Boycott Canada over climate?


in Canada, Economics, Law, Politics, The environment

As Canada’s statement at the UNFCCC conference in Durban demonstrates, Canada’s political system is currently working for those groups that want Canadian greenhouse gas pollution to remain unlimited, ignoring the costs it imposes on other people around the world. Contrary to the slogan of market-based liberal environmentalism, the slogan of the current approach could be interpreted as: “Keep externalities external”.

Dealing with climate change requires a more productive attitude.

How, then, can Canada’s position be changed so as to be compatible with avoiding dangerous or catastrophic climate change? Right now, the political debate is being dominated by groups that see reducing greenhouse gas pollution as harmful to their business interests – particularly the oil and gas industry. If the rest of the world wants to put pressure on Canada to stop being such an environmental laggard, they may need to convince the rest of Canadian business that it doesn’t pay to be an environmental pariah.

What sort of boycott, I wonder, might be able to achieve that outcome? Something that would catch the attention of the majority of Canadian businesses that do not depend fundamentally on increasing pollution for their continued growth. General economic sanctions might be reasonable: increased tariffs on all Canadian exports, along with a reduced willingness to do trade deals, for as long as Canada refuses to do its fair share in dealing with climate change. After all, the flaws in Kyoto are not a license for inaction.

It would be very reasonable for states with domestic carbon pricing schemes to impose carbon tariffs on states like Canada that do not. As long as the tariff level for emissions embedded in imports is set at the same level as the domestic carbon price, such a policy would be compatible with World Trade Organization rules.

What do other people think?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

klem December 7, 2011 at 11:31 am

They can bring their carbon tariffs if they want, I could not care less. The more they piss Canadians off, the more we’ll kick thier asses.

The IPCC says that humans emit only 3% of the global CO2 output. No one has been able to explain how that 3% dominates the other 97%. Eventually you socialists are going to have to admit you were deceived and realize this is not the right time to make the unelected UN our global government. I await the day.


. December 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Opinion: Why Canada won’t skip out on the oil sands

It’s too valuable, and letting it be won’t necessarily help the planet
By Andrew Leach

Canadians, and I would expect many Albertans, are simply unaware of the scale of the oil sands resource. That needs to change in order for us to have a meaningful discussion with respect to its development, and the conditions under which that development should proceed.

Let’s start with the basics – how much oil is there? If you want to talk about oil in the ground, the number is somewhere between 1.5- and 2.5-trillion barrels of oil, depending on which estimates you use. That number includes resources we know are there but which cannot be extracted profitably given expected oil prices and production costs, or given current technology. If you apply price and technology filters, you get down to the figure of 170 billion barrels, give or take a billion barrels. That’s about 15 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves, and about half of the reserves not held by member countries of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

How much is all that oil worth? In a 2009 report on Canada’s resource wealth, Statistics Canada puts the figure at $441 billion – more than the value of Canada’s coal, conventional crude oil and natural gas reserves combined. If you assume that the reserve quality declines linearly, such that the last barrel in the 170 billion is marginally profitable, the total value in the oil sands reserves would still be over $1-trillion dollars, and that’s likely a very conservative estimate.

. December 7, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Boycott Canada?
by TRISTAN on AUGUST 30, 2010

The Alberta Tar Sands are one of the great, if not the greatest individual environmental disaster being committed at this moment. It is certainly the greatest environmental crime in Canadian history. How Canadians respond to this reality both determines and is symptomatic of their moral character. The question is: what ought we do?

Anon December 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm

If we are going to stop Canada’s oil sands from being extensively exploited, it is vital to prevent the construction of expensive new facilities. As soon as the money is spent and the jobs are real, politicians will probably never be brave enough to shut it down, no matter how bad climate change gets or how much the rest of the world starts to hate Canada.

. December 13, 2011 at 8:18 am

Analysis: Kyoto withdrawal shames us all

John Ibbitson

The Harper government’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol tarnishes Canada before the world. Liberal and Conservative incompetence and mendacity are to blame. You and I are to blame. And Lehman Brothers had something to do with it as well.

It isn’t easy for a country to descend, in the space of a single decade, from crusader to pariah, as Canada has done on the environment. But our political leaders were up to the task.

The first, worst mistake occurred at Kyoto itself in 1997, when then prime minister Jean Chrétien told Canadian negotiators to meet or beat the American commitment, whatever it took. The problem was that while the American commitment was ambitious, Bill Clinton never expected the Senate to ratify that commitment, and he was right.

The Liberals found themselves stuck with Draconian targets that, if met, would hobble oil sands production, hammer big industry in Ontario, and send home-heating bills through the roof. Their solution was to study the issue. And study. I remember sitting through an interminable briefing in 2003, in which officials patiently explained how Canada would meet its Kyoto targets. The only problem was that there was this enormous gap, which was to be closed through “future reductions.” It was like having a household budget in which Miscellaneous was bigger than Mortgage.

