Stephen Harper is coming to Copenhagen. It really surprised me when the Canadian media started patting him on the back for announcing this, as if he was finally cleaning up his act and showing some leadership. Coming to a conference – and most likely only for a day or two, for a photo op – doesn’t show leadership. As I’ll explain in this post, it’s the latest in a chain of attempts by the Canadian government to look like they’re doing something about climate change, without actually doing anything at all.
Obama is only coming to Copenhagen for one day. Almost certainly a photo op. But I find this somewhat more excusable because the US is already working on their own climate change legislation, independent of Copenhagen. The US has something against international agreements, but they’re being proactive and finding ways to achieve the same ends regardless. Canada hasn’t done any such thing.
And it’s not just the Conservatives that are being difficult. Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the opposition, says that Canada has wasted four years on climate change action. Actually, we’ve wasted twenty. But Ignatieff will only say four years, because beyond that, it was his party that was the problem. The Liberals were the ones to sign Kyoto and agree to an emissions cut of 6% below 1990 levels. Instead, as of 2006, they were 22% above.
The recommended emissions target for developed nations is a 25-40% cut from 1990 levels by 2020. Most developed nations have stepped up to the plate. Norway has pledged a 40% reduction. Japan has pledged 25%. Australia has agreed to 5-24%, depending on whether there is an agreement at Copenhagen. The EU will cut 20% no matter what, and will increase this to 30% with an international agreement. Britain has increased this even further, with a 34% pledge.
The US is a little trickier. Waxman-Markey will cut 14-20%, but from 2005 levels, not 1990. Does anyone know how to convert this so we can properly compare it to other countries?
Then there’s Canada. Canada has pledged 3% from 1990 levels. Absolutely pitiful. Depending on what the US conversion turns out to be, there’s a good chance that our humble country is the worst in the world for climate change action and leadership.
The government knows this, and they’re spending a great deal of time and energy trying to cover it up. For example, they won’t say “3% by 1990”, because it’s so obviously pitiful. Instead, they say that they’ve pledged “a 20% cut by 2020″…..from 2006 levels. What is the point of deviating from the standard baseline among countries who signed Kyoto, unless you’re deliberately trying to keep your citizens happy with you?
And that’s not all. In the summer, I wrote about how Canada was still advertising its Turning the Corner plan, even though it appeared to have abandoned it. When I went to PowerShift in October, I had the chance to talk to a lot of people who knew a lot about Canada’s climate change policies. And yes, our government has definitely abandoned Turning the Corner. But it’s still one of the first links in their sidebar. And when you click on that link, you discover that it hasn’t been updated since August 2o08, and the legislation is supposed to come into effect in January 2010. Yet another example of keeping the citizens happy without having to do anything.
Stephen Harper’s climate change website is full of talk about emissions intensity and CSS. There are pictures of him shaking hands with Obama and planting trees. But trying to get any real information out of it is next to impossible.
The government is spending so much time trying to convince Canadians that they’re taking bold action on climate change. They’re devoting so much energy to putting on sustainable masks that contradict all their talk of a transparent government. All without having to take any action at all.
What I ask is, why not spend all that time and energy actually doing something? Why not cooperate with other nations and realize that this is the way the world economy is going? Why not be proactive and prepared instead of hoping that the whole issue will just go away?
It actually makes me ashamed to be Canadian. Ashamed to be part of this country that tosses around the future of our civilization, the future of my generation, so lightly. And for what?