Lisa Raitt and Jim Dinning: Cutting emissions can be a win for Canada
When it comes to climate, Conservatives must be domestically serious and globally conscious.
By: Lisa Raitt and Jim Dinning
Three separate but intersecting crosscurrents are going to radically shift Canada’s climate debate, and Conservatives must be prepared to lead that debate.
The first crosscurrent is the need to reduce domestic emissions now. For Conservatives, this means moving past simple slogans about what we oppose, and clearly saying what we support. At the core of that, as both Premiers Jason Kenney and Doug Ford are doing, is pricing industrial emissions. That must be at the heart of any domestic climate plan. That must be coupled with protecting our domestic industries from countries and competitors that are slow at taking climate change seriously — addressing carbon and investment leakage, to use the technical jargon.
Conservatives then need to figure out how to address retail emissions — how to reduce emissions from driving our cars and heating our homes. Our opponents are doing this in a way that disadvantages suburban families with kids who drive more trips, and rural households who drive more distance — not surprisingly, these are core conservative voters. Whether Conservatives address retail emissions through pricing carbon or through smart regulation or through incentives matters less than than they have a credible plan, especially one that is fairer to suburban families and rural households.
The second crosscurrent is the incredible economic opportunity for Canada as the globe pursues net zero by 2050. Conservatives can really set themselves apart because we understand that government sets the conditions for growth, it doesn’t make anything grow itself.
Here’s four examples where Canada has unique natural and global advantages.
Canada, and the globe, will not reach net zero without taking nuclear much more seriously than we do today. There is a burgeoning opportunity in small modular reactors that could power so much of our industrial processes — both here and globally. Conservative premiers have been at the front of promoting these opportunities and our federal party should as well. Big nuclear should also be on the table, both here and globally, in the race to net zero. Both big and small nuclear have long lead times to get both technical and project approval. And we’ve not approved many of these kinds of projects in the recent past. Conservatives should commit to reviewing and streamlining processes to get small and big nuclear projects moving both here and globally.
Canada has the natural resources the globe needs to build batteries. We need to mine, use and export those resources, and reap the jobs and tax revenue from all three. Canada’s global mining companies are committed to net zero. Conservatives need to not only streamline the approval processes for new mines, but create a regulatory, tax and infrastructure backbone for these companies to mine at net zero. For example, if existing and new mines are going to electrify, we need to think about how to build more transmission lines to mining hotspots in Canada.
Canada has an enormous opportunity for using, producing and selling zero-emissions vehicles. What government impediments are there at all stages of the supply chains for this? It starts with mining the required minerals for batteries, but includes the production of zero-emission vehicles. What do Canada’s large auto-parts manufacturers need for the transition to zero-emission vehicles? What infrastructure is needed to encourage more widespread adoption of zero-emissions vehicles? Again, let’s create the conditions for growth and then watch it happen.
Canada has one of the globe’s largest land masses combined with one of the smallest populations. We are one of the globe’s critical bread baskets. All of this means Canada has enormous potential for nature-based solutions, which focus on reducing emissions and using nature to capture more emissions. What else can we do to protect wetlands and expand natural areas? How can Indigenous communities, farmers, ranchers and private landowners lead the way on land management practises that conserve carbon? Once more: let’s create the conditions for emissions reductions and then watch them happen.
The third crosscurrent is the role Canada can play in greening the global supply of energy. Much of the globe’s power still comes from dirty coal. The globe must transition to cleaner natural gas before it gets to clean fuels (like blue or green hydrogen, where Canada also has natural advantages) of our net-zero future. Natural gas is, as the International Energy Agency says, critical to making progress on global climate change.
The invasion of Ukraine has put in stark relief something that should have been obvious for some time. The globe not only needs more Canadian gas, but it needs to wean itself off Russian gas (a similar argument could be made about the opportunities offered by Canadian oil). The German transition to cleaner fuels has relied on Russian gas. The Germans have said that will end. Asia — especially China — needs to transition from dirty coal to much cleaner natural gas. It would be unconscionable to allow that demand to (continue to) be filled by Russian gas. Or indeed gas from any dictatorial regime. Even North America is currently importing Russian gas. This must stop.
There is a tension between this third crosscurrent and the first. On the one hand, producing and exporting more natural gas will drive our emissions up. On the other, a stringent price on industrial emissions and getting a better grip on methane emissions should drive emissions intensity down. And this is where there is also a potentially huge opportunity for carbon capture and storage (again, a similar argument can be made about our oil).
All of which we should do, because Canada has natural gas to replace Asia and Europe’s use of dirtier fuels. We should be turning the taps on, building whatever pipelines and terminals and other infrastructure we can, to reduce global emissions by supplying our gas, and reduce global insecurity by replacing Russian gas — and any energy exported by dictatorships — gas with our own.
Climate change is both a domestic challenge — and Conservatives should leading on economically sensible policy to reduce our domestic industrial and retail emissions — and a global challenge. Conservatives should be at the forefront of taking advantage of the economic opportunities inherent in that challenge, and should help make Canada the globe’s natural-gas station as it transitions from dirty fuel to cleaner fuels to clean fuels.
When it comes to climate, Conservatives must be domestically serious and globally conscious. And the electoral reality is that if we don’t do the former, we’ll not be able to do the latter.
Lisa Raitt and Jim Dinning are recovering Conservative politicians and Founding Co-Chairs of Conservatives for Clean Growth.
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