Canada as a climate change pariah

2009-12-02

in Canada, Politics, The environment

Lauren Sweeney in the National Gallery, Ottawa

Organizations including the World Development Movement, the Polaris Institute, and Greenpeace have suggested that Canada be suspended from the Commonwealth due to its poor climate change policies.

While there is no prospect of that happening now, the situation does make you think about just how long Canada can continue to delay mitigation at home, even in the event that other states reach an agreement to cut their emissions. It doesn’t seem impossible that Canada could be one of the last hold-outs, when most of the world has started taking serious action on the issue. If so, campaigns to suspend Canada’s participation in international organizations, sporting bans, and the like could become both effective and appropriate. Canadians like to think that they are responsible members of the international community. As time goes by, contributing to the global climate change mitigation effort with be an increasingly important yardstick by which countries judge one another.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

. December 2, 2009 at 8:46 am
R.K. December 2, 2009 at 9:46 am

Oh, to live in a world where Canada’s inaction is the exception, rather than the rule…

coyote December 2, 2009 at 10:52 am

I agree that Canadians in the main like to think they’re responsible members of the international community. But I’m not certain the current government is as interested in representing Canadians as they are, as it is in changing their collective attitude to something less engaged, less open, less reflective, and more churlish. If you like, more like its members.

I rather think the Prime Minister’s attitude toward anyone he disagrees with, in Parliament and out of it, is the model he strives for as a whole. Unfortunately, when his attitude is as wrongheaded as it is on global warming, we’ll all suffer.

I rather fear that this country becoming the object of a movement to make it an international pariah may only be the beginning of a long and ugly chain of consequences for all of us…

. December 2, 2009 at 11:35 am

Jeffrey Simpson
Judge the government’s emissions targets by its exit strategies

As Copenhagen nears, the world awaits another shabby Canadian performance

When countries gather for the Copenhagen climate-change negotiations, Canada will be brandishing a greenhouse-gas emissions target that no one believes is credible.

Foreign governments that have analyzed the Canadian target know it to be unattainable. Domestic experts who have examined it know it to be unreachable. Senior civil servants who understand the file know it to be more spin than substance.

Yet, in the spin doctor world of Ottawa, this inflated target will be held aloft as evidence of Stephen Harper’s government’s commitment to something it is not committed to at all – a steep reduction in emissions.

The government’s target, or promise, is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 from a starting point of 2006. That the government doesn’t even believe its own target can be observed by how it’s been preparing two exit strategies.

Milan December 2, 2009 at 11:36 am

Oh, to live in a world where Canada’s inaction is the exception, rather than the rule…

Indeed. It is beautiful to imagine a world where the US and China could really tell Canada off, for being a climate change slacker. Ultimately, their decisions and emissions pathways matter a lot more than ours.

I rather fear that this country becoming the object of a movement to make it an international pariah may only be the beginning of a long and ugly chain of consequences for all of us…

What negative consequences do you fear would arise from such international condemnation?

. December 3, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Quote of the day

Canada has a very progressive image (particularly by North American standards), which it is proceeding to shred into pieces over the issue of its tar sands. The tar sand reserves have the potential to turn Canada into a global energy player on a par with Saudi Arabia, but at what great cost…

. December 4, 2009 at 11:04 am

Scientists press PM on climate change

MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT

From Thursday’s Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, Dec. 03, 2009 12:00AM EST Last updated on Friday, Dec. 04, 2009 2:05AM EST

ENVIRONMENT REPORTER

In advance of UN climate talks next week in Copenhagen, more than 500 of Canada’s leading scientists have issued an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper warning that global warming is happening much faster than previously estimated and that government needs much more aggressive targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

“We’re seeing no movement on the part of our politicians and yet pretty well all of the science that’s come out since about 2007 has indicated that climate change is moving faster than we thought,” said David Schindler, a professor of ecology at the University of Alberta, who helped draft the letter, which was circulated to scientists by environmental group WWF-Canada.

The letter, which will be released publicly later today above the names of some of Canada’s most internationally recognized environmental researchers, says the Conservative government’s current policy, which amounts to a cut in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2.7 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, will not be large enough to forestall rapid climate change.

. December 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

No faith in Harper on climate

Kalli Anderson

Special to The Globe and Mail Published on Wednesday, Dec. 09, 2009 3:08PM EST

With the United Nations climate change conference under way in Copenhagen, the majority of pundits in Quebec have already given up all hope that Stephen Harper’s participation in the international meeting will be anything short of an embarrassment.

Le Soleil kicked off the pessimism parade early in the week with an article quoting translated sections of Guardian columnist George Monbiot’s recent scathing attack on Canada’s climate change record in which he called Canada “a thuggish petro-state” and “one of the greatest obstacles to a deal in Copenhagen.”

