Years ago now, the big argument in the climate change community was about how to lower emissions. The left favoured regulation. But, in order to draw in right-wingers who insisted that regulation kills profits, the goalposts shifted. The right invented ideas like “carbon taxes” and “cap-and-trade systems” because it argued that market incentives would encourage businesses to innovate creative solutions to climate change, whereas regulation would just raise prices and contract the economy.
So you can imagine my surprise when I read the current position of Canada’s Reform Party environment minister, Peter Kent:
“It’s a great concept and it’s a minor cost of doing business for large companies, but it’s not proven and it’s got all sorts of negatives… Compliance with regulations is a much more tangible concept than a theoretical trading system.”
It’s interesting, because that’s exactly the argument that “crazy lefties” were making ten years ago. Vaguely progressive parties, like the NDP, moved towards market solutions specifically because right-wing political marties and free-market think tanks insisted that regulation came from the devil. Now that the NDP have come onboard, the Conservatives announce a sudden volte-face and argue that big government, not the market, will solve environmental problems.
Now, I just want to pause here and repeat that statement again, so it can really sink in: the Conservatives claim that big government, not markets and innovation, will solve environmental problems.
I think as Canadians we are owed an explanation as to why the party of the free market has suddenly decided that regulation is preferable to market incentives. I think Conservative voters, in particular, should be very interested in learning why such a central principle of the political party is being thrown away. The media should be particularly strident in asking such questions.
Of course, I doubt many hard questions will actually be asked. After all, we all know what the real reason here is: Peter Kent’s regulations are horseshit. They will be loose enough that they will require virtually no adjustment in the business sector at all. And of course, cap-and-trade may be cheaper to business than strong regulations, but virtually no regulations are the best alternative of all.
And the climate? Fuck it. Here’s the coming spin: Once the sea level rises high enough for me to kayak from the suburbs to my office in downtown Vancouver, I can ditch my car and reduce carbon emissions. Canada’s Climate Plan, in action.Tweet