JustEarth Carbon Petition

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One of the main objectives of JustEarth is to encourage Canadians to make their opinions known to politicians. One very effective way to do that is to sign petitions which can be submitted in the House of Commons.

JustEarth has a revised (January 2015) petition demanding that Parliament implement a carbon tax. Read the rationale for demanding a carbon tax in English and French below. For some more background, read Lynn McDonald’s article: A Carbon Tax is a Good Tax.

Please take the time to download the petition and get as many signatures as possible. The petition is available in English and French.



Rationale for the Citizens’ Demand for a Carbon Tax in Canada

by Lynn McDonald, for JustEarth and Science for Peace

The time has come to show the federal government that many Canadians recognize that a carbon tax is a necessary part of any serious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course carbon taxes won’t do it all. To achieve the recommended reductions needed, 50-85% by 2050 according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or 94% by 2030 according to Monbiot’s Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning), many changes in our laws and lifestyles are needed.

Common sense and a host of eminent economists tell us that a carbon tax will help. Such a tax was proposed by the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy in its recent report (www.nrtee-trnee.ca/getting-to-2050), and by the Conference Board of Canada. Quebec has already instituted a (modest) carbon tax.

People want a serious climate change action plan, not mere cosmetic schemes, “intensity” reductions or the inadequate “aspirational” goals offered so far. This is our opportunity to make it clear to the federal government that we are not naive, that we will welcome, indeed we are demanding, a carbon tax as part of a climate change strategy–for our benefit and to fulfill our obligations to the rest of the world.

A carbon tax puts a price on carbon dioxide emissions. It will encourage reduced use of fossil fuels and a shift to sustainable energy sources and energy efficiency.

Our proposal is for the tax to be “revenue neutral,” that is, not to increase total tax revenues. Compensating tax breaks or tax credits will be required to ensure that low-income people do not suffer as a result of the carbon tax. The proposal in effect is to shift taxes from “goods,” such as employment and income, to “bads,” in this case greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

It urges a start now, with increases in amount over time. This will give people and businesses time to adapt. The tax’s efficacy can be judged and adjustments made with experience.

A carbon tax can work along with many other measures to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. It would be complementary to such mechanisms as “cap and trade” and better fuel efficiency standards. Unlike “cap and trade” a carbon tax does not give an advantage to past high emitters. Carbon taxes deal with emissions in every sector, not just major industries as in “cap and trade” schemes to date.

A carbon tax can help ensure that better fuel efficiency (which will reduce costs) does not simply result in increased use, and hence a possible rise in emissions.

Carbon taxes provide direct, transparent and understandable price signals to consumers and producers: use less oil and gas, less electricity based on coal, and move to clean, sustainable alternatives. Reduced fossil fuel burning will as well have other good consequences for the environment, such as reducing air and water pollution and the stress on forests.

The carbon tax petition promotes an important policy change, for which much background work on specifics is available. We urge the federal government to bring in a concrete plan.


Some informative links on cap and trade:

A Carbon Tax is a Good Tax

by Lynn McDonald, Toronto Star, Jul 09, 2008

A carbon tax is a good tax for two reasons:

One, fossils fuels are a “bad,” so that measures that discourage their use will help us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, and promote the switch to non-carbon, cleaner, alternatives.

Of course, a carbon tax alone won’t do this, for many measures are needed (and indeed have been proposed). A cap-and-trade scheme is an obvious complementary measure.

Contrary to what Jack Layton and the NDP have been saying, the two measures are not either-or, let alone good and evil alternatives, but each serves a function.

The particulars of Stéphane Dion’s carbon tax plan are beyond the scope of this short comment. My point is simply that the principle is right, and so is the promised “revenue neutrality.” Anyone who wants to raise taxes should argue that on its merits.

The second basic reason for supporting a carbon tax is that fossil fuels are also a “good,” an extremely valuable resource.

Biofuels may be a substitute for at least some energy purposes, but we know that increases in their use have already caused food shortages. The loss of forests to enable more biofuels to be grown further reduces the “carbon sink,” thus adding to greenhouse gas emissions.

Fossil fuels are indeed so valuable a resource that future generations will hate us for using them up so rapidly and to so little good effect. Yet hardly anyone recognizes this part of the argument (we need a “Leave Some for Us Party” to argue it).

