Monday, 14 March 2016

My interview in "Building a consensus on climate change? Not so easy, after all" in Macleans

Here is the link to an article by John Geddes "Building a consensus on climate change? Not so easy, after all", Ottawa bureau chief at Maclean’s, who does a good job of distilling my point that while carbon pricing is the most economically efficient GHG reduction policy, it is willful blindness to assume that economic efficiency is the only criterion when trying to implement climate policy. If regulations are more politically acceptable, especially for doing the heavy lifting, then put some intelligence (even economic intelligence) into designing market-oriented regulations that are relatively economically efficient.



One might notice by the way, that in the first two weeks of March Trudeau failed to get provinces to agree to even a small carbon price (that would have virtually no effect on emissions - such as $15 or $30 per tonne of CO2)) and then went to Washington and quickly signed an agreement with Obama to dramatically reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. No mention of emissions pricing. It will be regulation." 

The Paris climate summit

This article appeared in Policy Options in November 2015.
The Paris climate summit
Canada has consistently failed to deliver, but it’s not too late for us to make a major contribution at the climate summit in Paris.
The other day I heard an environmental advocate argue that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needed to make an ambitious commitment at the UN Paris climate summit (COP 21) to atone for all the “climate fossil” awards won by our previous prime minister. I’m not so sure.
Remember when newly elected President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize? He hadn’t yet done anything. Apparently the Nobel committee bestowed the award simply because he was not George W. Bush. In the same vein, Trudeau will be welcomed because he is not Stephen Harper.
I am not saying, of course, that Trudeau should just go to Paris and smile. But to make a real contribution, he will need to be brutally honest about why UN negotiations have failed for over two decades and equally honest about why Canada’s emission reduction efforts have also continuously failed.

Want an effective climate policy? Heed the evidence

This article appeared in Policy Options in February 2016.
Want an effective climate policy? Heed the evidence
Carbon taxes and caps may be most effective in economic theory, but smart regulation will produce better climate policy for our political reality.
Wisely, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau resisted the temptation at the Paris climate summit in December to double down on Stephen Harper’s 2030 target for Canadian carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. While future emissions promises are easily made, effective climate policy is devilishly difficult. To have any chance, Trudeau needs to stay wise — which starts by avoiding advice from technology and policy advocates who themselves avoid inconvenient evidence from leading climate policy research and real-world experience. What does this evidence tell us?
For one thing, it’s a mistake to expect a big contribution from energy efficiency. For three decades, governments and utilities have made efficiency the focus of their emissions reduction efforts, with negligible results. Yes, energy efficiency is always improving, and we can slightly accelerate that trend. But humans require energy for basic needs and, more important, we keep inventing frivolous devices that use more. (Need evidence? Stroll through your local big-box store.)

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

My #KeystoneXL and #COP21-related media blitz

I have given a large number of interviews to media outlets in the past few weeks  relating to President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, COP21: The 2015 Paris Climate Summit and recent Canadian climate policy developments and potential. Links and brief descriptions are below:

Nov. 6, 2015 

CTV News 'Obama says no to Keystone XL pipeline'
680News 'Victory for the people: Environmentalists cheer Obama decision on Keystone'
Interview in Vice: Environmentalists shouldn't take pipeline slowdown as a win for activism

Nov. 9, 2015 

Global News BC1: Political strategist and commentator Alise Mills, and Simon Fraser University’s Mark Jaccard discuss the ramifications of U.S. President Barack Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline from going ahead.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Canadian climate policy and your vote

“Policy academics are cheap dates.” One of my mentors, professor Aiden Vining, loved saying that. His point was that we policy academics will gladly pay for our own dinner if we think that a politician, of any political stripe, wants our advice. This explains why, in my 30 years of climate policy research, I have willingly advised Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Greens, sometimes when in power, sometimes in opposition. Once, a politician actually paid for my dinner – at McDonalds.

I have learned some things that are relevant to this federal election. One lesson is that climate policy is really, really hard. Our political system has strong incentives for politicians not to implement effective climate policies. To be effective, policies must either price CO2 emissions or regulate CO2-causing fuels and technologies. These compulsory policies impose short-term costs (real and perceived) on some people, some of whom will wage war on the guilty politician. As in all wars, truth is the first casualty: the climate policy and its implementing politician will be blamed for completely unrelated misfortunes by these people, powerful backers, and a media that loves attacking politicians.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Canadian Climate Policy Report Card: 2015

Executive Summary
Over the past three decades, governments in developed countries have made many commitments to reduce a specific quantity or percentage of greenhouse gases by a specific date, but often they have failed to implement effective climate policies that would achieve their commitment. Fortunately, energy-economy analysts can determine well in advance of the target date if a government is keeping its promise. In this 2015 climate policy report card, I evaluate the Canadian government’s emission commitments and policy actions. I find that in the nine years since its promise to reduce Canadian emissions 20% by 2020 and 65% by 2050, the Canadian government has implemented virtually no polices that would materially reduce emissions. The 2020 target is now unachievable without great harm to the Canadian economy. And this may also be the case for the 2050 target, this latter requiring an almost complete transformation of the Canadian energy system in the remaining 35 years after almost a decade of inaction.


Canadian Climate Policy Report Card: 2015

Background
A critical challenge to preventing the harms from human-produced greenhouse gas emissions, especially CO2 from burning fossil fuels, is that elected representatives face weak incentives to implement effective climate policies and strong incentives to implement no or ineffective policies. There are several reasons.page2image2912

First, significant CO2 emissions reductions require ‘compulsory policies’ – regulation of technologies and energy forms and/or pricing of CO2 emissions – and these are seen to cause immediate costs for some even though the long-term benefits for society exceed these costs. These immediate costs would begin during the mandate of current politicians, and have significant political risks, while the benefits of avoiding climate change will mostly occur after the career of current political leaders.

Friday, 29 May 2015

BC and LNG: Better Late or Never


By Mark Jaccard and Tom Gunton
Originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun October 14, 2014

Our LNG discussion has certainly changed from 2013, when Christy Clark’s “Debt-Free B.C.” slogan promised voters huge tax revenues from exporting the “world’s cleanest LNG.” Industry calls the shots today, threatening to invest elsewhere unless government quickly delivers on tax breaks, minimalist royalties, and environmental deregulation. It’s a sobering time.

Increasingly, one hears our government has moved too slowly, just as a prospector arriving too late to a gold rush. But this argument reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of today’s natural gas market. It can have potentially harmful repercussions for our economy and environment. Here is why.