Month: October 2008

BC Carbon Tax regressive?

British Columbians with low incomes will benefit from the carbon tax in its first year, but will pay more by the scheme’s third year, a new study concludes.

The impact of the tax and its offsetting income tax cuts will become increasingly unequal unless the provincial government increases payments to low-income earners, the study says.

The study, by Marc Lee, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Toby Sanger, senior economist with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, takes a detailed look at the fairness of the controversial tax.

via Carbon Tax Whacks the Poor, Later :: News :: thetyee.ca

The report makes some good points. Revenue neutrality (the offsetting of carbon taxes with income/corporate tax cuts) has nothing to do with reducing carbon emissions. If I were to redesign this tax, I would do as the report says, increase rebates to lower income people, reduce corporate tax cuts so that the resulting revenue can be used to fund more transit infrastructure, energy efficiency infrastructure and the building of a low carbon economy.

A carbon tax in itself is not sufficient to reduce emissions. It does its part, but building an energy efficient, low carbon infrastructure will do a lot more and the money’s there, just use it.

You can read the whole report here.

|

Dole Begone

Facing a close re-election race in North Carolina, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) recently released an ad attacking her opponent Kay Hagan, falsely accusing her of being “Godless.” The end of the ad shows a photo of Hagan while a woman yells, “There is no God!” Watch it:

via Think Progress » Elizabeth Dole ad falsely suggests opponent Kay Hagan is ‘Godless.’

Dear fellow Tar Heels:

Please give this inept, ineffectual, incompetent excuse for a senator the retirement she so richly deserves.

Sincerely,

The Olive Ridley Crawl

Of course, she yelled “Godless” in my face, I’d say, “Yeah”!! But as we know, atheists are not very popular…

|

Asbestos stays off global dangerous-substance list

NDP MP Pat Martin said Tuesday the Canadian delegation did not even participate in the discussions this year but got others to work on their behalf instead.

He accused the Canadians of browbeating developing nations such as India, Pakistan and Vietnam — some of Canada's largest chrysotile customers — into opposing its inclusion on the list.

"It's not a proud day for our country," said Martin, who attended the convention and spoke by telephone from Rome.

via Chrysotile asbestos stays off global dangerous-substance list

Canadians can now breathe easy. The government did not even have to oppose a notification officially, other countries did it for them.

|

DMK blinks on Sri Lankan Tamils, LTTE

Signalling the end of a major crisis that threatened the continuance of the United Progressive Alliance government, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi assured External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee that he would not precipitate any crisis over the issue of a ceasefire in the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict, even as the island nation assured India that the safety of Tamils in that country was being taken care of.

via The Hindu : Front Page : As DMK relents, crisis for Centre ends

So, what happened? The Indian government reacted to Tamil MPs’ ultimatums and issued a statement expressing “concern”. The Sri Lankan government responded by issuing a statement “reassuring” that Tamils would be taken care of. In the end, nothing appears to have changed, except the rather subtle new perception that there could be an increased Indian involvement in possible negotiations.

We shall see, having been here before.

Value a forest, cool a planet

Cutting forests is the third-largest source of climate-warming carbon emissions today, larger than the emissions produced by either the US or China. Including them in a "carbon market" is a tempting solution.

It comes down to this: Today, trees are worth more dead than alive. This despite the fact that they stash away billions of tons of carbon in their soil and themselves and constantly inhale more carbon from the atmosphere. They also help regulate the earth's climate in other ways, influencing rainfall patterns far away, including in the US. And they contain unique plant and animal life, the economic value of which is only beginning to be understood.

Yet no dollar figure is placed on these vital services. Instead, tropical forests are cut down in favor of enterprises such as palm oil plantations or cattle grazing, endeavours that make money here and now. It’s easy to see why rain forests continue to disappear at an alarming rate.

A report to the British government this month suggests that the way to recognize the true value of forests is by including them in carbon markets. Polluters around the world could earn credits to offset their own carbon emissions by paying for forest preservation.

via Value a forest, cool a planet | csmonitor.com

A carbon sink needs to be valued as much as a carbon source. Making this really happen is of course very difficult, needing accurate forest cover mappings (now available), and strict enforcement in countries that may be hard to monitor.

The moral hazard of giving people money to do “nothing” of course is something conservatives will not like, but the trees are not doing “nothing”. Paying people for stewardship is not wrong. There would be an opportunity to change an extractive subsistence based economy into a service economy, with sustainable tourism, shade grown coffee, local guards and forest officers, etc.

I like this idea very much. Carbon offset markets have gotten a bad name recently, but a larger scale program is necessary.

|

How NAFTA infringes on local environmental regulations

Dow AgroSciences is considering using the controversial investor-protection provisions of the North American free-trade agreement to seek compensation from the federal government over Quebec's ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides.

The company, a maker of the weed-killer 2,4-D, filed a notice of intent to submit a claim to arbitration under NAFTA in late August. The 27-page legal action was posted yesterday on the Foreign Affairs website, where it is listed as a dispute to which Canada is a party.

via globeandmail.com: Ban on pesticides may face NAFTA test

Here is Sierra Club’s assessment of 2,4-D. It is not as bad as, say, DDT, but not something an average householder would ever need to use. Limiting use and exposure is in everyone’s best interest except Dow’s, which is why they have filed this lawsuit.

I would say it infringes on a province’s right to set strict health and safety standards for its people, but if we accept that corporations have more rights than people, we would expect this kind of lawsuit to happen with more frequency.

Note that a much more egregious actor, lindane, which was deregistered by even the Bush EPA is subject of a similar challenge in Canada, and Bisphenol A is probably next.

Can’t blame the companies for exploiting loopholes (that they no doubt inserted, of course), but it seems that countries should always have the right to enforce stricter standards if they so desire.

The Canadian Press: Income gap widens between Canada's rich and poor, OECD study says

The gap between the rich and poor in Canada widened significantly in a recent 10-year period partly because Ottawa spent less on cash benefits than many other developed countries, the OECD says.

It was a reversal of the trend in the two previous decades when the gap was narrowing, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development said in a report.
via The Canadian Press: Income gap widens between Canada’s rich and poor, OECD study says

Just like our southern neighbour, of course. This is no liberal-conservative divide issue, but a consequence of the neoliberal deregulation and tax-cutting policies so popular since the mid ’90s. Inequality deepens divisions within a country and creates a ruling class that is increasingly vested in keeping the inequality going as it benefits them.