Think Tank Round-Up Volume 2: March 6, 2013
March 6, 2013
It has been a busy week for us at Canada 2020, with our Equality of Opportunity panel and our Skilled Trades in the Energy Sector conference. If you missed our events, follow the links to watch exclusive video, flip through photos, and download presentations. And while you’re at it, make sure you’re signed up for our next event in The Canada We Want in 2020 Speaker Series: Asia’s cities, Canada’s opportunity?
But just as we’ve been very active so too have other organizations in our network. Here’s another round-up of the policy thinking and writing from Canadian and international think tanks from the past two weeks.
Carbon and the environment have taken center stage. President Obama has been more aggressive in his statements regarding climate change and the plans he has to tackle it, which seems to have created the momentum for discussion.
On March 4th, The Brookings Institution published a short piece (The Climate Change Rebound) on how shifting public opinion might be the root cause of this renewed policy interested in climate change: an increasing number of Americans appear to believe that extreme weather events are caused by climate change and that something should be done about it.
Another piece (The Many Benefits of a Carbon Tax) by the Brookings Institution’s Adele Morris argues that a modest carbon tax would create economic growth, reduce budget deficits, reduce redundant and inefficient regulation, reduce unnecessary subsidies and reduce the costs associated with climate change. The author defines `modest’ as a tax of $16 per ton of CO2 that would rise annually by 4% over inflation until 2050.
This figure is in line with the lower range that many companies seem to be using already, at least in Canada, according to Sustainable Prosperity, an Ottawa based environmental think tank. SP’s report on how Canadian companies in the energy sector have been using shadow carbon pricing (Shadow Carbon Pricing in the Canadian Energy Sector) make an interesting read. Although the federal government has not put in place a carbon price, some companies have decided to go ahead and do it themselves to improve their risk management, innovation and market access. This suggests a readiness that would facilitate the adoption of carbon pricing were it to take place. However, less optimistically, Sustainable Prosperity found that even the upper range of shadow carbon prices being employed are significantly below the carbon price that is estimated to be necessary in 2020 to shift Canada to a lower GHG emissions pathway (National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy).
Also last week, the Centre for American Progress produced a report on the potential of offshore wind energy development. It concluded that there was much scope for advancement of an energy source that is not only cleaner but would reduce the dependence of the country on external sources of energy. However, this is based on the analysis at the macro level while most studies at the project level are less optimistic about the potential impact of offshore wind energy. You can read about it here.
Closer to home, The International Institute for Sustainable Development in Manitoba produced an evaluation of federal government action on carbon in 2012 in its latest report Regulating Carbon Emissions in Canada: Canadian Carbon Policy Year in Review and Emerging Trends. The Winnipeg research institute argues that although the federal government was more active on this file in 2012, it should be wary of increased fragmentation between provinces, which increases compliance costs and potentially undermines Canada’s ability to reach its Copenhagen greenhouse gas emission targets. However, IISD is optimistic due to early signs of policy coordination between provinces and the federal government, which bodes well for effective future for long term policy. IISD puts forward four policy recommendations: (i) learn from a fragmented policy landscape; (ii) build on current carbon bridges toward a unified, harmonized policy; (iii) enable compliance flexibility; and (iv) establish clear rules in the meantime.
Join the conversation on Carbon pricing in Canada and attend our event How to Sell Carbon Pricing to Canadians on April 27th, 2013.
The other prominent and persistent public policy debate is around income inequality. The Brown Centre Chalkboard of the Brookings Institution explored in some detail the President’s pre-K plan (Obama’s Preschool Plan). The plan is not to subsidize children of the middle class but rather to help disadvantaged families provide equal opportunities to their children, through taxpayer-funded (shared costs with states) preschools. The report highlights that for the US to continue to be competitive in the global economy it must reduce the gap between advantaged and at-risk children.
The Economic Policy Institute also looks at income inequality but through the lens of the minimum wage. The debate on minimum wage in the US has been reignited by President Obama’s State of the Union address calling for an increase of the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9. The debate about the aggregate effect of raising minimum wages (on employment and economic well-being) rages on. The report Declining Value of the Federal Minimum Wage is a Major Factor Driving Inequality argues that real wages in the US have not kept up to the productivity gains and the average American has experienced a “lost decade” of wage gains in the 2000s. This, the EPI argues, should change if the American economy is to regain its strength and recover.
That’s it for another two weeks of policy debate. Remember to sign up for our mailing list to keep up to date with all of the latest news and events from Canada 2020.
Opinion: Why the US and Europe must stand together
President Obama’s trip to Europe is an opportunity to build on the vision he outlined in his West Point speech last week, and to set out a plan to renew the transatlantic relationship. This backbone of an alliance of liberal democracies across the globe, and the foundation of the post-war order, faces fresh challenges today. Over the past few years, though, this alliance has suffered from neglect which is troubling, as the inexorable triumph of liberal democracy is not inevitable – it requires constant work and vigilance.
Global Progress: Making Progressive Politics Work
“Making Progressive Politics Work: A Handbook of Ideas” is a collection of essays from the organizations and thinkers that are a part of Global Progress, an international exchange of ideas that will fuel the creation and implementation of progressive policies around the world. The handbook, organized and published by the U.K.-based Policy Network. Divided into two sections – Future Wealth Creation, and Jobs, Wages and Skills of the Future – the publication is required reading for Canadian progressives.
Analysis: Who is Matteo Renzi?
At just 39 years of age, Matteo Renzi became Italy’s youngest-ever prime minister in late February. The dramatic events that led to this meteoric rise are nothing new for Renzi. Over the course of his relatively short political career, the former lawyer and regional counselor earned the nickname “il Rottomatore”—meaning “the bulldozer” or “the demolition man”—thanks to his reputation for taking on the establishment and pushing through political reforms.
Opinion: It’s not unemployment, it’s underemployment
As short as 20 years ago, our combined attainment of education, work experience, and connections would place many young Canadians on a secure career track that would allow us to pay back our loans, save for a house, and contribute to the overall productivity of this great country. Today, that’s more or less not the case, and an increasing number of young Canadians are caught in a veritable limbo state of underemployment.
August 15, 2013
Summer Reading: 10 infographics you should see
We love infographics at Canada 2020 – and there’s no better time to browse and read them then over the long summer office hours.
Here’s 10 online features from The Guardian, The Economic Policy Institute, The White House and more than you should catch up on. Topics include tracking and comparing national carbon outputs, measuring exactly how inequality is rising in North America and answering what makes Canadians sick.