GOLDSTEIN: Trudeau’s prohibitively expensive climate plan comes with imaginary climate targets

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With Canadian governments never having hit a single greenhouse gas reduction target they’ve set since 1988, a new report by Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux explains why the Trudeau government won’t hit its latest target for 2030.

Technically, Giroux’s report — Beyond Paris: Reducing Canada’s GHG emissions by 2030 — outlines the “prohibitive costs” Canadians will have to pay and the “extraordinary measures” required by government and the private sector.

But given the dismal record of reducing emissions by Conservative and Liberal governments, it’s inevitable — my words, not Giroux’s — that Canada’s unbroken 33-year record of failing to meet a single target, will be 42 years in 2030.

Giroux’s report explains the negative economic impacts of attempting to achieve Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s targets, including huge government subsidies and private sector expenditures, the costs of which will be paid by Canadians as taxpayers, consumers and workers.

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As one example, Giroux says, sales of electric vehicles, currently 3.5% of the market, would have to increase to 50% starting next year, requiring “prohibitively high” government subsidies to boost sales and “large fixed capital costs” to build the necessary electricity infrastructure.

The price of gasoline and home heating fuels will soar, economic growth will be reduced and the incomes of workers cut — particularly those with lower education levels and especially in the oil and gas and transportation sectors.

(The government says its carbon tax rebates cover more than the cost of carbon taxes for most households, but this only applies in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and individual households have little way to independently assess this.)

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The PBO estimates by 2030 under Trudeau’s policies, Canada’s effective, all-in carbon price will be $261 per tonne of emissions. (Think 62-cents more per litre of gasoline and 52-cents more per cubic metre of natural gas, compared to no carbon tax.)

A $261 per tonne carbon price will break the Trudeau government’s promise before the 2019 election it wouldn’t go above $50 per tonne in 2030, and after the election that it wouldn’t go above $170 per tonne in 2030.

Giroux predicts if everything the government plans to do works — a long shot — it will reduce Canada’s annual emissions from 730 million tonnes in 2019 (the last year for which government figures are available) to 468 million tonnes in 2030.

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But that will be short of Trudeau’s latest target of 40% to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, meaning cutting an additional 30 million to 66 million tonnes of emissions.

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(For perspective, Canada’s total emissions from the electricity sector in 2019 were 61.1 million tonnes).

Basically, Trudeau’s goal is to reduce Canada’s emissions between 292 million and 328 million tonnes by 2030.

Contrast that with Canada’s record in reducing emissions since Conservative and Liberal governments started making promises to do so in 1988, when our annual emissions were 588 million tonnes.

From 1988 to 2019, emissions went up 142 million tonnes, with Trudeau’s now promising to reduce them by between 292 million and 328 million tonnes by 2030 and to net zero emissions by 2050.

Giroux estimates Trudeau’s current climate change policies will reduce Canada’s economic growth by 1.4% in 2030, cut labour incomes by 1.2%, hitting lower-educated workers hardest, with the biggest income cuts in the oil and gas (10.5% to 10.7%) and transportation sectors (3.2% to 4.6%).

Giroux notes his estimates don’t include the cost of not addressing climate change and the possibility green technologies will contribute to economic growth.

But he also cautions he’s operating on the “inherently optimistic” assumption the Trudeau government will choose the lowest cost measures to reduce emissions.

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