Letter to the Editor

Government puts off the reckoning Carbon tax and climate change have been in the news a lot lately. This is a good thing because discussions and…

Government puts

off the reckoning

Carbon tax and climate change have been in the news a lot lately.

This is a good thing because discussions and decisions about how we handle fossil fuels and their accompanying emissions affect everyone.

The choices we make today create the world we live in.

As a scientist working on the issue of climate change, I have known for a long time that we will be forced to shift away from fossil fuels.

The social, economic and environmental costs of carbon emissions globally are shaping up to be worse than anything we have previously encountered — ever.

The longer we wait to address the issue, the more costly and difficult it will be.

So we must shift the energy economy.

But how?

Lately, fuel prices have been going up — a lot. While they might drop back a bit tomorrow or the next day, they are bound to continue to rise.

The reasons are pretty simple: we don’t have an endless supply, but we do have a growing demand for oil.

It is true that the higher cost of oil and gas has already started to change our behaviour.

For example, people are considering energy efficient vehicles and the value of SUVs is dropping. But there are still two reasons why we want a cost on emissions (like a carbon tax) as well.

The first is that higher costs have been mostly with oil and therefore gasoline, but not with all the fossil fuels.

A cost on emissions would cover all fossil fuels based on their contribution to the problem, from methane to coal.

The second reason is that, in the not-too-distant future, fuel prices are going to get much, much higher.

Every penny we pay on a carbon tax right now helps us to reduce our usage and this in turn provides us with more energy security and buffers us from the super-high costs that are coming.

Every economist with whom I have discussed this problem has agreed that we need to put a price on carbon emissions.

Unless there is a cost associated with putting carbon in the atmosphere, we won’t shift our actions.

When the Canadian government wanted to figure out how to achieve emission reductions with the least impact to the economy, they asked the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy.

The roundtable responded early this year by saying that the best choices were a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system, or possibly a combination of both.

And it said it was important to implement the emissions pricing immediately.

Carbon tax or cap-and-trade? A carbon tax is simple to implement, and works fairly across the board based on fossil fuel consumption.

Cap-and-trade is applied through regulations to industries.

As with any production costs, they will still be passed on to you and me, the consumers. The beauty of cap-and-trade is that it goes hand-in-hand with the creation of a carbon market.

For me, I think we should implement both. I believe that we will end up with both anyway and it is just a question of when.

I hope it will be sooner so that we can get on with the opportunities of fostering a low carbon economy here in Canada now.

For some time I have been working to explain to government that the concern is not the cost of dealing with climate change.

No, the real concern is the cost of not breaking our dependence on fossil fuels.

So far, the government has ignored these ideas and recommendations from the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy.

I don’t want to make excuses for Ottawa, but the truth is that, per capita, Canada is the nation with the highest dependence on fossil fuels. So it will be very hard for us to shift our energy economy.

The government knows this and would still prefer to just push the problem back. In fact we have been doing that now for 20 years.

This has of course only made the problems of climate change and energy security harder to deal with.

Right now, we have the opportunity to set ourselves on the path of a new economy, one that accounts for the environment and is made stronger as a result.

It is our job as Canadians to get involved in these decisions.

John Streicker, Green Party candidate for the Yukon, Whitehorse

Happy miners

Re Miners heated over summer consultation (the News, July 11):

The Yukon Chamber of Mines would like to clarify a misconception stated in the Yukon News regarding proposed changes by the Yukon government to the Miners’ Lien Act.

Joanne Rice, the executive officer of the chamber of mines, did not intend to convey “frustration” towards proposed amendments to this act.

Many members of the board of directors of the chamber are currently in the field or otherwise unable to immediately comment on the territorial government’s recent news release regarding these amendments.

The board would simply like the opportunity to review these proposals prior to issuing further comment, and it intends to provide a submission prior to the deadline for comment.

In the meantime, the chamber would like to make it clear that it is very pleased with the territorial government’s efforts toward modernization of the Miners’ Lien Act and is looking forward to working with it towards implementation of a revised act favourable to all parties.

Carl Schulze, president, Yukon Chamber of Mines, Whitehorse