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McKenna's global carbon market plan more charade than genuine climate action

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Twitter photo by @ec_minister.

At the conclusion of the United Nations COP24 climate talks in Katowice, Poland, federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna boasted that Canada "played a leading role in laying the groundwork for a global carbon market."

In short, this is a corporate-friendly approach backed by the World Bank Group in which a central authority allocates or sells a limited number of credits to corporations to discharge specific quantities of carbon pollution. Polluters that want to increase their carbon emissions must buy credits from other corporations willing to sell their excess credits.

McKenna further noted in her December 15 media statement that "Canada took part in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition" and that "more work remains over the next year to finalize the guidelines for international trading."

Her comment suggests that COP25 -- which will take place November 11-22, 2019 in Chile -- may well be a key moment where this agenda will be furthered, or indeed as she hopes, finalized.

During COP24, Oil Change International noted, "Friends of the Earth International, Corporate Accountability and other NGOs demonstrated outside a forum by IETA -- the International Emissions Trading System -- for promoting false solutions to climate change."

The Bretton Woods Project, which critiques the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, has noted, "Despite the emergence of ETS [emission trading systems] markets in North America, Europe and China, the jury is still out on whether they can be an effective tool to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions."

That's in part because most of these schemes price carbon at less than $10 a tonne, while the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices recommends the price should be between US$40-$80 a tonne by 2020 and between US$50-$100 a tonne by 2030.

The federal carbon tax proposed by the Trudeau government will start at CAD$20 a tonne in 2019 and is scheduled to rise to CAD$50 a tonne in 2022.

Somewhat echoing the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices, Simon Fraser University economist Marc Jaccard has stated that the carbon tax in Canada would need to start at $30 next year and rise to $200 a tonne by 2030 to meet the federal government's (weak) commitment under the Paris climate agreement.

During COP24, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce expressed its support for carbon pricing -- with some significant caveats.

Their report cautioned:

"Carbon pricing systems cannot be a tax grab. Provincial and federal governments should use revenues to reduce the costs of climate policies to businesses and households through tax rebates or programs aimed at incentivising investments in energy efficiency and other climate technologies."

Furthermore, the report says the Chamber will continue to advocate "for the pipelines necessary to get our oil to tidewater and to international markets."

This perhaps isn't surprising given the report boasts that "this report was made possible by the generous support of" Enbridge and TransCanada!

In short, we have the Trudeau government pushing for a global carbon market and a carbon pricing scheme with the price per tonne well below what's needed to meet even its weak carbon emission reduction targets (30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030).

Add to that "the voice of Canadian business" backing the scheme, but continuing to push for "pipelines" (plural), "streamlining regulatory processes" and cautioning governments to "avoid layering regulation on top of carbon pricing."

Coupled with the Trudeau government purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion -- and seemingly prepared to spend an additional $15 billion to expand that infrastructure to an 890,000-barrel-per-day tar sands pipeline -- and it's not hard to draw the conclusion that all this is more charade than action.

As COP24 ended McKenna stated, "Today demonstrates that multilateralism works to tackle a clear global problem -- climate change."

As populist movements -- both left-wing and right-wing -- rise up against the neoliberal multilateralism of the institutions that are failing us, McKenna is charting a precarious path both for the future of liberal democracy and more importantly, planet Earth.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: @ec_minister/Twitter

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