Joyce Murray: GreenPAC Endorsee Entered Politics to Address Climate Change

You don’t often meet elected officials whose political careers trace back to their research in climate science.

But Member of Parliament Joyce Murray (L-Vancouver Quadra), Parliamentary Secretary to Treasury Board President Scott Brison, points to her executive MBA research in 1992 as the moment that got her focused on climate change, and on the role Canada must play to address it.

Murray had previously worked as a tree planter, at a time when forestry in British Columbia was extremely damaging to wildlife, ecosystems, and ecological integrity. She cofounded a reforestation company, joined the 1980s push for more responsible forestry and reforestation in B.C., and helped shape regulations that favoured multi-species planting over what she now describes as “an agricultural, cut-it-down-and-mono-plantation mode”.

Cultivating New Ground

When Murray began her MBA work in the early 1990s, climate change policy was in its early days. She was interested in the role of forests as carbon sinks, but realized Canada had no carbon reduction target, and no framework for assessing the role of carbon sinks in the wider mix of climate response strategies. So Murray got to work.

By the time she finished her thesis project, “I had a proposal for a carbon sink where we would do restoration and reforestation in a set of different ways,” she recalls. She identified 10 different types of reforestation, came up with proxies for the cost per hectare and the volume of carbon sink accomplished, then crunched the numbers to figure out how much her plan would cost.

The results put today’s carbon pricing battles into perspective. “We could accomplish a large part of my proposed target over 10 years at approximately $8 per tonne, which I had researched as being a reasonable cost per tonne of carbon abated, given what some of the utilities in the United States were already doing in terms of shadow pricing of carbon.”