With the federal election just a few days away, we thought it would be useful to our readers to identify what each major political party's published campaign platform says about climate change and Canada's role in curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It is certainly fair to conclude that to the extent that there has been robust discussion of real substantive issues in this political campaign (a premise that is certainly not free from any doubt), the topics of climate change, cap and trade and implementation of international protocols to address GHG emissions (among other topics relating to the environment) have not been a focus of discourse for most of the major political parties. Whether climate change remains a topic that engages the voting public is an unanswered question for another day, but it is at least our proposition that most of the major political parties have not identified there to exist real political advantage to making the environment and climate change a major campaign focus. For present purposes, we are not questioning the sufficiency or merit of any plan, just letting you know what the plans are. Of course, we would like to hear from you as to you own views on these plans.

The following is a brief summary of each major political party's stated plans to deal with climate change (in alphabetical order by party name).

Bloc Quebecois

The Bloc Quebecois continues to support the Kyoto Accord and the Kyoto goal of a 6% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels for the period of 2008-2012 and a 25% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020. The Bloc Quebecois supports a cap on emissions and would establish a carbon exchange in Montreal. An independent body would be charged with certifying GHG reductions and imposing financial penalties for failure to meet reductions.

The Bloc Quebecois would also increase support for research and development to support GHG reductions and implement tax incentives to help families convert their home heating systems and undertake energy efficient retrofits in their homes.

Based on the materials available, it is unclear when the proposed carbon exchange would be implemented and there is also no indication as to which industries would be covered by the Bloc's programs.

For more information, please go to www.blocquebecois.org or www.blocquebecois.org/English.aspx

Conservatives

During his time as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has established regulations to raise the renewable fuel content in gasoline, to reduce tailpipe emissions and introduced regulations to reduce GHG emissions in the production of electricity; made investments in clean energy research and development (including carbon capture and storage); and initiated the Clean Energy Dialogue between Canada and the United States to enhance collaboration on reducing GHGs and combating climate change.

The Conservatives have set a target of a 17% reduction in domestic GHG emissions from 2005 levels by 2020, the same goal as the Obama administration in the United States. The Conservatives are the only major political party who do not support a cap-and-trade program and plan instead to impose emissions regulations on specific industrial sectors. Reductions in GHG emissions will also be achieved through the replacement of fossil fuel energy sources and the Conservatives have pledged to support economically viable clean energy projects that will assist regions and provinces in the replacement of fossil fuel with renewable fuel sources, based on the following criteria: national or regional significance, economic and financial merit and significant reduction of GHG emissions. The Lower Churchill hydro-electric project has been singled out as an example of the type of project which the Conservatives would support.

A further part of the Conservative plan to reduce GHG emissions is the extension of the ecoEnergy Retrofit-Homes Program for a year. This program provides grants of up to $5,000 per unit to offset the costs of energy-efficient home improvements.

The Conservative target for GHG emission reduction is the lowest of any of the parties and it is also unclear which industries would be regulated.

For more information, please go to www.conservative.ca

Green Party

The Green Party has the most ambitious targets for GHG reduction (perhaps befitting its political party name and orientation), with the published goal of reducing emissions by 30% below 1990 levels by 2020 and to 85% below 1990 levels by 2040, regardless of what other countries pledge to do. The Green Party would also phase out greenhouse gas halocarbons CFCs, HFCs, PFCs and SF6 between 2012 and 2017 and reduce Canada's nitrous oxide emissions by 85% by 2025. In addition, the Green Party continues to support the Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism and supports the extension of the Kyoto Accord to cover international aviation and shipping.

As part of their plan to reduce GHG emissions, so-called "Large Final Emitters" would participate in a cap-and-trade program and an escalating carbon tax would be applied to all carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fugitive and other GHG emissions. A carbon tax would also be imposed on all exports of coal, oil and gas from Canada. It is unclear what would be included under the definition of "Large Final Emitters", although it does include the fossil fuel industry.

The Green Party is focused on moving away from reliance on fossil fuels and in connection with this, all subsidies for oil, coal, gas and the coalbed methane industries would be eliminated and the funding currently earmarked for carbon capture and storage research and development would be redirected into renewable energy projects. The Green Party would not approve any new coal-fired electrical generation plants and would pass legislation to keep the West Coast crude oil-tanker free such that a new West Coast crude oil port will not be built and crude oil traffic in the Port of Vancouver would be phased out. A further point of note is that the Green Party plans to implement a national power grid to facilitate the transmission of power between provinces and encourage the development of renewable energy.

