Brock climate change expert comments on cap-and-trade, carbon tax

Measures to cut carbon emissions must have teeth to succeed, says Brock University climatologist Anthony Shaw.

“We need to have effective monitoring, reporting and verification protocols,” says Shaw, professor in the Department of Geography. “We must know the amount of carbon that industries are putting out. We need to have industry-approved instrumentation to collect data and the data have to be verified and publicly available.”

“And the government must take action against defaulters through imposing hefty fines and other penalties.”

Shaw calls Ontario’s recent budget a “good first step” in reducing the province’s greenhouse gas emissions, a major contributor to climate change.

“Ultimately, the program must go hand in hand with improved technology to reduce emissions along with other strategies to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and energy conservation measures in commercial and residential buildings.”

The 2016 budget sets out Ontario’s “cap-and-trade” plan under which various industries are allocated a certain number of carbon allowances. They can purchase or sell allowances according to their emissions targets, with the province placing a limit on the total amount of emissions overall.

The plan also includes a consumer carbon tax in the form of increased gas and energy prices.

Shaw cautions that the price of allowances needs to be just right. Too-high prices might result in industry “leakage” where businesses pack up and move to countries with lax policies.

If prices are too low, “then there is no real incentive for industries to reduce their emission and sell these allowances if they’re only going to earn a small amount of income from these sales,” says Shaw.

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