Économie politique

G11(a) - Navigating the Political Economy of Climate Change: Comparative Insights from Canadian Decarbonization

Date: Jun 13 | Heure: 10:15am to 11:45am | Salle:

Chair/Président/Présidente : Angela Carter (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Erick Lachapelle (Université de Montréal)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Mark Purdon (Université de Québec à Montréal)

The Comparative Politics of Carbon Taxes: Kathryn Harrison (University of British Columbia)
Abstract: It is by now a truism that although carbon taxation offers a cost-effective strategy to reduce carbon pollution, it is a politically perilous one. Carbon-intensive businesses and voters both resist visible costs. Yet the World Bank (2023) reports that 52 governments have adopted carbon taxes. Why did politicians in these countries embrace carbon taxes, and how did they overcome political obstacles? The proposed paper will summarize a book project comparing four countries (Australia, Canada, Ireland and France) and two subnational jurisdictions (British Columbia and Alberta) that entertained adoption of carbon taxes in the same period. The project examines three outcomes: adoption or rejection, post-adoption survival or withdrawal, and increases of the carbon price. With complex (even tortured) histories, the cases allow not only cross-jurisdictional but also within-case comparison. Surprisingly, however, the greatest political challenge was not from carbon-intensive industries, but voters. In some jurisdictions, political parties suffered electoral defeat at least in part based on their support for carbon taxes (Australia, Alberta, Canada). In other cases, carbon taxes survived but were frozen at a level too low to drive significant reductions (BC, Ireland, France.) However, all cases of adoption and significant price trajectories share a common element: politicians’ willingness to accept political risk to pursue an effective climate policy. Moreover, when carbon taxes survived changes of government (BC, France, Ireland), it was easier to secure multi-party support for increasing the tax level, since opposition parties originally defended the policy.

Sharpening Both Arms of the Climate Policy Scissors in Canada: Opportunities for Deep Emissions Reductions via a Dual Demand- and Supply-Side Approach: Sarah Greene (University of Waterloo)
Abstract: In their landmark 2018 article, Green and Denniss called for combining demand and supply side policies to enact deep emissions cuts to respond to the climate crisis, what they called “cutting with both arms of the scissors.” Five years on, in this article we assess federal progress in Canada on using “both arms” of climate policy, with a focus on the country’s two largest sources of sectoral emissions of emissions: oil and gas production (supply side) and transportation (demand side). We first present the theoretical basis for a dual demand- and supply-side approach to emissions mitigation, noting advances in this debate over the last five years. Next, we provide an overview of the state of play of federal policy in both sectors. We argue that, while Canada has been somewhat successful in applying demand-side measures to foster emissions reductions in the transportation sector, significant gaps exist in limiting emissions at source via phasing down oil and gas exploration and extraction. The article identifies significant political-economic barriers to enacting this two-pronged approach in Canada while presenting opportunities to sharpen both sides of the “scissors,” drawing on leading international examples, to enhance climate policy in both sectors in tandem.

Does Capping Pollution Fuel Discord? How Climate Policy Instruments Affect Support for Canadian Decarbonization: Sam Rowan (Concordia University), Amy Janzwood (McGill University)
Abstract: Decarbonization requires transformational change in the fossil fuel industry—and inevitably, a steep decline in production. Existing work has framed climate policy as dividing groups tied to the fossil fuel industry from those vulnerable to environmental harms. We argue that as climate policy advances, it will fracture and divide these groups. We develop theoretical expectations motivated by a new proposal to cap greenhouse gas emissions from the Canadian oil and gas industry. We start from the premise that an industry emissions cap will impact companies based the emissions intensity of their production, which mostly reflects fixed geographic features. Firms with the most carbon-intensive extraction will face the largest compliance costs and the communities working in these areas will be negatively impacted by this policy. By contrast, firms with lower intensity extraction and the communities in those areas stand to gain, at least in the short- and medium term. We investigate how voters in communities impacted differently by this policy view the post-carbon transition and how they would like governmental revenues to be allocated to support the transition. Our findings help us understand the political economy of decarbonization in fossil-fuel producing democracies.

The Political Economy of Post-Growth Transition and Canada’s Quality of Life Strategy: Christopher Orr (University of Waterloo)
Abstract: Since WWII, the global political economy has been organized around the pursuit of economic growth. Recently, in light of accelerating climate change and other crises, post-growth alternatives have gained increasing traction. Examples such as the degrowth movement and Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) have presented visions and policies that attempt to navigate from a growth-oriented economy towards alternative visions of prosperity. Having developed its Quality of Life Strategy, Canada is the most recent government to join the WEGo partnership. A central challenge of these movements is how governments can navigate from a growth-oriented economy toward alternative visions of prosperity. This paper explores the political economy of a post-growth transition. Reviewing historical attempts to implement post-growth alternatives, it identifies four challenges related to the reorganization towards socio-ecological sustainability that national governments face: measurement, politics, domestic path dependence, and international political economy. It explores these challenges using WEGo and Canada’s Quality of Life Strategy as a case study to illustrate the emerging potential for post-growth alternatives. This analysis reveals potential strategies that governments can use to better navigate the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy.