Update May 2nd: Though the sentiment in the summary below is right, one correction needs to be made. The Conservative plan is not legislative but rather regulatory in nature. What does this mean? Essentially that it is not a Bill and does not have to be passed or ratified by government, and that it becomes very easy for government to simply not enforce it. The opinion below would hold if they would legislate the same provisions in law.
On Thursday, the Conservatives unveiled their new climate change plan. It's a weak plan. It does promise results, but far behind those of the rest of the world. Under the Tory plan, Canada would still be 30% short of its Kyoto commitments by the year 2020.
The facts of the situation are as follows; this plan will not meet Canada's Kyoto commitments; industry, which is responsible for 50% of Canada's emissions, is only being asked to shoulder 40% of the burden; intensity based targets will not reduce emissions if production increases at a significant rate; and there is no firm incentive for reductions by industry until 2010 when a proposed carbon tax of $15 per tonne kicks in.
So what should the opposition do? That part is easy. Pass it - with one strict condition.
With less than 5 years remaining under the current Kyoto treaty, it's time to let pragmatics take the lead over ideals. Canada has been a complete laggard in addressing climate change - thanks to both the Liberals AND the Conservatives - and we will continue to do so until some firm policy is in place. If the opposition forces an election over this issue, the result will likely be another minority government and another year of political wrangling before there is any hope of action being taken.
Canada needs to begin taking action now. And the one condition opposition parties need to insist on in passing this plan is that the $15 per tonne carbon tax needs to go into effect in 2008, not 2010 as the Conservatives are proposing.
This would provide genuine incentive for reducing greenhouse gases next year, but more importantly, it provides a policy foundation that Canada can build on. Subsequent governments will then have the tools and the regulatory framework in place to be more aggressive on emissions. Being more aggressive is also going to get a lot easier, once Canadian industry and the economy as a whole, takes the first steps along this road. To date, we've been standing at the starting line watching other nations sprint towards the finish line.
It has become clear that, on this issue, Canada will need to learn to walk before it can run. Passing this bill will start us walking. The next government can work towards getting us running by adding new measures to it.