Liberals’ climate plan gets top marks from economist, but Tories are not far behind

The Liberals have the most effective, least costly climate change policy of the four main federal parties, according to one economist, but the Conservatives are not far behind in second place. 

According to analysis by Simon Fraser University’s Mark Jaccard, the Liberals have the most effective and affordable plan, followed by the Conservatives, the Greens and, in a distant fourth, the NDP. 

Jaccard, a professor at the B.C. university’s School of Resource and Environmental Management, looked at the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets set by each party and compared those to the policies they say will help reach those targets.

If a policy wasn’t enough to meet the target, he tweaked it — perhaps by raising the carbon tax or strengthening regulations — to see what would be required to get the job done.

He then calculated the economic cost of each revised policy in terms of lost GDP in the year 2030 — when the targets must be met under the Paris climate agreement. His results were published in Friday’s issue of the magazine Policy Options. 

Jaccard graded the policies on their effectiveness and cost the economy, giving top marks to the Liberals, followed by the Conservatives. (CBC)

When Canada first signed the Paris agreement, it committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Jaccard said the Liberals’ carbon tax would come close to achieving that target at a hit of two per cent of GDP. 

But earlier this year, the Liberals raised their target to between 40 and 45 per cent. Jaccard says he only looked at the 40 per cent target and whether the Liberals could hit it with the additional policies they have announced. 

“While I haven’t had time to precisely model these latest policies, my triangulation between our many simulations suggests they’ll likely achieve the 40 [per cent] target, albeit with a larger GDP impact of about 2.5 per cent,” Jaccard wrote in Policy Options.

Tories stick with 30%

For the Conservatives, who have stuck with the 30 per cent target, Jaccard says their lower carbon tax combined with other policies such as their clean fuel standard would likely hit that target at a two per cent cost to the economy — about the same as the Liberals’ plan when their target was 30 per cent. 

Jaccard gives the Greens, who have a target of 60 per cent below 2005 levels, some credit for introducing measures that would help industries hurt by such cuts but says the carbon price would have to reach $580 a tonne by 2030 compared to the Liberals’ $170 or the Conservatives’ $50.

The Greens, he says, would also harm the economy the most by reducing GDP in 2030 by 7.5 per cent. 

The NDP’s target of cutting emissions by 50 per cent, combined with their other policies, would be the worst of the lot, Jaccard says, costing the economy 6.5 per cent of GDP while being “largely ineffective.”

“An ambitious target combined with economically inefficient policies is devastating to the economy,” he wrote. 

Points for sincerity

Jaccard also gave each party a mark out of 10 for sincerity, giving the Liberals an eight, saying their policies would be effective and affordable. He gave the Conservatives a five, saying he’s concerned by the their less-than enthusiastic history of tackling climate change and the complexity of some of their policies. 

The NDP come away with a sincerity score of just two out of ten, with Jaccard saying that not only would their policies not work but implementing them would be “unnecessarily costly.”

“It’s misleading to tell Canadians we can magically eliminate 50 per cent and more of our GHG emissions in just nine years, without enormous cost and disruption,” Jaccard wrote.

“The NDP score even lower than the Greens on climate sincerity because it is not credible that they would destroy Canadian industries as the means to achieve their target.”

“Social democratic governments in Scandinavia do not implement the policies the federal NDP are proposing. Nor have recent NDP governments in Alberta and B.C.” he said.

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