Why Aren’t We More Like Norway

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

January 7th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Last year almost 40% of all cars registered in Norway were all-electric (EV). There are now 100,000 EVs in that tiny country of just over 5 million people. By contrast Ontario’s much more modest goal of 5% of its fleet being EV by 2020 is looking more like a pipe dream than ever.

cars being charged

Will Ontario make the move from gas stations to electric charging stations.

Norway makes EVs tax free, it has an extensive network of free charging stations and there are other incentives, such as preferred parking. To fund those amenities Norway, the third largest global oil exporter, has the highest carbon tax in the world.

Norway implemented the world’s first carbon tax in 1991. Now its main climate change policy, carbon pricing is used to incentivize EV’s and zero emission space heating as well as invest in new GHG emissions technologies. Norway’s goal is to become completely net carbon free by 2050.

There was a promising report out of British Columbia about somebody building a zero emission house, though it only went viral because journalists were amused by its eco-efficient electronic smart cat door which cost an extra $2000. Clearly carbon free is still considered a peculiarity in this country. Though the federal government is developing net zero emission housing plans presumably intended for life in provincial building codes.

Burlington GHG emmissions - sourceQuebec rated an A grade, placing seventh among a number of jurisdictions, on an international report card on GHG emissions, the only Canadian province to do so. In fact the province outranked Norway, which suffered from its extensive oil and gas industry emissions. Still both have fossil free electricity and a carbon pricing system to encourage GHG-free heating and fuel.

Alberta and Saskatchewan scored “D–” grades by contrast, owning the highest per capita GHG emissions. And those provinces helped bump up Canada’s per capita GHG emissions, putting us in a virtual tie with the U.S. and Australia for the worst.

The Ford administration likes to take credit for previous Liberal policies which reduced GHG emissions by 22% from 2005 levels, yet has shown no interest in continuing the progress which got us here. Those emission reductions were facilitated by the Green Energy Act.

Today only 3% of the province’s fossil fuel emissions come from electricity generation. But the Green Energy Act is history now, as is the Cap and Trade carbon pricing program which promised even greater emission reductions. Gone too are the electric vehicle, insulation, energy efficient window and efficient heating incentive programs.

In their place the Minister of the Environment has introduced a $400 million slush fund for the biggest industries to dip into as they experiment with ways of further reducing their emissions. It’s not a bad idea. But it’ll never amount to more than an iota of emissions reductions.

Though industry makes up about 30% of provincial GHG emissions its status as a big polluter has declined by 28% since 1990. And well over half of those emissions are from Ontario’s oil and gas production sector. Which gets us back to transportation, which is the fastest growing sector of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario. And following closely is the building sector, with space heating responsible for much of that.

mulroney_carbon_tax

Ontario Attorney General Carolyn Mulroney, will lead the provincial case against the federal carbon tax program.

All this begs the question of why the Ford government has put all of its eggs, into the one sector of the Ontario economy which is arguably already doing a good job of reducing its emissions. And why would it just ignore the sectors which are growing at a problematic rate. Are they incompetent, stupid or just don’t care?

Alternatives exist. Already electrically powered farm tractors are on the horizon and there is even an Ontario made EV pick up truck. But new technology needs a push for adoption, be it financial incentives to encourage consumer uptake and/or disincentives to discourage using fossil fuels.

Doug-Ford environment

Premier Doug Ford may have found himself unable to see the forest for the trees.

Mr. Ford’s revisionist approach, reaching out for ‘Happy Days’ will only ensure a reversal of the progress made over the last decade and a half. Clearly he and his ministers need to e-write their climate change plan to make it more like those of Norway and Quebec – or at least the one which existed before last June’s election.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province. He developed the current policy process for the Ontario Liberal Party.

Background links:

Electric Tractor –     More Tractors –     EV Truck

Emissions Report Card –   Norway –    More Norway

Cat Door –    Net Zero Housing

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4 comments to Why Aren’t We More Like Norway ?

  • Hans

    It would be more impressive if Norway planned to stop producing and exporting the crude oil that other countries will buy and burn.

  • “….that can come only from within.”

  • I spent a lot of time in Norway, though not recently. My ex-wife was of a Swedish family that moved to Norway and I have several friends there. Although I shy away from facile cultural explanations (it wasn’t that long ago that many Norwegians were covert, if not overt supporters of the Nazis) I find myself looking at the Norwegian data and saying, “Well, yes”. It’s the culture.

    It seems to me that in conflicts of values, such as what you have presented in this article, presentations of the economic sense of one approach over the other can make little headway. It puts me in mind of the almost trite pronouncement about shaking addiction: The addict has to WANT to get clean, and that come come only from within.

    So, until we as a culture WANT to get clean, it isn’t going to happen.

  • Gary

    To fund those amenities Norway, the third largest global oil exporter, has the highest carbon tax in the world.

    You answered your own question in the second paragraph. Norway has no problem getting its oil into the international marketplace, at international price levels, reaping the reward, and getting the tax revenue. Canada can’t do that without pipeline development. Yo Ottawa? What’s happening’ man?

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