. December 13, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Canada still has a legal obligation under United Nations rules to cut its emissions despite the country’s pullout from the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N. climate chief said on Tuesday.

Christiana Figueres also said the timing of Canada’s move, a day after a deal to extend the protocol was clinched at a U.N. summit in South Africa, was regrettable and surprising.

Canada on Monday withdraw from Kyoto, dealing a symbolic blow to the treaty, with environment minister Peter Kent breaking the news just after his return from talks in Durban.

Whether or not Canada is a party to the Kyoto Protocol, it has a legal obligation under the (U.N. framework on climate change) convention to reduce its emissions, and a moral obligation to itself and future generations to lead in the global effort,” Figueres said.

. December 13, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Canada under fire over Kyoto protocol exit

Several countries have criticised Canada for formally withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

A spokesman for France’s foreign ministry called the move “bad news for the fight against climate change”, a sentiment echoed by other officials.

Peter Kent, Canada’s minister of the environment, has said the protocol “does not represent a way forward”.

The move, which is legal and was expected, makes Canada the first nation to pull out of the global treaty.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry told reporters that the decision was “regrettable and flies in the face of the efforts of the international community”, Reuters news agency reported.

Go Leafs December 14, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I suspect a boycott would be one of those feelgood things for the sanctimonious twenty-somethings who populate the global NGO industry, but it’s hard to see how it would have any practical impact. At a national level, trade is already governed by a web of legal agreements, the net result of which is to give countries the ability to sanction imports from countries that discriminate against them. So – let’s be realistic – an EU carbon tariff on Canadian imports would be met with a powerful WTO challenge, and if that didn’t work, by offsetting sanctions on European exports to Canada. Of course, it would be impossible for the Europeans to ask Canada to participate in bailouts like last week’s BOC participation in extending USD swap lines to the ECB at concessionary rates in the future, if the EU wants to play that game.

So if national and EU boycotts and tariffs are out that leaves a consumer boycott. A consumer boycott would hurt some Canadian companies like RIM, but for the most part Canada’s exports are raw materials that don’t lend themselves to this kind of action, or autos to the US from a completely integrated cross-border industry.

I’m delighted that for once the Government of Canada has defined a Canadian interest and pursued it.

. December 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Carbon emissions and Kyoto protocol targets missed and met

CANADA recently announced it was pulling out of the Kyoto protocol, a treaty on climate change, the first phase of which expires next year. By way of explanation, its environment minister pointed out that the protocol does not cover the world’s largest two emitters. Indeed, America, which did not ratify the agreement, and China, which as a developing country is exempt, are responsible for 41% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Between 1990 and 2009, China’s emissions increased by over 200% and America’s by 6.7%. But Canada’s carbon emissions have also increased, by over 20% in the same period, far from its Kyoto target of a 6% reduction.

klem December 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm

“How Canadians respond to this reality both determines and is symptomatic of their moral character. The question is: what ought we do?”

Dig it out of the ground and sell it for as much as we can get for it. That’s the Canadian way.

Anon December 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm


Why is a person of your penetrating intelligence – with your signature eloquence and soundness of logic – performing such a menial task as leaving comments on blog posts?

Surely you should be addressing assembled heads of state or performing groundbreaking research in a laboratory somewhere.

Your singular argumentative style of making assertions with neither arguments nor evidence to support them is surely a significant innovation in the history of human thought and discourse.

klem December 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Hmm, I think I detect some thinly veiled sarcasm in your remark there Anon.

Gee you don’t gotta be mean about it, I’ll go, I know when I’m not wanted around..meaner…sniff…

. December 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm

This is akin to the pernicious folly of the “ethical oil” argument now embraced by the Harper government (and the oil industry, of course) to justify doing little to reduce emissions from the oil in the tar sands.

In secular philosophy and organized religion, ethics has been about defining and pursuing the notion of the “good.” This “good” is usually set as an optimum, never attained but always kept as a goal. Ethics is not about claiming virtue because behaviour is better than the worst possible behaviour, but rather it’s measured against the nominal sense of the “good.”

. December 22, 2011 at 8:39 pm

EDMONTON— Count on another year of oilsands scrutiny and high-profile boycotts, a University of Alberta business professor said Thursday.

Richard Dixon’s comment came as U.S.-based banana distributor Chiquita Brands International backed away from its promise to avoid oil refined from Alberta bitumen.

“Some people are trying to jump on this iconic environmental campaign,” said Dixon, executive director of the university’s Centre for Applied Business Research in Energy and the Environment.

“My prediction is we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of thing over the next year as we go into the (U.S.) presidential campaign … These environmental groups are going to be needing money to support (the) presidential campaign, and to influence that campaign, s they will need a target.”