The next day, La Presse columnist Alain Dubuc tried in vain to remain upbeat. He pointed out that the Prime Minister had at least decided to attend the conference and he acknowledged that the government’s most recent 2020 emissions reduction targets are in line with those of the Obama administration. But then Mr. Dubuc remembered that, according to recent studies Canada isn’t on track to reach its 2020 targets. “We can console ourselves by saying that our objectives are similar to those of the United States,” Mr. Dubuc wrote. “But there is a big difference. President Obama no doubt wants to exceed his targets, whereas, the Harper government probably won’t even achieve the minimum.”

. February 22, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Canada-EU trade deal threatened by oilsands dispute
February 21, 2011

Canada has threatened to scrap a trade deal with the European Union if the EU persists with plans that would block imports of Canada’s highly polluting tar sands, according to EU documents and sources.

The European Union has told its fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint of fuels by 6 percent over the next decade, and is now fine-tuning “default values” to help suppliers identify the most carbon-intensive imports.

Canada says the standards would instantly constrict a possible future market for its oil sands — tar-like oil that is trapped in sediment and forms the world’s second-largest proven crude reserves after those of Saudi Arabia.

“Canada has been lobbying the Commission and member states intensively to avoid a separate default value for fuel derived from tar sands,” said a briefing note prepared by EU officials for climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

“It has raised the issue in the context of EU-Canada negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement,” adds the note, one of several from last year released last week under freedom-of-information laws.

. February 23, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Climate change an issue in Canada: Poll

Far more Canadians than Americans believe climate change is real, according to a report produced by U.S. and Canadian think tanks.

The report, based on the results of two national surveys of public opinion on climate change, was to be released Wednesday by the Public Policy Forum and Sustainable Prosperity and their project partners.

Respondents on both sides of the border were asked their opinion on a range of issues on climate change, starting with whether they believed it was real.

In Canada, 80 per cent believe in the science behind climate change, compared with 58 per cent in the United States.

Alex Wood of Sustainable Prosperity, a research and policy network at the University of Ottawa, says there’s a message there for the federal government.

. November 28, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Britain’s promotion of Canada’s tar sands oil is idiotic

A deal to sell tar sands oil in Europe would outweigh any good the UK might do with all its other climate change measures

. November 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm

So these are the real battle lines of Durban: on the one side stands an obstinate cabal of big emitters, developed and developing, who have little in common except an opposition to the prospect of any legally binding targets being inscribed in a new treaty. Step forward India, the United States, China, Japan and Canada.

On the other side stands a growing informal alliance of vulnerable countries, small island states, the European Union, several Latin American nations like Colombia, Costa Rica and Chile, plus Norway, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland, who have been meeting under the banner of the Cartagena Dialogue, and are all keeping the flame alive for meaningful progress.

These are the countries pointing out that a treaty implemented after 2020 will be too late to save the world from the threat of global warming ñ instead they want a 2015 timeline, with ambitious action in the meantime.

Whether this informal grouping of progressives can survive the strong-arm tactics of the powerful nations will be the real story of Durban.

. November 28, 2011 at 11:28 pm

“Countries should be asking themselves why Canada is sitting at the Kyoto negotiating table with a secret plan to formally withdrawal from the protocol mere weeks after the talks end,” says Patrick Bonin of AQPLA. “Countries should demand Canada state their position now, and if they really are planning to let the world down, they should immediately leave the Kyoto Protocol negotiating table.”

Canada has been singled out as a global laggard on climate change over recent years winning the ‘colossal fossil’ for the country that has done the most to undermine progress at the climate talks for the past 4 years in a row. In the midst of dire warnings from the likes of the International Energy Agency, Canada’s position is both dangerous and immoral.

“Canada is here acting on behalf of polluters, not people. It is no secret that Canada’s climate and energy policy is focused on rapidly expanding the tar sands and attempting to kill clean energy policy abroad,” says Robin Tress of the Canadian Youth Delegation. “At these climate negotiations Canada stands alone in its unabashed representation of dirty oil.”

. November 28, 2011 at 11:31 pm

The Conservative government says it will not make a second commitment to Kyoto. It instead wants to build on the talks that began in Copenhagen and wants any new agreement to include all of the world’s major emitters.

“Kyoto is the past,” said Mr. Kent.

But Graham Saul, the executive director the Climate Action Network who held a news conference with other groups concerned about climate change that coincided with the news conference of Mr. Kent, said it is apparent that Canada is going to the talks only to sabotage the effort.

Copenhagen is essentially a bunch of voluntary commitments with no compliance mechanism or oversight, said Mr. Saul. It is “just a bunch of countries promising to do something and, every once in a while they are going to review it and if they don’t do it, well too bad.”

