HOW TO SOLVE CANADA’S CO2 EMISSIONS PROBLEM (without cancelling Bay du Nord)

 Guest Post by Cabot Martin

Introduction 

The worldwide situation with respect to Climate Change
is like a boat that is in danger of sinking because it has sprung a number of
leaks – some big and some small.
 

Faced with such a situation, the experienced Captain would
order all hands to plug the biggest leaks first.
 

On the energy generation side, the biggest hole in the
boat by far is represented by the use of coal to generate electricity,
particularly in China and India. In the latter two countries, the overwhelming
role of coal for the generation of electricity even largely negates the
benefits to be gained from use of electric cars as a solution!
 

The use of coal must stop and fast, and the use of
natural gas especially when converted to and transported as LNG is the only
fast, much lower carbon, reasonably priced, way of doing that.
 

Those who automatically shudder at the words “natural
gas”  and “LNG” are keeping the crew from
plugging the biggest hole of all in the climate change boat – at a time when
time is of the essence.
 

And as to oil production, reason says in any
“transition period”, governments and investors should favor in policy and
investment, those sources  which have the
lowest per barrel CO2 production emissions and are operated by competent,
proven, careful operators – Bay du Nord and Equinor meet that test in spades.
 

Cabot Martin (Photo Credit: The Telegram)


Canada should emulate Norway, which is recognized
worldwide as one of the most environmentally responsible countries and which is
finding all sorts of ways to increase oil and gas production in its offshore
while at the same time lowering its per barrel CO2 emissions.
 

They have learnt to walk and chew gum at the same
time.
 

Moreover, energy production is merely the tip of the
iceberg because most CO2 emissions, by far, come from the consumption of energy,
especially from personal auto use, not from the production of oil and gas.
 

So it is proposed that, instead of shutting down much
needed, employment generating oil and gas projects like Bay du Nord , Ottawa
focus instead on the consumption side.
 

As a contribution to this debate, let me outline what
I call a “Tri-City approach” that is built on sound social justice principles.
 

A: Nature of the problem 

Not surprisingly, automobile gasoline consumption,
particularly by commuters, in Canada is concentrated in its main urban regions.
The following analysis by Statistics Canada sets out the problem in broad
strokes, and though a bit dated, I suspect little fundamentally has changed.

As is readily evident by this document’s Chart 6 (below),
the biggest source of auto derived CO2 in Canada , by far , comes from the use
of the personal automobile to commute from the suburbs of Canada’s three
biggest cities (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) into the urban core and to
travel within those urban cores.
 

This chart is not surprising as in these three urban
concentrations, which together contain some 13 million people –
   34 % of the total Canadian population, there
is a high dependency on the personal auto to access empolyment opportunities in
a central core.
 

Moreover, this suburban/urban traffic is characterized
by slow moving, bumper to bumper, idling, and start and stop traffic. This
style of auto use generates way more CO2 emissions per km travelled than does
moderate speed, smooth moving highway traffic over the same distance.
 

Chart 6 sets out the “per capita” emissions in various
municipalities across Canada. Given the large populations of each of the
Tri-Cities , if it instead charted total emissions for each city, the graph
would give an even more startling picture of the overwhelming part that the
three top urban areas play the generation of CO2 in Canada.
 

Ottawa must have the courage to tackle this problem. 

B: Outline of the
solution
 

Recognizing the importance of this problem , the
following measures are advocated as part of a Tri-City Commuter CO2 Suppression
Project:
 

(a)  Special permits to enter the Downtown core where the
driver is resident a certain distance from the Core. The cost of the permits
should rise  the more distant the driver
lives from the generally accepted center of the city.   
 

(b)  A special CO2 “suppression” tax on all use of the personal
automobile for such commuting activity

These two measures 
with appropriate financial penalties for any breach of the system, would
quickly stimulate a significant decrease in the use of personal vehicles for
commuting – and radically lower CO2 emissions.
 

Especially, if suitable incentives are provided for
remote work which replaces a commuting job.
 

C: Extension to other
Canadian Urban areas
 

Significant urban centers other than Toronto, Montreal
and Vancouver should be encouraged to voluntarily implement such a Commuting
Suppression program as well, with equal access to remote working incentives.
 

The idea for such a system was generated by examining similar
systems already in place worldwide as discussed below. Successful
implementation of such systems in the Tri-Cities would allow Canada to lead in their
introduction worldwide, making it a business development opportunity in
contrast to the business destroying effect of cancelled Bay du Nord.
 

D: Social Justice
Considerations
 

Commuters within these three urban complexes are more
financially able to shoulder the costs and adjust to this proposal than are the
residents of largely rural areas who are dependent on resource based activities.
This is definitely the case for Newfoundland and Labrador with respect to the
Bay du Nord project.
 

A system of rebates and compassionate exemptions can
be devised with respect to any Tri-City program for lower income families.
 

E: Examples where such
programs have been successful
 

Auto traffic curtailment programs have been
successfully implemented in major metropolitan centers as diverse as London,
Stockholm and Singapore. While conceived before the Climate Crisis was fully
appreciated, these projects provide a template for the Tri-City Commuter CO2
Suppression Project.
 

For instance, when faced with severe urban traffic
issues, London England instituted a system of increasing restrictions on
personal auto use for commuter  purposes.
This system is generally considered to have been successful in alleviating
inner city traffic congestion – it has also had demonstrable climate change
benefits.
 

Here is a review of urban traffic regulation in
relation to climate change worldwide:  

 Investigating the Impact of Congestion Pricing Around the world

With regard to London’s decongestion pricing policy , this
2019 study by Massachusetts based Climate xChange says:
 

“ London began imposing a congestion fee in 2012, traffic
was reduced by 30%
 within the first year. However, congestion pricing is not
just a way to reduce traffic in major cities, it can also serve the goal of
reducing carbon emissions in urban areas, where they are highest. 
Transportation
contributes 30% of global CO2 emissions and the majority of that is from road
transport
.
Congestion pricing policies lead to fewer cars on the road and, consequently,
less emissions
.” 

What has been missing in Canada is the political will
to act on the Commuter CO2 issue , in face of the political power of urban
centers, especially Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
 

So instead of tackling the biggest leaks first, Ottawa has focused on cancelling high profile
oil and gas projects in less politically powerful parts of Canada.
 

This is nothing more that tokenism and environmental
hypocrisy.
 

There
used to be a succinct slogan often used in environmental campaigning “Let the polluter
pay” – in the case of CO2 emissions this, in large measure, would mean the
commuters of the Tri-Cities.
 

As
it says in the Bible, first cast the mote out of thine own eye.

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