For more information please visit www.greenparty.ca

Liberal

The Liberal target for GHG reduction is 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. In order to assist with reaching this target, the Liberals would implement a cap-and-trade system that applies to all sectors of the economy across the country. The cap-and-trade program would include an auction for emission allowances. The current Liberal two-year budget does not include any revenues from a cap-and-trade auction which indicates that either the program will not be implemented within the next two years or that auctions will not be undertaken within the next two years.

The Liberals would also designate "Clean Resources" as a "Canadian Champion Sector", which means it will be a priority across government departments, the focus of collaboration with other governments and will be targeted for tax incentives for innovative, emerging firms. The term "Clean Resources" means the responsible harvest of natural resource products and cleaner extraction, management and consumption of resources and covers the entire supply chain, including the energy sector. As part of this focus, the Liberals plan to quadruple renewable energy production from 2009 levels by 2016 and in order to do so, the Liberals will bring back the Renewable Power Production Incentive (the RPPI) and have pledged $1 billion in funding for the RPPI.

The "Canadian Clean Energy Partnership" is another part of the Liberal plan to reduce GHG emissions. This partnership, composed of the federal, provincial and territorial governments as well as the private sector and certain stakeholders, will work together to manage the transition to a low-carbon economy. A focus of this partnership will be on the oil sands and eliminating the 15% differential compared to conventional oil.

The Liberals have also stated that they will put an immediate end to the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for oil sands investments (the Conservatives are currently phasing this out for complete phase out by 2015) and have pledged the $500 million in tax revenue this will create towards research to decrease GHG emissions and investments in monitoring and research on the environmental impacts of the oil sands.

The Liberals would also create a Green Renovation Tax Credit, with the goal of retrofitting 1 million homes by 2017. This $400 million program would be a permanent refundable tax credit which would allow a tax credit of up to $13,500 for making energy efficient changes to a home. In addition, the government would also cover 50% of the home energy audit required in advance of the renovation.

For more information, please visit www.liberal.ca

NDP

The NDP have set a goal of reducing GHG emissions to a level 80% below that of 1990 by the year 2050, with interim targets for 2015-2045. To ensure this goal is achieved, the NDP would reintroduce the Climate Change Accountability Act. The NDP also plan to implement a cap-and-trade program with an auction of emission permits, although this program would only apply to Canada's "biggest polluters". The revenues from cap-and-trade auctions of emissions permits would be redistributed across Canada to fund investment in green technologies, business and household energy conservation, public transit, support renewable energy development and transitioning workers to the green economy. While it is unclear what the scope of "biggest polluters" would be, the NDP budget recognizes revenue from cap-and-trade starting in 2011, indicating that the program would be implemented immediately.

The NDP would cut subsidies to non-renewable energy and re-allocate the subsidies to re-instate federal financial initiatives for clean power (both renewable energy and co-generation), with a focus on community-owned renewable energy facilities; create incentives for innovation in green technology including support for research and development and commercialization; create a revolving fund for home energy efficiency retrofits, to curb energy consumption, reduce GHG emissions, create local jobs and give savings on home energy bills; to develop a "Green Jobs Fund" to support the transition of workers to the clean energy economy; support low-income and energy dependent individuals with respect to rising energy costs; and to implement training programs for green energy engineers, technicians, construction workers and maintenance and audit professions. Canadians would also be able to purchase "Green Bonds" which would be established with the purpose of investing in green energy research and development and commercialization and community-scale renewable projects.

The NDP would discourage the bulk export of unprocessed oil and gas resources and encourage value-added, responsible upgrading, refining and petrochemical manufacturing in Canada to maximize the economic benefits and jobs for Canadians from this industry.

For more information, please visit www.ndp.ca

The above is just a summary of some of the highlights of each major political party's published plan to deal with climate change and GHG emissions and it is important to consider these points in the context of each party's overall platform, available on-line at their respective websites. We will of course be monitoring over time how the elected government implements these plans and will continue to regularly identify on this blog important regulatory and policy announcements that are presented at all levels of government across Canada.