The Kyoto protocol, on the other hand, is a binding international agreement that has mechanisms for compliance, he said. It has infrastructure and an entire institutional base around it that the world has spent the past 10, 15, 20 years negotiating, said Mr. Sault.

. December 1, 2011 at 10:52 am

How Canada became the world’s latest climate pariah
Posted by Brad Plumer at 01:49 PM ET, 11/30/2011

Every time the international climate talks roll around, there’s always a major country or two that gets blamed for gumming up the works. During the George W. Bush years, the United States was the popular scapegoat. More recently, China and India have been castigated for refusing any binding limits on their fast-rising carbon pollution. During the Copenhagen talks in 2009, it was Venezuela and Bolivia that were blocking acceptance of the accords. And this time around, Canada seems to have emerged as the villain du jour. Wait, Canada?

Yep. Next year, recall, the Kyoto Protocol — a treaty that requires industrialized nations to cut their heat-trapping carbon emissions — is set to expire. Developing countries that aren’t covered by the treaty, like Brazil, China, and India, all want to extend it. But the United States never ratified the treaty in the first place. Russia’s souring on it. And now there are rumors that nice, polite Canada might withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, as well. So far, the country’s environment minister, Peter Kent, has refused to deny those rumors. And China’s official news agency is already accusing Canada of “setting a bad example.”

So what’s going on here? Perhaps Canada feels strongly about the genuine flaws in the existing Kyoto Protocol. One thing to note here, though, is that Canada also has plenty of self-interested reasons to be uneasy about sharp curbs in greenhouse-gas emisisons. In recent years, new technology and higher oil prices have made it profitable for Canada to exploit vast new oil reserves in its Alberta tar sands. Those reserves are now valued at a whopping $14 trillion, and oil companies are already investing hundreds of billions of dollars in Alberta. Even the recent delay in the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have shipped oil from Alberta through the United States down to the Gulf Coast, isn’t likely to derail tar-sands production for long.

. January 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Saudi Arabia. Nigeria. Venezuela. Canada?
Is our neighbor to the north becoming a jingoistic petro-state?

By Will Oremus|Posted Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, at 6:46 PM ET

It’s well known that America’s dependence on foreign oil forces us to partner with some pretty unsavory regimes. Take, for instance, the country that provides by far the largest share of our petroleum imports. Its regime, in thrall to big oil interests, has grown increasingly bellicose, labeling environmental activists “radicals” and “terrorists” and is considering a crackdown on nonprofits that oppose its policies. It blames political dissent on the influence of “foreigners,” while steamrolling domestic opposition to oil projects bankrolled entirely by overseas investors. Meanwhile, its skyrocketing oil exports have sent the value of its currency soaring, enriching energy industry barons but crippling other sectors of its economy.

Yes, Canada is becoming a jingoistic petro-state.

OK, so our friendly northern neighbor isn’t exactly Saudi Arabia or Venezuela. But neither is it the verdant progressive utopia once viewed as a haven by American liberals fed up with George W. Bush. These days Canada has a Dubya of its own. And judging by a flurry of negative press from around the world—the latest: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other African leaders are taking out newspaper ads accusing Canada of contributing to famine and drought on the continent—it seems anti-Canadianism could be the new anti-Americanism.

Stephen Harper, the son of an oil-company accountant, built his political career in Alberta, a province whose right-wing tendencies and booming energy sector make it Canada’s equivalent of Texas. Harper took over the Conservative Party in 2004 and became prime minister two years later on a platform that evoked Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.” In 2009, he quelled a Bush-esque Afghan-detainee abuse scandal by sending the parliament home to forestall further investigation. The Canadian economy weathered the financial crisis unusually well, thanks to strong banking regulations and booming oil sales to China, and in May 2011 Harper’s party won a majority for the first time. It has celebrated by veering rightward and doubling down on its oil bets.

. February 13, 2012 at 10:32 am

Oil policy turning good guy Canada into global bad boy

By Jack Knox, Times Colonist

A week after bleating about foreign radicals slowing the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, you have to figure Joe Oliver just wishes he had kept his cakehole corked.

Instead of turning public opinion against the interference of well-heeled American environmentalists, Stephen Harper’s natural resources minister succeeded mainly in A) awakening Canadians to the growing extent of Asian influence in the Alberta oil patch and B) alerting the rest of the world that the Canadian cowboy now wears a black hat.

When did the Americans sell us to China, Canadians asked.

When did Canada become a global bad boy, asked the foreign media.

To the rest of the world, seeing erstwhile good guy Canada pump out pollution and stifle dissent in a manner reminiscent of, well, the Chinese government is like finding Tom Hanks smoking crack with an underage prostitute.

In a Jan. 20 piece headlined “Is our neighbor to the north becoming a jingoistic petro-state?” the influential Slate online news magazine suggested with barely restrained glee that the new ugly American is actually Canadian.

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