Montreal, December 11, 2014 – At the Lima climate conference, which is drawing to a close, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, exhorted Canada to be more ambitious, to have more vision when it comes to the future of the planet. Yet an exclusive Léger poll commissioned by the Montreal Economic Institute shows that the great majority of Canadians are not willing to foot the bill.
Several environmentalist groups and political players want Canada and Quebec to reduce their consumption of oil in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but the cost of the measures proposed is rarely discussed.
It is this vacuum that a Research Paper published today by the MEI aims to fill. The authors measured the costs of the proposals of two environmentalist groups, Équiterre and Vivre en ville, for “liberating Quebec from oil.” According to their evaluation, the measures identified by these two groups would cost $6.4 billion a year, the equivalent of $1,875 per household. A similar calculation could be carried out for other provinces.
Both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, barely 12% of respondents would be willing to take on an additional expense of over $1,500 a year to fight climate change. In terms of environmental impact for the province of Quebec, despite the magnitude of the sums in play, total oil consumption would only be reduced by 20% and GHG emissions would fall by just 12%.
A more effective measure for generating the desired radical reduction in gasoline consumption would be to double the price of gasoline. Yet this measure also faces strong opposition, as only 7% of Quebecers and 8% of other Canadians would accept such an increase. These numbers are all the more striking given that 77% of Canadians say that the issue of climate change is important to them.
“Reducing our oil consumption and the pollution it generates is a good thing, but the measures currently proposed would profoundly transform our daily lives. In all decisions, we must consider costs as well as benefits,” maintains Germain Belzile, one of the authors of the Research Paper.
In conjunction with this analysis, the Léger poll commissioned by the MEI shows that while three quarters of Canadians think climate change is important, only 25% would be willing to pay more to reach this objective. This result is in line with a recent poll by the David Suzuki Foundation in collaboration with Environics.
The Paper also refutes the argument according to which the substantial costs of an accelerated energy transition would be offset by economic spillover and the creation of subsidized jobs in the new green technology sector.
“Whatever the measures adopted and the parcelling out of the bill, it is ultimately individual Canadians who will pay it,” points out Youri Chassin, coauthor of the Research Paper. “Decision makers should keep in mind the importance of making commitments that are realistic and economically viable if they don’t want a repeat of the failure of the Kyoto Protocol.”
The Research Paper entitled “Can We Get Rid of Oil? The Costs of an Accelerated Energy Transition” was prepared by Youri Chassin and Germain Belzile in collaboration with Alexandre Moreau, respectively Economist and Research Director, Senior Fellow and Public Policy Analyst of the Montreal Economic Institute. This publication is available on our website.
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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.
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