Federal government continues nonsensical ‘net-zero’ policy

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Appeared in the Calgary Sun, July 27, 2022
Federal government continues nonsensical ‘net-zero’ policy

In the dog days of summer, the Trudeau government has announced another step in its plan to achieve “net-zero” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada by 2050. Of course, this remains a costly and unattainable goal.

Still, the plan requires oil and gas sector GHG emissions to be reduced to 42 per cent below 2019 levels by 2030. Ultimately, the “cap will be designed to lower emissions at a pace and scale needed to achieve net-zero by 2050.” Last week, the government showed us what that policy might look like, publishing a paper outlining an approach with a spectacularly long history of failure, controversy and corruption—that is, the old and failed idea of GHG emission cap-and-trade.

This new bit of policy will be layered upon a veritable mountain of pre-existing regulations that aim to limit GHG emissions including a carbon tax, “clean fuel standards” and likely a forthcoming clean electricity standard. One could (and has) spent many pages observing the problems with GHG emission trading in theory and practice, not to mention the problems of regulatory overlap, duplication and poor carbon tax design. But instead, one should really ask one question of the government: Are you mad?

In case the Trudeau government hadn’t noticed, Canadians are groaning economically under a large number of burdens created by past GHG control policies including generally slower economic growth, higher electricity prices, higher vehicle fuel prices, higher transportation costs for goods and services, higher heating and cooling costs, and higher just-about-everything costs. And these costs have come with virtually zero benefits. Canada’s governments have failed every single time to achieve the GHG emission reductions they said they would, nor to achieve GHG reductions large enough to yield any environmental benefits that would offset the costs mentioned above. It’s a history of perfect policy failure.

And as economist William Watson recently explained in a Fraser Institute study, the sectoral focus on oil and gas is also bad policy: “Arbitrary caps on individual sectors will reduce emissions at a greater cost than is necessary, and interfere with the mechanism of the carbon price, which the federal government has already imposed.” Watson notes that if “policymakers want to reduce CO2 emissions in Canada, they should allow industry to do so in a way that imposes the least costs on society and not by imposing arbitrary caps on certain sectors since CO2 molecules are all identical regardless of their source.”

Finally, even if it the new “net-zero” nonsense did work, all that pain would be for naught since China is already wiping out the GHG reduction gains made by the entire planet over the last several decades. As Greenpeace (East Asia) noted on July 20, “Provincial governments across China approved plans to add a total 8.63 gigawatts (GW) of new coal power plants in the first quarter of 2022 alone, already 46.55% the capacity approved throughout 2021.” Greenpeace also noted China’s GHG emissions will increase dramatically moving forward. This would neatly wipe out anything that Canada might achieve with “net-zero.”

As we sweat out the dog days of summer, government should give Canadians a break, acknowledge reality, and put a moratorium on all new GHG policies, pending an effort to re-examine and rationalize existing GHG control programs. Let Canadians enjoy their summer barbecues while they can still marginally afford to have them.