The Green Party’s Climate Action Plan for Manitoba

Speaking at a news conference today, Manitoba Green Party Leader James Beddome and Green Conservation and Water Stewardship Critic David Nickarz introduced a Green Climate Action Plan for Manitoba.

The Green Action Plan focuses on taxation, transportation, building practices and agricultural reform.

Carbon tax and dividend

The Greens propose a sufficiently high fee on greenhouse gas pollution, or carbon tax, levied on all fossil fuels, which would encourage the widespread adoption of cleaner products and processes. The revenue from this tax would go towards green infrastructure, direct transfers to households, and reductions in payroll and/or income taxes. For more information, read this Carbon Tax Backgrounder.

Re-thinking transportation

The Greens favour fare free public transit, which would increase ridership and therefore reduce car traffic in urban areas. Electrically powered buses are a part of our transit plan. The Greens want to promote rail transportation over trucking, since rail is a safer and more energy efficient way of shipping goods.

Better building practices

The Greens want recognized green building standards to be required in new construction. This would reduce energy requirements, and make residences and other buildings more comfortable and cheaper to run.

Agricultural reform

The Green agriculture plan includes incentives for organic, small scale and local production, with a goal to removing chemical pesticide and fertilizer inputs.

Winnipeg, Dec. 14, 2015: Manitoba Green Party Leader James Beddome and Green Conservation and Water Stewardship Critic David Nickarz introduced a Green Climate Action Plan for Manitoba. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Dec. 14, 2015: Manitoba Green Party Leader James Beddome (r) and Green Conservation and Water Stewardship Critic David Nickarz (l) introduced a Green Climate Action Plan for Manitoba. Photo: Paul S. Graham

What is wrong with the NDP’s climate action plan?

There is every reason to believe the NDP’s latest climate action plan will fail.

In 2002, the Manitoba government set its GHG emission reduction target to 18 per cent below 1990 (15.3 MT) by 2010 with the possibility of achieving 23 per cent by 2012 (14.4 MT). In 2008, the government legislated a weakened target of 6 per cent below 1990 by 2012 (17.5 MT).

The latest plan introduced on December 3rd seems more like an admission of defeat than a commitment to emissions reduction. It promises 33 per cent less than 2005 levels (13.8 MT) by 2030. This is barely better than the goal the NDP set into 2002 shortly after they first came into power, but 28 years later.

Why their plan won’t work

There are many reasons this latest goal will meet the same fate as the others.

Cap-and-trade

The plan relies on a proposed cap-and-trade system that sets a maximum level of pollution for large emitters and penalizes those going above their limit. Those below their limit can sell their carbon “room” to the over-polluters. It is a complex system that relies on concerted enforcement and can be weakened by bureaucratic adjustments.

In the NDP’s plan, only large companies will be involved, which are responsible for approximately 10 per cent of the province’s emissions.

The very complexity of a cap-and-trade system means that there will be a long delay before implementation.

Carbon Stewarship

The plan relies on so far undefined “carbon stewardship” programs to reduce the remaining 90 per cent of the province’s emissions on a sector by sector basis.

The complexity and uncertainty of the carbon stewardship system means that there will be a long delay before implementation.

Fossil fuel subsidies

The NDP plan promises to review current government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. A serious effort to mitigate climate change would necessarily include immediate removal of subsidies.

Energy East pipeline support

This pipeline is planned to go from the Alberta tar sands through Manitoba on its way to New Brunswick. It will facilitate an annual 32 MT expansion of the tar sands emissions – greater than the total of Manitoba’s emissions.

The Manitoba government has the authority to withhold permits for the pumping stations that would be needed to keep the pipeline flowing.

A huge amount – some 150 megawatts capacity – of hydro power will be required for pumping. This significantly reduces the “cleanness” of hydro power.

The NDP are in full support of this pipeline.

Fracking continues

Fracking continues unregulated in Manitoba despite its known and possible dangers, including polluting groundwater. A serious climate change plan would ban fracking immediately.

Peat bog mining re-introduced

Peat bog mining has been brought back after a four-year moratorium. Peat mining and decomposition releases methane gas which, in its CO2 equivalent, accounts for 3 per cent of Manitoba’s total greenhouse gas emissions

Transportation omitted

Transportation accounts for 39 per cent of the provinces greenhouse gas emissions. The NDP plan does not address this sector.