About: Brendan Frank

Recent Posts by Brendan Frank

A tax is a tax, except when it isn’t

“A tax is a tax.” We hear that often enough. But it’s an unhelpful and even misleading label for carbon pricing, which doesn’t have much in common with the traditional tools governments use to raise revenue. Here’s why. It’s not about raising revenue Let’s take a look at how the […] More

Carbon pricing works in Japan

Cities stand on the front lines of climate change. They’re responsible for over 70% of global emissions and they’ll bear the brunt of damages that result. They’re also laboratories for climate policy, from ultra-low emissions zones to net-zero buildings to literal urban jungles, and now, carbon pricing. As part of […] More

Never forget about acid rain

We don’t hear about acid rain much anymore—at least not in this part of the world. But the term still resonates. It was one of the first environmental issues to capture the public’s attention. I distinctly recall hearing how acid rain could chew through your bicycle or your house on […] More

So, about that “trillion trees” study…

Last week, the journal Science published a new study on forest restoration and the role it could play in reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases. The findings generated a lot of eye-grabbing headlines, many of which were incomplete, hyperbolic, or downright misleading. It’s a complicated study with important findings and caveats. This […] More

Summary of Ontario Court Decision on the Federal Carbon Pricing Law

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) is constitutionally valid.  Parliament has the authority to set minimum national standards to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions under its “National Concern” power – a branch of the Peace, Order and Good Government (POGG) power in […] More

Carbon pricing works in the UK

Carbon pricing is an increasingly mainstream policy approach to slowing climate change. There are 53 carbon pricing systems operating around the world and several more in the works. Today we’ll add to our small library of case studies. The United Kingdom has used a modest carbon price to great effect […] More

How can the West work with China on climate change?

Climate change is a global problem requiring global cooperation. The world’s biggest emitter is making progress, but has much more to do. Given the whole world has a stake in accelerating its decarbonization, how can Canada (and the West) help China reduce emissions? Let’s take a look at our wonderful […] More

China’s sprawling approach to climate policy

It is indisputable that getting global emissions under control requires getting China’s emissions under control. So what is China doing about it? Not only is the nation of 1.4 billion getting serious about climate change, its policy approach often resembles Canada’s. The details warrant careful unpacking. Here is the present […] More

The scale of China’s climate challenge

You can’t talk about climate change without talking about China. It has the most people, the most pollution, and the world’s largest economy by some measures. It is a 21st century superpower, and its actions—at home and abroad—have global implications. As a result, China is a common “whataboutism.” It’s often […] More

Without climate policy, “innovation” is just a buzzword

Lately we’ve seen argument after argument after argument for using “technology” and “innovation” as fixes for climate change. But reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires specific types of innovation. Without broad incentives that signal the value of low- or zero-carbon technologies, we’ll get more of what led us to this point. […] More

Summary of Saskatchewan Court Decision on the Federal Carbon Pricing Law

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled that the federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) is constitutionally valid; it falls within federal authority under the “National Concern” power – a branch of the Peace, Order and Good Government power. What is the decision? 3 of the 5 judges joined in […] More

How are governments recycling carbon pricing revenues?

If they don’t already, every province in Canada will soon have a price on carbon. The main purpose of carbon pricing is to reduce emissions, but they also generate revenues for governments. When it comes to recycling these revenues back into the economy, governments have plenty of options. In this […] More

Climate Roulette: The human side of climate risk

No one can fully get their mind around climate change. Confronting even one dimension of the problem—socioeconomic, environmental, cultural, geopolitical—can be overwhelming. Fortunately, we don’t have to know everything about climate change to confront it effectively. We can examine it through the lens of risk. As part our series on […] More

Carbon pricing works—even if emissions are still rising

An old, debunked argument against carbon taxes has flared up recently: If total emissions aren’t falling, the tax must not be working. Let’s quash that myth. We at the Ecofiscal Commission and others have written extensively and consistently on this subject (see here, here, here). Without new policies, emissions have […] More

