by BETTER FARMING STAFF
A Lambton County farmer involved in green energy issues blames problems south of the border for Ontario’s decision to delay its participation in an international carbon cap and trade system.
Don McCabe, an Ontario Federation of Agriculture vice president, says recent elections in American states temporarily disrupted the Western Climate Initiative.
The initiative plans to introduce a regional carbon cap and trade system among five states and provinces: Ontario, California, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba. Six other American states are signed on and monitoring the initiative. It is slated to begin in 2012 and its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In a notice posted Wednesday on its website, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment affirmed its commitment to the initiative but noted it would join after the program starts.
“We’re not ready for 2012,” says John Wilkinson, Ontario’s minister of the environment. “We need to take the time to get it right both for our environment and our economy.”
Wilkinson says laws requiring the province’s major greenhouse gas emitters to report their carbon dioxide emissions only kicked in this month. Data to support carbon credits also needs to be developed, he adds.
Wilkinson was vague about a date when the province might join, other than, “when we can get it right.”
In a carbon trading system, companies are allowed to produce a certain amount of emissions and can buy credits to offset an excess. Businesses such as farm operations, whose activities contain or reduce carbon, generate the credits. Reduced tillage is an example of a carbon-reducing farm practice.
The viability of carbon trading has come into question following the recent collapse of a carbon credit trading system in Chicago and several instances of fraud within the European carbon trade market.
McCabe says the initiative came under fire during California’s November 2010 election but was upheld. Other states, however, are re-evaluating their commitment, he says.
McCabe says Ontario may also not have all of its homework done, but that’s only partly the province’s fault.
McCabe says there are some protocols in place to quantify carbon credits in Canada that could be adapted for Ontario to use. But a group in the United States responsible for developing the initiative’s protocols is taking a different approach. Some of the protocols may need to be changed in order to work in Ontario.
Manitoba has also announced that it would be waiting until after the initiative’s launch before joining in, he says.
Supporters point to the system’s ability to generate new business while reducing emissions. Detractors question whether the approach really motivates companies to reduce emissions.
McCabe says farmers need to stay involved. “We need to continue discussions with the government to ensure we don’t get something out of the woodwork, all of a sudden, that agriculture can’t handle.”
He doubts Ontario’s upcoming election in October threatens to derail the province’s involvement.
A previous Conservative government introduced the legislation to eliminate coal fire generation in the province, he notes. “Regardless of what happens Oct. 6, there is an agreement signed with a bunch of other people and they’re going to be looking for ‘where are you at, what are you doing.’” BF