually go all in on fighting it, but with weapons other than carbon taxes,” the editors continued. “Is it possible to lower carbon emissions without carbon taxes? Yes. It means more regulations or subsidies—which is what the Conservative platform relies on.”

Regulations have been a part of Canada’s approach on climate, and “can also have a big environmental impact,” the editorial added. “But regulations are not free. Leaded gasoline was cheaper, and so were cars without catalytic converters. Somebody has to pay the cost of a regulation, just like they have to pay a tax. It’s just that the cost is hidden—or, you know, ‘secret’.”

That was the language Scheer used when he vowed to gut the clean fuel standard. Which leaves his election platform with a promise to cut carbon, but no tax or regulatory plan to make the promise a reality.

“The party remains in favour of green consumer subsidies, such as its promise to spend $1.8 billion subsidizing homeowners who want to retrofit their houses to make them more energy efficient,” the Globe notes. “Say, friend, how would that $1.8 billion be paid for? Through taxes on Canadians, obviously. And that’s a secret Mr. Scheer would like you to keep to yourself.”