We can mitigate climate change and adapt to it at the same time

On Black Friday, the world was handed another inch-thick report detailing how climate change will pull us into the red. The Fourth National Climate Assessment, released by the Trump Administration, spelled out in stark terms how climate change will affect everything from America’s infrastructure to its national security, and how […] More

How carbon dividends affect incentives (hint: they don’t)

Clean Prosperity and EnviroEconomics published a report recommending the federal government rebate carbon-pricing revenues directly to households. The key takeaway: Implementing a carbon price and issuing these ‘carbon dividends’ could make a majority of Canadian households better off. It’s a valuable finding. But you might ask: What’s the point if […] More

Dealing with climate change is the ultimate long game

To decarbonize on a timescale necessary to avoid the worst of climate change, business as usual is not going to cut it. We need policies to give ourselves the necessary boost, policies that drive deep emissions reductions. And there’s an abundance of evidence that carbon pricing can do exactly that. […] More

Can Ontario hit its targets without carbon pricing?

Ontario’s new government plans to dismantle the provincial cap-and-trade system and resist the federal backstop, essentially opposing carbon pricing in all forms. Though he hasn't provided details, the premier-designate says he will “come down heavy on polluters.” Let’s take his statement seriously. What would a real plan to decarbonize Ontario […] More

Why 1.6% matters

Canadians have strong moral and economic arguments for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. But how could Canada’s seemingly minor share of global emissions (about 1.6%) possibly be of consequence? What do our actions matter? Quite a bit, actually, and we can slice the data in different ways to show why. […] More

Carbon pricing works in the U.S.

Carbon pricing is emerging as the tool of choice to reduce emissions. More governments are relying on carbon pricing, and more evidence is piling up that it works. Ecofiscal’s latest report highlights three case studies, including one on California. Today, we’ll dive deeper into the U.S.’s other cap-and-trade system: the […] More

Carbon pricing works in Sweden

Governments around the world are embracing carbon pricing as a central component of their strategies to reduce GHG emissions. Ecofiscal’s latest report highlights why and how carbon pricing works, with case studies from British Columbia, California and the UK. Today, we’ll build on those three and dust off a case […] More

Hey! Who put this carbon in my ice cream?

How big is your carbon footprint? Getting the full picture can be difficult. We have a sense of the emissions we produce directly, when we drive our cars or cook with gas, for example. Emissions we produce indirectly are less obvious, but they’re still “embodied” in the goods we buy. […] More

Albertans are environmentalists (even if they don’t know it)

Canada is a decentralized, sparsely populated and very, very big country. Cultures and attitudes are often regional. Provinces don’t always see eye to eye. As an Albertan living in Ontario, these challenges have become evident in my ongoing dialogue with Albertans—especially when it comes to climate and carbon pricing. It can, […] More

Water works in Okotoks: Lessons from a small, fast-growing Canadian town

Smaller Canadian municipalities face unique challenges when it comes to sustaining healthy water and wastewater systems. To reduce the pressure, many of them are taking multi-pronged approaches to conservation and cost recovery. As we discuss in our latest report, well-designed user fees (i.e., water rates) are effective at curbing water […] More

Unpacking climate policy jargon

Climate policy can be complicated—especially if you’re talking to economists. Carbon pricing? Complementary policies? Marginal abatement costs? Let’s unpack some of this jargon in the simplest ways possible. What’s the problem? Negative externalities occur when someone’s actions impose costs on others. For example, consuming energy creates pollution, which has costs. […] More

Saskatchewan remains an outlier on carbon pricing

On Monday, the Saskatchewan government unveiled its Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy. As expected, it does not feature a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, but does include a form of carbon pricing. There are many details that remain undefined in the Strategy, but let's unpack a few key elements. Missing […] More

Canada’s park paradox

Canada’s national parks host millions and millions of visitors every year, and entry was free in 2017 as part of Canada 150. As you might expect, people have flocked in record numbers. But national parks belong to the public. Should access always be free? And aren’t more visitors, rather than […] More

