Environment: Man on emission

John McCain joins U.S. presidential rivals in acknowledging climate change.

“We have many advantages in the fight against global warming — but time is not one of them.” No, that’s not David Suzuki. It’s Republican presidential candidate John McCain — outlining his policy on climate change in Oregon on May 12. “Instead of idly debating global warming,” he went on, “we need to deal with the facts.” His solution: a cap-and-trade system — albeit one that allows large polluters to purchase limitless carbon offsets.

That McCain broadly supports cap-and-trade is not news. What’s significant is that he, as well as Democratic rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, officially acknowledged climate change as a major problem requiring a major solution. “The U.S. will have a policy in place within a couple of years, no matter who wins the election,” says Mark Jaccard, an energy economist at Simon Fraser University.

After the speech, McCain senior economic policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin praised the Arizona senator for squaring the circle on global warming. “He addressed … the interaction between climate change and economic growth, pointing out that they are not at odds,” he said. Carbon traders couldn’t agree more. A World Bank report, out May 7, estimates carbon trading is now a US$64-billion dollar market. Those profiting from it anticipate new opportunities in North America after the election. Canada is after a piece of that pie: at the end of May, the Montreal Exchange will begin carbon trading.

Now expect less talk of carbon on the U.S. campaign trail. Why? As Hardball’s Chris Matthews explained recently during a talk at Harvard, “They’re all on the same side. When it comes to climate change, there’s nothing left to fight over.”