There was a short article in today's Globe about the sorts of odd little programs that the federal government is getting involved in to help us meet out greenhouse gas targets under Kyoto.
We have just written a cheque for $15 million to The Prototype Carbon Fund. The PCF is a creation of the World Bank, and it invests in projects around the world that they expect will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to a "business as usual" baseline.
The project that is mentioned in the Globe article is one where the PCF subsidizes the planting of thousands of hectares of eucalyptus trees. The trees will be turned into charcoal to fuel furnaces that produce pig iron. This charcoal will produce less greenhouse gasses than the coal which would otherwise be burned to fuel the local iron mills.
The Suzuki Foundation is raising a stink about this project, saying that it is a bogus approach to reducing global warming.
I'm not actually convinced that this project is a bad idea. It may be a cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gasses, or it may not. The problem is that without a functioning market for greenhouse gasses, we can't be sure one way or the other.
It would be possible to cleanly implement such a system in Canada. I have written about this twice before. A carbon tax would create an efficient and fair market for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
It might not be ideal to acheive all of our Kyoto target within Canada, and it might be better to purchase credits for reductions in other countries. With an active global market, this entire process could be optimized. Such a market does not exist, so we would need to continue to make some decisions in Ottawa about the balance between domestic and foreign reductions. Nevertheless, a market-based approach within Canada would have tremendous advantages.
This is where Canada's right wing ought to be active. Theoretically, at least, I expect the right to be the ones who say, "Hey, enough with these government spending programs where decisions are made by bureaucrats. The free market can do a much better job!"
Unfortunately, neither existing right-wing party presents an option for me here, and there is no reason to believe that a united right will be any better.
The read-between-the-lines position of the Canadian Alliance is that global warming probably doesn't exist or probably is not caused by human beings and, in any case, is not worth addressing.
I can't find an official position of the Progressive Conservative Party, but the position of Peter McKay is that a plan for Kyoto must be negotiated "province-by-province and sector-by-sector". In other words, the same sort of political solution as offered by the Liberals, but probably watered-down and less effective.
It's too bad. I could actually consider a conservative alternative if they offered solutions to problems that are important to me. Kyoto is an example of an issue where the government's approach leaves plenty of room for improvement. However, instead of offering a better solution, the right wing in Canada denies that the problem exists.