A Price for All Seasons: Tofino’s Journey to Water Security

Dry summers are the norm in British Columbia, especially of late. They can mean anything from forest fires to low crop yields to water scarcity. To prepare for the inevitability of future droughts, BC municipalities are taking innovative approaches to conserve their water. Today, as part of our new report […] More

Revisiting Albertan Scepticism

A lot has happened in Alberta since January 1. The economy is on the mend, provincial politics will never be the same and, yes, there’s a $20 carbon tax in place. Last Christmas, I went home to Calgary and wrote a blog about my conversations with carbon pricing skeptics. Over […] More

How can climate policy reduce our vulnerability to forest fires? It’s a complex equation

The B.C. wildfires continue to rage, displacing tens of thousands and bringing the incredible human costs into fresh focus. Forests cover almost 35% of Canada. They are both a tremendous asset and a source of disaster. In the face of climate change, scenes similar to those in Inland B.C. will […] More

Fixing a hole: The role of gap-fillers in a climate policy package

In our latest report, Supporting Carbon Pricing, we delve into complementary climate policies – that is, non-pricing policies that do things carbon pricing cannot. There are three different types of policies that can genuinely complement carbon pricing: gap-fillers, signal-boosters, and benefit-expanders. Today, in the first of a series of three […] More

The Curious Case of Counterfactuals

We’ve consistently made the case that carbon taxes work. But what does it mean if emissions rise over time, even with a carbon tax in place? It might mean that the price is too low, but it sure doesn’t mean the tax isn’t working. Interestingly, there’s a Canadian case that […] More

Road salt — a costly way to fight winter

As winter recedes and spring fills the air, Canadians find the chalky residue of salt everywhere. Road salt is an inexpensive option to clear our streets of ice and snow, but the damages to our cities and environment cost us in the long run. Can ecofiscal policies offer a potential solution? […] More

Paved Paradise: Could congestion pricing work in Ottawa?

Two weeks ago, the Healthy Transportation Coalition (HTC) held a forum at the University of Ottawa. The subject: congestion pricing in our nation’s capital. The HTC hosted six expert speakers for a lively debate (including our research team’s fearless leader, Dale Beugin). The same day, four Ottawa city councillors released […] More

Smooth sailing: Distance-travelled charges offer a flexible policy tool to tackle traffic

The topics of congestion pricing and tolling are heating up in a number of Canadian jurisdictions, most recently in Nova Scotia. We are taking the opportunity to shine a light on various forms of congestion pricing, based on our 2015 report We Can’t Get There From Here. This blog discusses […] More

Some like it HOT: High-occupancy toll lanes can be a piece of the congestion puzzle

Last month, Toronto’s plan to implement road tolls on two of its major roads was rejected by the provincial government. It’s not back to square one, however: programs to combat congestion in the GTA continue to grow. Today, as part of a series based on our 2015 report on congestion […] More

Seven things I learned while confronting Albertan scepticism

Over the holidays, I flew home to Calgary to visit friends and family, enjoy the mountains, and… talk about carbon pricing. I stepped out of my echo chamber and spoke to dozens of Albertans who are, to say the least, unhappy with the new provincial levy. I honestly underestimated just […] More

With or without you: Renewable Portfolio Standards in the world of carbon pricing

In the fourth instalment of our blog series on the role of complementary climate policies, I ask: Can a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) work as a substitute for carbon pricing? What about as a complement to carbon pricing? I draw on examples from Nova Scotia and PEI to explore both […] More

In the Zone: Stockholm’s congestion pricing system holds important lessons for Canada’s cities

Congestion pricing is gaining traction in Canadian cities. Following Mayor John Tory’s recommendation for tolls on two of Toronto’s major roads, let’s take this opportunity to look at congestion policies from around the world, with lessons and takeaways for Canada (drawing from our report on congestion pricing from last year). […] More

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