. December 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm

‘Secret’ Environment Canada study warns of oil sands’ impact on habitat

By Mike De Souza

OTTAWA — Contamination of a major western Canadian river basin from oil sands operations is a “high-profile concern” for downstream communities and wildlife, says a newly-released “secret” presentation prepared last spring by Environment Canada that highlighted numerous warnings about the industry’s growing footprint on land, air, water and the climate.

The warnings from the department contrast with recent claims made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister Peter Kent that the industry is being unfairly targeted by environmentalists who exaggerate its impacts on nature and people.

The presentation noted figures from the Canadian Energy Research Institute, a collaboration among industry, government and academics, that estimate the oil sands sector is responsible for more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada, and will contribute more than $1.7-trillion to the country’s economy over the next 25 years.

. January 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Canada’s climate change plan ‘farce,’ says Stephane Dion

MONTREAL — The year drew to a close with the United Nations climate-change talks, this time in Durban, again ending in failure to reach an international agreement. Instead, the 192 nations agreed to start work on a new climate-change deal that negotiators hope will be agreed on by 2015 and come into effect from 2020.

Earlier this year, a federal election came and went in Canada with very little discussion of climate change. The environment has not been a key element in any political party’s platform here since the Liberals under Stephane Dion in 2008, when he lost to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

The Conservative government announced in Durban that Canada was pulling out of the Kyoto emissions accord. It has called the Liberal decision to sign the treaty “one of the biggest blunders” made by that government. Meanwhile, every scientific study shows that the world is on a dangerous path toward catastrophic climate change. Scientists say Canada’s mean temperature is increasing at a rate that will exceed by 2020 the 2 degrees Celsius rise that they believe is the tipping point.

We asked Dion, who presided over the 2005 climate-change negotiations in Montreal and who was the architect of the Liberals’ Project Green and Green Shift programs, how his green plans would have changed the face of the nation had his government remained in power, and what it would take to get climate change back on the political agenda in Canada.

klem January 7, 2012 at 11:33 am

I’m sure Dions response was fascinating, like watching paint dry. Climate change is a dead issue, it will not be back on the political agenda for at least a generation.


Anon January 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm

See previous

. January 10, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Canada versus the environmentalists
By Kate Heartfield, The Ottawa Citizen

The Canadian government’s public-relations strategy, when it comes to the oilsands, is ham-handed. The message track goes like this: Canada and its oil are not enemies to the environment, but they are enemies to environmentalism.

That position might be logically and even factually coherent, at least in the minds of Ezra Levant and the Conservative ministers. But it makes it awfully hard for anyone to support the oilsands who doesn’t think all environmentalists are wackos. It needlessly antagonizes people who are concerned about both the economy and climate change, who would like Canada to take reasonable steps to reduce emissions. People who might consider themselves environmentalists, when asked, but who certainly wouldn’t consider themselves “radicals.”

A lot of Canadians fall into that category.

So do a lot of the lawmakers in other countries who are setting the policies that affect the market for Canada’s oil. You might think Canada would try its best to win those people over, to work with them instead of against them.

. January 31, 2012 at 8:52 pm

That was an exaggeration which reflected the loathing that the Conservative government and the prime minister, Stephen Harper, have long had of Kyoto. Back in 2002 Mr Harper described it as “a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations” and vowed to fight efforts by the then-Liberal government to ratify and implement a “job-killing, economy-destroying” pact. He argues that since Kyoto does not include the largest polluters—the United States and China—meeting Canada’s commitments would hurt its energy industries without doing much to save the planet. In particular, complying with Kyoto is incompatible with stepping up oil extraction from Alberta’s tar sands, a process that releases higher emissions than pumping oil from wells.

. May 2, 2012 at 7:31 am

Oil, dissent and the future of Canada

From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, May. 02, 2012 2:00AM EDT

“Mommy, why does the government think you are a terrorist?”

The question came from my son the day after the news media reported that the federal government was contemplating changing the definition of domestic terrorism to include environmentalism.

I spent the past couple of years working internationally and came home to what I thought was an important debate over Canada’s future energy landscape. With Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s open letter attempting to silence Canadians who want to participate in that debate and attacking those concerned about the rapid expansion of the oil sands, pipelines and tanker traffic, I realized that what we are facing is a much bigger issue of democracy and freedom of speech. When this was followed up with an attack on environmental charities, many opinion leaders recognized we are experiencing a witch hunt.

With the 2012 budget, I watched in horror as the government in Ottawa gutted the environmental laws that protect our air, water and fisheries. Many of Canada’s opinion leaders are now wondering if we are dealing with an all-out war on nature.

As I reflect on the events of the past few months, I realize we are engaged in a fight for the soul of Canada.

Do we want to reinforce and renew the Canadian values of tolerance, fairness and doing the right thing in a changing world? Or do we now define “Canadian” as intolerant of anything other than oil, unfairness to other economic sectors, vulnerable countries and our children, and decidedly doing the wrong thing in the face of overwhelming evidence?

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