Carbon Offsets Market

“It is great to be here and to make a major announcement as part of the Government of Canada’s plan to combat climate change.”

These are the words of introduction of a speech by Jim Prentice, then Minister of the Environment to the Economic Club on June 10, 2009.  In case the audience had not wakened to the importance of his subject Prentice continued:

“Today, I am pleased to announce another important building block in our Climate Change plan – designed to help us achieve our targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to generate real emission reduction opportunities across the economy.”

The “building block” of the Government’s Climate Change plan was a carbon market for Canada.

Canadian voters will remember that the merits of the various legal mechanisms to combat climate change were front and center in the 2008 Federal Election.  The electorate rebuffed the Liberal Party for proposing a carbon tax.  Prentice’s proposal to establish a market-place solution was consistent with the preference for free enterprise solutions of his party.

Except it never happened! The major announcement (a plan to fight climate change) never materialized.  The building block was dropped like a hot potato.

We don’t know the details of what led to Prentice’s resignation from the Federal Cabinet in 2009.  We do know that since he left the Federal Government has abandoned the promotion of a carbon market.  Canada lost an opportunity to encourage consumers to think about GHG emissions when purchasing goods and services.

Despite the extensive work of the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute to educate Canadian consumers on the value of these offsets, the use purchase of offsets has been sporadic.  For example, Air Canada offers a Carbon Offset Program on its Website. Air Canada chose Zerofootprint, described on the Air Canada website as a not-for-profit corporation, which sponsored three green projects into which funds for offset purchases would flow.

The Air Canada Website program page information has been static for many months.   Today it states:

Program results as of September 2010

Since the launch of the program in May 2007, Air Canada customers have made a meaningful contribution to the fight against climate change by contributing thousands of dollars to carbon offset.

Carbon offset purchases

Tonnes of
CO2 offset

Equivalent to taking this many cars off the road for a year


16,414 4,063

Clearly the public interest in the purchase of carbon offsets has significantly decreased.  The Government’s suspension of its carbon offsets plan may prove to have been its burial.

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