rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

CCPA report: Who Occupies the Sky?

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $5 per month!

CCPA released a new report today by myself and Amanda Card that makes the links between inequality and carbon footprints. We look at the distribution of greenhouse gas emissions for Canada, building on an analysis of B.C. emissions. While it was not planned this way, the analysis is timely given the Occupy movement's focus on surging inequality and movements for climate justice, manifested recently in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline.

The new report uses household expenditure data to model direct emissions from households (transportation and home energy use), and we also model indirect emissions that are embedded in the other consumption goods we purchase. After adjusting for family size, we find that the footprint of top quintile (15.5 tonnes per person) was almost double that of the bottom quintile (8.6 tonnes per person).

Unfortunately, data are not available for smaller groupings, and the footprint of the top 1 per cent is going to be much higher than the average for the top decile. Based on SPSD/M modelling for B.C.'s carbon tax the top 1 per cent of households had emissions three times the average, and almost six times that of the bottom. These are unadjusted for family size, but interestingly the top 1 per cent had emissions almost double those of the next 4 per cent.

The report also estimates per capita emissions by province to show the regional variation. The big difference, as far as direct emissions go, arises from source of electricity. The big coal-burning provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have well above average emissions per person as a result.

We then review some conceptions of justice and model emission reductions for Canada for two justice principles -- (A) an across the board percentage reduction, and (B) reducing emissions to an equal per capita amount -- and two emission reduction scenarios - the current government of Canada target (17 per cent reduction below 2005 levels by 2020), and more ambitious target consistent with keeping global temperature increase below the critical 2 degree Celsius threshold (25 per cent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020).

For the government-set target (and as an aside, given the compulsion to export tar sands by the Harper government, it is yet another target we will fail to meet) an across the board reduction would still leave the top quintile with average emissions in 2020 that are larger than the CURRENT emissions of the bottom 40 per cent. Shifting to equal per capita emissions in 2020, on the other hand, mean that the emissions of the bottom quintile could actually grow somewhat.

For the more aggressive target, the bottom quintile would have to reduce emissions by 12 per cent, while the top quintile would have reduce them by more than half (51 per cent). This makes sense because it is the households with the highest incomes that are responsible for more emissions in the first place and have greater capacity to reduce emissions by cutting luxury consumption or making investments in energy efficiency. The poorest have the least capacity to reduce emissions or make the upfront investments needed to get ahead of the curve.

Bottom line: inequality matters when it comes to carbon footprints. This means across the board policies like a carbon tax need to have compensating mechanisms to ensure they do not adversely affect the poorest households who have the least responsibility for causing the mess we are in. Too often policy-making is middle-class professionals making policy for the middle class, and this risks ignoring who needs to do the heavy lifting to reduce our collective carbon footprint.

This article was first posted on The Progressive Economics Forum.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.