Stephen Rees has a good discussion of the coming fight over transit funding between Lower Mainland mayors and the province. The take-home point is that the province holds all the cards, which is bad news for those of us who want to see transit paid for by things like the provicial carbon tax.

But he makes a point in passing I want to riff on. He notes that the carbon tax, as the Liberals have designed it, really doesn’t do much to reduce carbon output in BC. I’m not sure it’s as bad as Rees says, but he’s right that whatever the tax does, it’s not nearly enough. But–somewhat counterintuitively–I don’t think the ineffectiveness of carbon-pricing schemes counts as a reason not to implement them. At least, not in the current political environment.

To be a bit crude about it, right now any carbon-pricing scheme set up by any governement anywhere in the world will be ineffective. That’s because the problem is a global one. It’s not enough even for giants like the EU, China, or India to start pricing carbon. If they did price carbon (and the EU does, sort of) there’d still be all the other gaints that don’t price carbon. There’d still be the US, Russia, Japan, Brazil, etc. That’s why in today’s Washington Post, George Will is arguing–totally disingenuously–against any cap-and-trade system in the US. His argument is that if the US is the only global giant to price carbon, it’ll be inffective, and so there’s no point doing it.

But even if carbon-pricing schemes are actually ineffective from a policy point of view, they still have an important political point. Waxman-Markey in the US or the Liberal’s carbon tax here at home are models that carbon-pricing advocates can rally around and learn from. They’re important steps in building momentum for something genuinely global and so too genuinely effective.

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