Could we have a reality check? Remedial geology for the NDP and the Conservatives?

Fossil fuels are not taught in the agriculture department. Fossil fuels cannot be grown. They are not “produced.” Statements that we need “to produce more oil and gas to get gas prices down” are as off the mark as a demand for honest crooks and willing slaves.

Oil companies want us to think of fossil fuels as being as renewable as wheat or apples. Saying otherwise would spoil the party, the “energy boom,” that might better be called a “depletion boom.”

The oil and gas companies, no more than the alchemists of old who tried to “produce” gold out of iron, can in fact manufacture oil and gas. Fossil fuels are a one-time gift of nature.

The media could assist the debate by using more realistic language. They, and we all, should say “extraction industry” and say “extraction” or “depletion” when referring to the process.

The Alberta “Heritage Fund” is also a misnomer, although harder to change. Since its revenues depend on depleting a non-renewable resource, it should be called the “Heritage Depletion Fund.”

In the case of the tar sands (oil sands is too nice) the tragedy is even greater, for relatively clean oil and gas, and massive amounts of water, are used to process a resource dispersed in the sands. Perhaps future generations might find a way of extracting and processing it without wasting so much energy (and water). A very good reason for a moratorium on the whole project, as proposed by former premier Peter Lougheed.

Jack Layton wants us to believe that the NDP is defending the poor in its opposition to the carbon tax. Certainly measures are needed to return, especially to low-income Canadians, the equivalent amounts collected in a carbon tax, such as by a tax credit or lower taxes.

But does the NDP not realize that the poor are the worst hit by climate change? And will increasingly be harmed as global heating gets worse? Would Tommy Douglas have missed this?

Already there are environmental refugees and victims of drought and food shortages in Third World countries. In Canada traditional hunters (with very low incomes) have seen their livelihood harmed. What protection will the urban poor have as temperatures rise?

The NDP has historically been a leader in advocating social justice, but not now.

Admittedly, there are so many here-and-now interests lined up to argue for fast depletion (calling it “production“) and those most harmed have no voice in our political deliberations (like Third World peoples and future generations even in Canada).

Does the NDP believe that ordinary and poorer Canadians will be exempt from climate change, because they have been per capita less responsible for the emissions? Alas, justice will not exempt the morally worthy (or less culpable).

Our laws and morality were all developed before fossil fuel use began, and before the climate crisis was understood. So the issue is a tougher one to understand than the traditional social justice issues that the NDP pioneered, like public health care, pensions and human rights.

We all have to rethink the issue and the NDP does a disservice with its simplistic rejection of the carbon tax. All Canadians concerned with the environment and our long-term survival have a stake in a serious and effective climate change action plan.

The reduction goal should be based on what the best experts say. That is far beyond Kyoto, in the range of 80 per cent to 90 per cent reductions. Achieving it will require many changes to our lifestyles – we should start thinking of what.

A carbon tax must be a prominent feature of any realistic plan. The sooner the better, for much else needs doing too.

Lynn McDonald is university professor emerita at the University of Guelph, a former MP and environment critic of the NDP.

Le raisonnement pour la Demande des Citoyens pour un Impot de Carbone dans Canada: Pourquoi les citoyens du Canada doivent-ils exiger l’impôt sur le carbone?

par Lynn McDonald, pour JustEarth et la Science pour la Paix

Il est temps de montrer au gouvernement fédéral qu’à l’avis de nombreux Canadiens un impôt sur le carbone fait nécessairement partie de tout projet visant à réduire les émissions de gaz à effet de serre. Bien entendu, un tel impôt ne peut à lui seul remédier à la situation. Pour parvenir aux réductions nécessaires, qui sont de 85% selon le Groupe d’experts intergouvernemental sur l’évolution du climat (ou de 94% selon “Monbiot’s Heat: how to stop the Planet from burning?“), de nombreux changements s’imposent tant dans nos lois que dans nos styles de vie.

Le bon sens, et une foule d’éminents économistes, nous disent qu’un tel impôt serait d’un grand secours. Cet impôt a déjà fait l’objet d’une proposition de la part de la Table ronde nationale sur l’environnement et l’économie dans son récent rapport. Il est également approuvé par le Conference Board of Canada. Le Québec a d’ores et déjà institué un modeste impôt sur le carbone.

