Jim Prentice, Canada’s Minister of the Environment has said that Canada might not impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions until 2016. This is simply preposterous. It makes a mockery of this government’s pledge to cut emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020. It is also hypocritical. This government argued that they could not meet their Kyoto Protocol targets due to the inaction of their predecessors. They argued that the short time left before the deadline would require them to simply shut down Canadian industry and services to homes (See: The Cost of Bill C-288 to Canadian Families and Business) Of course, dallying until 2016 would put whatever government was in charge then in an even tighter bind.
In order to meet this government’s 2020 target, Canadian emissions will need to fall by about 170 million tonnes over the next eleven years: a task equivalent to making the entire province of Alberta carbon neutral. Obviously, waiting until 2016 to begin dooms the project to failure. That ignores the fact that even the 20% target is insufficiently ambitious, when you consider the risks associated with different global emissions pathways and the fact that rich, developed states must lead the way on the transition to low- and zero-carbon sources of energy.
The idea that we could do nothing substantial for another seven years is an affront to ethics, good sense, Canada’s international obligations, and our reputation as good global citizens. If Canada cannot show the leadership or vision necessary to appreciate the risks of unconstrained climate change, as well as the opportunities in moving the energy basis of our society to a sustainable basis, our best hope is that we will be made into a pariah state by our most important trading partners. For Canada to maintain growing emissions for another decade would be shameful, but not a global crisis in itself. For the United States, European Union, China, and Japan to do so would quite probably doom future generations to a world very different from ours. If those states do show the fortitude required to begin the transition to carbon neutrality, they will be quite justified in imposing stiff carbon tariffs against a Canada too blind or selfish to see upon or act as must be done.