Ce que tous souhaitent, c’est un plan d’action sérieux dans le domaine du changement climatique, plutôt que ce qui a été offert jusqu’ici: modifications uniquement cosmétiques ou pour l’apparence, réductions “d’intensité”, ou objectifs fondés uniquement sur des aspirations. Mais voici l’occasion de montrer clairement au gouvernement canadien que nous ne sommes pas naïfs, que nous verrions volontiers et même que nous exigeons que soit institué un impôt sur le carbone dans le cadre d’une stratégie face au changement climatique – pour notre bénéfice à nous Canadiens et afin de remplir nos obligations vis-à-vis du reste du monde.

Un impôt sur le carbone attribue un prix défini aux émissions d’oxyde de carbone. Il nous pousserait à réduire l’utilisation de combustibles fossiles et à nous tourner vers des sources durables d’énergie et des modes d’emploi de l’énergie plus efficaces.

Ce que nous proposons, c’est que l’impact fiscal de l’impôt soit neutre, ne produisant pas d0’augmentation du revenu national. Il faudra instituer des exemptions et des dégrèvements afin d’éviter que les contribuables moins fortunés ne soient pénalisés. Au lieu d’être un impôt portant sur des “biens” tels que l’emploi et le revenu, il porterait sur des “maux” tels que les émissions de gaz à effet de serre provenant de combustibles fossiles.

Nous proposons que l’impôt sur le carbone entre en vigueur immédiatement, avec des augmentations périodiques. Ce rythme donnerait aux individus et aux entreprises le temps de s’adapter. On pourrait juger graduellement de l’efficacité de l’impôt, et l’expérience acquise permettrait de pratiquer des ajustements.

L’impôt sur le carbone peut fonctionner parmi d’autres mesures destinées à réduire nos émissions de gaz à effet de serre. Il serait complémentaire par rapport à des mesures telles que “cap and trade” (système interprovincial de plafond et d’échange de crédits d’émission de gaz à effet de serre), et l’application de normes plus efficaces en matière d’utilisation de l’énergie. A la différence du système “cap and trade” l’impôt sur le carbone ne donne aucun avantage à ceux dont les émissions de gaz à effet de serre étaient trop élevées dans le passé. L’impôt sur le carbone s’appliquerait à tous les secteurs et non seulement aux industries majeures, comme dans le cas des accords “cap and trade” jusqu’à présent.

Un impôt sur le carbone aurait pour résultat une utilisation plus efficace des combustibles (ce qui entraînerait une baisse de leurs coûts) sans croissance de leur utilisation, donc des émissions.

Les impôts sur le carbone servent, vis-à-vis des consommateurs et des producteurs, de signaux directs, transparents et compréhensibles, les invitant à utiliser moins de pétrole et de gaz, moins d’électricité provenant du charbon, et à adopter des alternatives propres et durables. Une telle réduction dans la consommation de combustibles fossiles aurait aussi d’autres conséquences positives pour l’environnement: la pollution de l’air et de l’eau diminuerait, et les forêts seraient moins accablées…

La pétition en faveur de l’impôt sur le carbone propose une importante politique. Une documentation abondante est à la disposition des personnes qui souhaiteraient des renseignements plus détaillés. Nous appelons le gouvernement à mettre en vigueur un plan concret.


A ceux et celles qui se proposent de signer la pétition:

L’âge des signataires importe peu. Ils doivent être citoyens ou résidents du Canada. La pétition doit comporter une signature personnelle et l’adresse du domicile du signataire OU le nom de sa ville accompagné de son code postal. L’ajout de numéros de téléphone et d’adresses e-mail n’invalide pas la pétition, mais n’est pas nécessaire.

Un minimum de vingt-cinq signatures est requis pour qu’une pétition puisse être présentée à la Chambre des Communes. (Nous regrouperons les pages comportant moins de vingt-cinq signatures).

Si une élection fédérale est promulguée au cours de la campagne de signatures, nous conserverons les pétitions afin de les présenter à une séance du nouveau Parlement. Il n’y a donc pas lieu de ralentir notre activité au cours de la campagne éléctorale.

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